Filling the Void

        Change is inevitable in our lives. What we do with that change makes all the difference as to how that change plays out. Within my organization we are currently looking down the barrel of some serious change involving key personnel in our leadership team. Knowing that a change is coming is critical to a successful transition. Many positions don't require a tremendous amount of planning to fill; however, most require at least some prior planning in order to have some semblance of continuity in the job. In our particular situation, I am losing my Assistant Director/Grounds Manager… essentially, my go-to guy for most everything operational.
        How do we go about working through this situation? Many possible scenarios exist, but starting with a clear head and a solid plan makes the most sense. Review the position, work toward advertising in the right places, and seek the best candidates, no matter how long it takes. Upon hiring the replacement, training and familiarization will be critical components to success, as well as periodic follow up and evaluation of the replacement.
OK, you have been informed an important member of your team is leaving and you are now faced with the task of replacing him or her. Quickly take stock of the situation and put together a plan to follow during the replacement process.
        The first step is to formulate a plan for transition. That plan should include advertising for the vacancy, deciding whether the job will remain as it is now, or change. If changes are to be made, now is the time to make them. Review whether there exist any potential candidates currently on your staff. Determine exactly what the person leaving does beyond his or her job description, and how those duties will be divided up while the job search and subsequent training takes place.
        First it must be decided whether there will be any changes to the job description for the soon-to-be-vacated position. Certainly there have been operational and organizational changes since this position was originally filled. Take a careful look at the relevance of the position and ensure that any changes or additions to the job description are made and approved prior to advertising for candidates. Also consider the bigger picture. Has the organization changed such that this position needs to become two positions, or maybe the organization has grown around the position and there is no need for it to exist at all?
        On to advertising: there are so many options available today. Where to begin? Consider the type of position that needs to be filled. If your institution requires the job be posted internally, follow that procedure and, while doing that, review the employee pool to identify potential applicants and encourage them to apply. Beyond that, focus the recruitment efforts toward the places qualified candidates may frequent, such as trade organizations, Websites, and publications for that field. Many of these organizations/publications offer online and print options for “help wanted” advertisements. Don't forget to ask for employee referrals as well; what better way to recruit than from acquaintances of currently satisfied employees? Finally, while the local newspaper is still an option, it invites many responses that may not be entirely qualified and the costs seem quite high compared to other, more focused avenues.
        Be patient during the interview process. The selection need not be rushed. It is good to always make sure to find the best replacement for the job. Hiring someone quickly simply to fill the position could result in disaster. Be creative with the interview process as well. Encourage group interviews and participative sessions that will help bring out the best possible responses from the pool of candidates.
        Once the right person has been selected and hired, we get to begin the process of training and indoctrination. If a candidate has been selected from within the organization, the learning curve is much less steep than for the candidate hired from outside. Human Resources will perform all the essential organizational training and orientation functions. It will be up to your department to perform the specific job-related training. Much of this training should involve orientation as to how the department operates as well as working to convey the department’s operational culture.
        Continue to work with the new person, making sure they have all the necessary tools to succeed. Ongoing evaluation, both formal and informal, for the first six months to a year, will help ensure that nothing gets lost in translation and to make certain that the new employee is working at his or her highest level. The investment that is made during the transition period will be one that pays dividends for years to come.

About the Author

Michael G. Steger is director, Physical Plant, for Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, FL. He can be reached at Stegemik@berkeleyprep.org.

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