Succession Planning

management2

You have spent years building a company. Your pioneer staff have become experts in their respective fields; overseeing critical revenue centres. During the build up to your current status, you opted for a lean and affordable HR structure. In doing so, you failed to recruit and groom successors. Now you’ve reached a growth and innovation ceiling.

Your team members are inundated with day-to-day tasks and do not have time to nourish new business ideas. There are meetings to go to and operations to run. In some client project meetings, they’re the oldest people in the room and the participants wonder, “Don’t you have junior staff”?

You really tried to recruit new people, but on-boarding entry-level recruits wasn’t easy. You wonder if the current generation is made from the same stock as the last one. Their work ethic and attention to detail just isn’t the same. Now, your star players are bogged down with minutiae; correcting basic errors by interns who are awed by them. Your staff are flummoxed by the rigours of mentoring and training, as there’s no documented guide. They weren’t formally ‘trained’ on the things they do, so they don’t know how to train others. They rose on grit and self-motivation, not formal instruction.

Now, you have two classes of staff – top managers and neophytes. There’s no middle management buffer – no crop of successors who understand your culture and are competent enough to handle daily operations.

If you’re going through the scenarios I’ve just described, there’s hope. There are two solutions you may explore. One is organic. The other is not.

Organic Succession

If you run a relatively young company, try to bring in new recruits or interns at least, every three years. That way, your organisational culture will be progressively passed from one generation to the next.

Create clear job descriptions, deliverables and schedules for each role. Write things down. This makes the on-boarding of new staff easier. You are able to spot which of your new staff can interpret written guidelines with minimal supervision and thus, has managerial capacity. Documenting processes and information, also ensures nothing critical resides in the heads of a few legacy staff alone.

Tie a percentage of the remuneration of old staff to how well their subordinates perform when they are not around. This will ensure they take training and succession seriously.

Create clear development paths for staff; identify their learning needs and then invest in training.

Develop reasons why staff should keep working with you – culture, brand name, responsibility, autonomy, flexibility, profit sharing, ownership and so on. Implement them.

Inorganic Succession

If you’ve been in business for a while, but do not have experienced managers, you may need to recruit them from outside. Determine whether you’re looking for managers to work for you or, partner with you.

If you need people to work for you, be sure you can pay them. The best minds have the luxury of choosing where they work and for how much. Can you compete with multinationals and large corporations for talent? If you can, then by all means, recruit them.

If you’re looking for people to partner with you, then be sure to create flexibility and autonomy. Let your new staff be in charge of their units and be responsible for profitability. In which case, they may receive a basic allowance, while making the bulk of their income from profit sharing, bonuses or equity. For your new staff to earn a seat at the decision making table of the larger organisation however, they must prove themselves over time. Existing staff should be rewarded for their loyalty and dedication.

Profit sharing, bonuses and equity, allow you to attract staff you would otherwise have not been able to afford. But in using these attraction strategies, ensure you do not overpay for talent or get stuck with a staff who talks a good game but doesn’t deliver. Tie pay to performance.

I hope these ideas have been useful. I wish you success.



Unfortunately, I cannot moderate comments on my blog at this time but I invite you to connect with me on Twitter or Facebook