Is There Succession Planning in Your Future?

Interesting observations in an email from Nick Denbow over at Processing Talk this morning. He writes:

"This week Steve Mackay of IDC Technologies suggests that succession planning for engineers and technicians is a cussword in many companies in an extract from his blog, Mackay's Musings.

'When I was a junior engineer in a large multinational company, I was always bemused by the succession planning for engineers and technicians. Potential for advancement up the technical ladder in your early 20s was great - from trades, technician or graduate engineer level all the way up to plant manager. And then, if you were very good, you had the opportunity to gain the position of chief engineer. But after this, unless you were politically very astute,well-connected or possibly had an advanced management qualification, you were pretty stuck.The only option then was to leave the firm to continue with your career or face zero career advancement or even land up being deskilled.There was no attempt to promote you upwards in a technical sense.In essence, technical or engineering skills were not regarded as highly as management or marketing or financial skills.

Despite the protestations at my first firm, there was no real succession planning for engineers.I got the feeling that if you had been an engineer for a long time and hadn't moved much, it was incumbent on you to leave.

'As Gary Perman from the IEEE remarks: the number one reason why engineers leave a company is that they perceive management has no interest in developing their career-exactly why I left my first job.

He goes onto remark that a company shoots itself in the foot by failing to exploit (and reward) the talents of good engineering professionals.The result of this is morale decline and productivity drop-off.Succession management is critical in a company-to identifying successors in all roles and to ensure there is a match between a company's needs and the aspirations and abilities of individual engineers and technicians.Needless to say, if you are incompetent or have risen to the highest level of proficiency in your job, then don't make waves for promotion otherwise you are going to be in an "unwinnable" situation.' "

Now Nick's writing from the U.K., and the situation might be different over here, but I'm inclined to think not. What do you think? How's "engineering succession planning" at your shop?

Of course, these days, when everybody's favorite perk is a job at all, complaining to the company about a lack of a promotional path forward for engineers may consistute bad timing, to say the least. Still, the bad times aren't going to last forever, and smart companies ought to be about retaining their best employees, no matter what the current economic situation. Just sayin'.