Walang forever

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Kevin Jayson O. Cheng

The View From Taft

‘Walang forever’

“Walang forever ” (There is no forever) is a Tagalog slang commonly used by those who got dumped, those who don’t believe in love, and those who hate seeing couples showing affection to each other. But, did you know that there are some Human Resource Management aspects we could learn from this phrase?

All CEOs will inevitably leave the office one day. Harell’s 2016 study showed that most organizations are ill-prepared to replace executives. Each year, around 10% to 15% of corporations appoint a new CEO. This is because of executives’ retirement, resignation, dismissal, or illness. Top management plays a vital role in the success of the businesses as they are directly responsible for taking the company to the next level. To avoid major disruptions, companies should have succession plans.

Succession planning, according to Rothwell (2010) of Association of Talent Development, is a strategic change effort designed to prepare people for promotion within an organization by emphasizing internal talent development. More and more companies are asking the question: Do we have qualified people ready to fill key positions in the short/long term?

Here are five tips for a successful succession planning:

(1) Starting Early

Are you one of those no girlfriend/boyfriend since birth? Stop saying I’m too busy to look for someone. Don’t wait for your employee to approach mandatory retirement before looking for a replacement. There is nothing wrong in starting early, ideally 5-10 years ahead of the retirement point. Knowing your options, develop a strategy and be prepared for the worst. Remember failing to plan is planning to fail.

(2) Finding Mr. or Ms. Right

Love is very much like parking spots, all the good ones are taken, the rest of them elusive. Succession Planning works in mysterious ways, it’s not always a case of appointing an individual successor and planning a smooth transition. Well unless, if you are of the Zobel’s, Sy’s, Gokongwei type of family business wherein they’re bred to be future leaders. The next Mr. or Ms. Right could be your immediate direct reports, the person you meet in a meeting, the last person you talked to. Keep an open mind and an open eye, be observant in your workplace.

(3) Avoid Assuming

Don’t Assume and don’t give false hope. Don’t assume succession is a simple matter of a second-in-command stepping up to a leadership position when a leader retires. It involves a complex learning process to know the ins and outs of the business that takes months or even years. We are never too old to learn. Invest in their learning, development, leadership skills, guide them, coach them to make every key decision.

(4) Managing expectations

Have you heard of Expectation versus Reality? Be realistic. Succession plans aren’t promises. If you aspire to be the heir-apparent, you have to show the right skillset and talent to impress the higher ups. For leaders, only give the promise of succession if there is a realistic chance of its happening!

(5) Learning to “Let it Go”

We’ all been through a stage of denial. It’s easier said than done. This is the hardest or biggest challenge when it comes to succession planning. Letting people go, especially if they are pioneers or pillars of the company, is tough. Emotions can cloud your decision-making abilities, making it harder to focus on the impending future.

In conclusion, poor succession planning often leads to the extension of ineffective executives who stay in office long after they should have been substituted. Lack of preparedness is only part of the problem. An equally difficult challenge is finding the right replacement.

Succession planning and strengthening of the leadership pipeline should be the top concerns for corporations. Not everybody is born a leader. But the simple truth is every company needs a good leader. There is no forever, no matter how good or productive our senior leaders are. They will eventually leave office, willingly or not (at 65 under current Philippine law). And when the right time comes, who knows? You can be the next one.

But, whatever the outcome maybe, as Confucius said: “Choose a job that you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s the season to love and be loved. But to all my single friends who have had bitter love experiences, it is true, in both love and career: #WalangForever.


Kevin Jayson O. Cheng is a Master in Business Administration student at De La Salle University. He wrote this article as part of the course requirements of Strategic Human Resource Management.