Planning for your successor (Hiring series #4)

Who do we hire next??

Have you ever started a job and had no idea what you were supposed to do? Have you tried to hire someone, and realized you have no good direction on where to start finding a qualified replacement?

Where are the pens kept? How do you file a report? Who does the scheduling? When everything is new and different, even the most basic things are a challenge. And when an employee is trying to get through the basics, s/he is not focusing in on getting to the important parts of the job.

Every job should have some level of succession planning in place. Employees may move, get promoted, or abruptly depart from their jobs for all kinds of reasons, either permanently or temporarily. Having some basic procedures to help the next person will make the transition easier on everyone. For most jobs in the library this can be fairly minimal. It is a good idea to have everyone make some notes about their work and the things they do each day, each week, or annually. (Sometimes this request stirs up fears in employees that they are going to be replaced. Managers: be quick to reassure them this is not the case!)  These will be useful if an employee has to be out of work for a couple of weeks, or if they win the lottery and depart without notice. (Who could blame them??)

When you are looking at the jobs in your library that will be more difficult to fill – management jobs, those requiring more training or certifications, or those just challenging to do – you want to be even more thoughtful about planning for the next person who will hold that job. In these jobs, it will also be useful to have a procedure guide to their tasks. And you want to be thinking about a few more things before someone with a lot of institutional knowledge retires and takes all that information away with them. (This current employee could be you!)

  • What priorities does he see right now in this job? How about over the next few years?
  • What skills are best serving her and making her successful? What skills does she think need to be part of this job, whether or not she has them?
  • What kinds of things does he do outside of regular job tasks? For example, are there committees he has joined? Conferences he attends? Blogs he reads? That kind of thing is hard to just “know” for a new person, so it would be great information to capture.

Look through our other Hiring series posts for information on how to write a recruiting plan and a job ad that helps you to get results. They can help you to piece together a complete process for bringing in good people!