The Claims Leaders of Tomorrow Are in Your Office Today

Integrating succession planning into daily management is the key filling the leadership positions of tomorrow.

August 26, 2015 Photo

The term “succession planning” may send chills down a claims manager’s spine. There are enough claims to be handled without adding active succession planning to the to-do list. But without succession planning, a claims organization will not be able to effectively create a workforce that is balanced between employees who can meet the needs of existing customers and employees who are making inroads into new processes and expanded knowledge and responsibilities.

The key to successful succession planning is to integrate the thought process into your daily management activities. Succession planning should be an element of daily supervision as well as scheduled performance management. When you start to see every employee in terms of core competencies, the drive to achieve business objectives, and collaborative skills, you will discover potential leaders at all levels of the organization.

Five years from now, 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be ready for retirement, according to the SuccessFactors’ report “Taking Care of Your Company’s Future.” Can your claims organization afford the recruiting cost and loss of productivity associated with finding qualified people to fill the vacant positions left by retirees? If succession planning has been part of the daily management process, it is likely that these positions will be filled from the internal talent pool identified by the succession planning process.

Early identification of potential new leaders allows the organization to accelerate its leadership development. By providing leadership development to employees, the organization will have lower voluntary attrition rates. Career planning and leadership development have been shown to have a significant positive effect on employee loyalty.

As you go about daily management of your claims organization, start to assess the people and positions:

  • Which positions are critical to the organization’s success?
  • Are incumbent employees in these positions ready to step up to the next level?

When the scheduled performance management review occurs, make a simultaneous assessment of current performance and a talent assessment for a future position. Does the person have the required competencies to step up to the next level? If the candidate needs additional skills or knowledge, this is the time to articulate that and build a development plan. Remember to link the organization’s goals to the individual’s performance goals. Providing this link will motivate the employee to go the extra mile for the organization because they will see a future within the organization. Document the development actions agreed upon, including who is responsible and when each action is to be completed.

Once you link succession planning to performance development, make sure to follow through on the development actions. It may be necessary to hold periodic progress meetings with the interested parties to keep the plan on track.

When a position opens, look at your qualified successor candidates before looking outside to fill the position. Promoting from within or carrying out a lateral move within the organization will demonstrate to all employees the validity of the succession planning process. Additionally, filling a position with an internal candidate will save on hiring and training costs.

If there is pressure to fill a position externally even though a qualifying internal candidate exists, ask why the organization prefers to spend time and money on outsiders rather than on the existing employees. Try to find a balance between hiring outsiders who bring new ideas into an organization and promoting internal candidates who already are vested in your business and culture.

Placing names on a list is not succession planning. Every manager and supervisor must take an active daily role in identifying talent, assessing that talent, and nurturing it so the talent gap caused by 40 percent of the workforce retiring does not impact the claims organization’s ability to satisfy customer demands and meet business objectives.   

About The Authors
Donna J. Popow

Donna J. Popow, JD, CPCU, AIC, is president of Donna J. Popow LLC, and has more than 25 years of experience in the property and casualty insurance industry. She has been a CLM Fellow since 2007 and can be reached at (215) 630-0829.

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