You are here

Tips for effective succession planning in higher education

Institutions should reward innovation, give rising stars ability to demonstrate leadership
University Business, September 2013

Effective succession plans require more than just leadership development programs. How can higher ed officials make that happen? Consider the following ideas from Chris Cullen, managing director of the higher education practice at Infinia Group, a brand strategy and design agency in Washington, DC.

Develop a system that monitors employee innovation. “There is a myth that pleasing your immediate supervisor is the pathway to replacing him or her,” says Cullen. “The reality is that innovation and demonstrated creativity is the pathway to advancement.”

Build processes that require rising stars to demonstrate their independence and accountability. Allow them to act independently and take responsibility for specific assignments. That will help identify individuals who have the capacity to fill critical positions.

Create leadership development programs that cross borders, offering knowledge or skill development in areas that are not native to employees’ career plan. “Zooming out of their chosen career path [enables employees] to see the university in context or create context in the work they do,” he says.

Assign mentors who encourage employees to explore lateral opportunities. Such programs must allow staff to find a career path within the institution that’s not directly through that mentor. Create an environment where risk and creativity are rewarded. In addition, it should be an environment where failure isn’t punished.