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The importance of succession planning


Why wait until your top people have left to think about who should replace them?

In fact, waiting until the last minute to hire new leaders can be disastrous for your organisation. An organisation needs time to agree on the sort of person who should be hired for each leadership role way before the recruitment process takes place. Indeed, having a firm job description and character type set down on paper can help to find a suitable candidate in a smooth manner, minimising disruption to the business and ensuring best fit for the candidate and the company alike.

Trying to nail down a job description and sort out your recruitment processes while hiring for the job, on the other hand, can be messy, confusing and inefficient. Clearly, this is not conducive to the smooth and successful running of your business.

The best way, therefore, to manage the recruitment of key personnel in your business is via the mechanism of succession planning. This applies to organisations in both the public and private sector, and indeed to a wide variety of roles within both.

The mechanisms of succession planning

Succession planning itself is a changing concept. Traditionally, large corporations ran highly structured, secretive and stiff schemes aimed at identifying internal successors for key posts. These were run in a top-down manner and involved senior management (and even board members) plotting the career paths of those selected to take over from them in due course. While this sounds sinister, it did work relatively well in days gone by, when structures were fixed and people expected to stay in one workplace (or even one career) for a matter of decades rather than years.

However, succession planning has had to change along with the times. Employees may last for a few years tops before changing to another company; economic climates fluctuate with the weather, making it rather hard to stick to a fixed succession plan. When jobs are being cut, who knows what positions will still be on the payroll in a year’s time?

21st century succession planning

In our current economic climate, succession planning becomes even more important. During uncertain times it is more vital than ever to know where key talent sits within your business, and how to develop it in order to meet your short-term and long-term goals.  

Another problem with traditional succession planning was that it ignored non-managerial roles. There are many employees working in such roles who contribute fantastically to their organisations, making them extremely hard to replace without lots of careful thought and planning.

The succession plans of the 21st century look markedly different from their ancestors. They are broader, taking into account a wider scope of roles and people. Indeed, successors are just as likely, if not more likely, to be external rather than internal hires these days. The process and cost of external recruitment should be a major consideration in your succession plans.

Succession planning should be a joint effort between your HR department, senior management and board members, with input from the post holders themselves. In this way, you can build up a picture of who should be the next person in the role, setting realistic and shared expectations for all concerned. The result should be a smooth recruitment process and the ability to bring excellent new people into the business when required.


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