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Why bother with succession planning?

As the founder and CEO of People Puzzles it has been a real privilege to take six months off work completely with my new baby, a luxury many business owners couldn’t afford. I’m just a month into a further three months of only working two days per week. Year to date, we are 43% ahead of where we were this time last year, so I can certainly call it a success!

There was one way that this was possible: proper succession planning, and putting a really strong plan into place.

We certainly didn’t approach it as an HR process. It was all about guaranteeing we could deliver on our company objectives by ensuring we had the right number of people with the right skills, working in the right place at the right time to deliver our growth plans.

Fortunately we had a few months to plan it, but business continuity and planning for growth were a key part of our 2017 business strategy.

One of our HR Directors, Linda Evans, explains: “In an SME, it is likely that all roles are business critical and this is where effective succession planning comes into play.  Do you know who can step up and take on a role in an emergency?  Do you know who can be developed over time with skills and competencies to not only continue the business but develop?  Is there too much reliance on one individual with a technical skill set?  Do you know individual career or lifestyle aspirations?

Succession planning is about looking and deciding on the business-critical aspects which, if they aren’t managed, will have a significant impact on the immediate business.  When a leader leaves, so does lots of intellectual property and company nuances that can’t all be written down, but with a good succession plan in place this knowledge is shared and won’t be lost.  The same applies to those with specific skills. Would your business falter whilst you seek to replace those skills?”

As well as the ‘business as usual’ provision, effective succession planning has other benefits too with leadership continuity for the company and staff along with the demonstration of a clear plan and proactive management for the future of the business and its development.  During my Maternity Leave, we continued to train and develop our team to deliver new products, we recruited both HR Directors and Regional heads, we won clients and sorted out difficult situations.

So how do you develop a succession plan?  Linda explains:

  • Firstly, it is not a one-off exercise but a plan that needs living and reviewing.  You will need to decide on business-critical roles and skill sets, identify risks and look at your existing employees – their skills, their potential and of course their own career aspirations.
  • Secondly, decide how to harness the potential, as well as share knowledge and develop skills. This is not always about promotion but providing opportunities for managing projects, involvement in decision making, sideways moves to gain experience and training.
  • Finally, the plan should also be shared and be visible –  you don’t want to lose someone you have identified as potential because they aren’t aware they can get the challenge and development they want without leaving.  It helps create future security for the whole team.

Here at People Puzzles, we have not only done it ourselves, but we have lots of experience in working with businesses to create, develop and implement succession plans so if you haven’t got the process underway drop us an email.

Linda Evans
Linda Evans, HR Director.

Ally Maughan
Ally Maughan, Founder

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