Succession Planning: You Should Treat it Like Baseball’s September Call-Ups

For those who aren’t big Major League Baseball (MLB) fans you probably don’t know what the “September Call-Up” or “Expanded Rosters” mean.

Each year on September 1, as the MLB season goes into its final month, teams are allowed to invite players from their minor league teams to join the big club, and the number of roster players expands from 25 to 40.

For teams who are out of the playoff race, this allows them to give some younger guys an opportunity to perform on a larger stage. For those in playoff races, or teams that have already solidified a playoff berth, the extra players allow them to rest some regulars. For playoff teams, these extra 15 players can’t play in actual playoff games, only in the final regular season games.

Ok, Tim – why the hell should we care about Major League Baseball’s September Call-Ups?

A different way to try succession planning

In any HR shop I’ve ever worked in, or with any HR Pro I’ve ever had a conversation with, succession planning is always an issue HR professionals struggle with in their organizations. Many times sports shows us that there is a way that it can be done, you just need to find a way to tailor it to your environment, and I think the MLB gives us a window to how a competitive organization attempts to get this done.

Succession is difficult and costly; there is no way around it. If your organization is truly trying to do succession and not spend money, it won’t be pretty and it probably won’t be effective.

To really know a person has the ability to step into someone’s shoes when they leave, you have to see them actually do the job. In most organizations this just isn’t an option – how many of us have the ability to pull out a high performer from their current position, and put them into a new position, while the other person is still in that position? Not many of us! It’s just not a reality most of live in.

Baseball’s September call-ups is one strategy that you might be able to use within your organization. While pulling someone full-time into a new position, might not be something you could do, could you do it for 30 days? Before telling me you can’t, what would you do if that same person had a medical issue and had to be hospitalized or home-bound for a month?

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It’s not perfect, but it works

You’d make it, you’d get by – that’s what we do in organizations. The team would rally and make it work. So, giving someone a one-month succession stint to try out a new potential role – full immersion – would actually give you some decent insight to whether or not the person could actually handle that role in the future, or at least show you some great development needs that have to ensure success.

Is it perfect? No, but that’s why it works.

We don’t get perfect in HR – we get good enough and move to the next fire. We don’t get million-dollar budgets to formalize succession and have a bench full of high performing talent to just step in when someone leaves our organization. It’s our job to figure out succession while we figure out how to keep the lights on at the same time.

I love the September Call-Up, because it gives me insight into the future of my team, shows me how someone performs in an environment that doesn’t pigeonhole them forever, and let’s me know if they show some potential for The Show!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


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