By Sue Tumelty, founder and executive director of The HR Dept
Nicola Sturgeon’s sudden departure as leader of the SNP and the resulting disarray around the ensuing race for leadership has brought the topic of succession planning into sharp focus.
As is so often the case in politics, there is something of a bun fight going on with three candidates vying for the role. So as a business owner, you will be thankful that your own succession planning or leadership changes aren’t carried out so publicly.
And whether or politics or in business, whether you are dealing with family or colleagues, it pays to have solid plans in place.
Most businesses, however, will not have any of these vital contingency plans in place. Indeed a recent survey from one financial services provider found that 61% of UK SMEs have not done any succession planning.
From a sudden illness or death to a better job offer, you never know what is round the corner. So if this is likely to affect you, what should you be doing?
Identifying the roles which need contingency
Unless your business is very small, it’s unlikely that you will need to invest time and energy into creating contingency plans for every job. More normal is to identify the mission-critical roles on which operations rely – that would include you as a leader, your senior managers, and perhaps unique talents like a technical specialist or star sales person.
Nurturing future leaders
Once you understand which roles require contingency plans, it’s time to start preparing. It’s natural that businesses will often look in-house first to see if they already have the talent on the books.
Benefits of looking internally include:
Showing your team there are clear pathways to progressionKnowing that the next generation is already a good cultural fitNot having to pay expensive recruiter fees.
It does not necessarily matter if the employees you have in mind aren’t immediately ready. By planning, you have time to give them the right training to succeed in a higher role. This could be through formal management training, secondments to different teams and/or more informal mentoring.
Parachuting people in
Of course, having looked around your business, you may feel that there is no-one suitable who could fill a senior role.
This may lead you to ask why, and consider implementing longer term plans to address this. You may also decide, though, that you need faster solutions and look to recruit more senior people now.
Benefits of parachuting people in like this may include:
Handpicking someone who already has the attributes you are looking forIntroducing fresh ideas and approaches into the businessFinding an immediate solution
There is the danger that, despite your vetting processes, they turn out to not be a good fit. Depending how you recruit, it may also be expensive. You’ll also want to consider how you integrate them into your team – do you see them as entering a tier down from where you want them to end up while they learn the workings of your business?
Other important considerations to succession planning
When considering who will be suitable for your succession and contingency plans, it would be wise to have an open and transparent process that gives everyone an equal opportunity. Not only will this give you the best chance of finding the right people (someone might surprise you), but also help you preserve team dynamics, with anyone interested feeling they had a fair shot.
Also consider the broad range of skills required to step up into senior positions. You’ll need people with the right leadership skills as well as technical ability. Attributes such as decision making and emotional intelligence should not be overlooked.
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