Succession Planning For SMEs – Strategies for success.

All successful businesses do some form of planning for the future. They will almost certainly have budgets drawn up for future use, plans for future development and strategies to help them thrive in an ever-more challenging marketplace. This sort of planning is vital if businesses are able to be flexible and dynamic enough to stay ahead of their competitors.

However, there’s one sort of planning that many businesses, especially small to medium sized enterprises can miss or struggle to plan well, and that is succession planning.

It’s estimated that 52% of small to medium sized organizations do not have a succession plan in place to replace senior leadership.

An effective succession planning process improves employee engagement, commitment and retention. It also helps with the talent recruitment and ever increasing recruitment costs.

What is succession planning?

Essentially, a succession plan is a plan to map out the successors for business critical roles in the future, particularly those at the very top of the organisation. As we all know, life is unpredictable and people can leave an organisation suddenly for a wide range of reasons. Retirement, pregnancy, illness or simply wanting to do something else can all be drivers that lead to someone leaving a business, leaving a gaping hole where their skills lay. If you’ve not got a succession plan to cope with such an occurrence, then your business could suffer or worst of all, you could be working all the hours god sends.

Other common scenarios where SMEs fail to succession plan correctly include:

  • Family owned businesses where the owner won’t give full control to said son or daughter, leaving them without the experience or skillset required if they are ever required to step-up to lead the organization.
  • Businesses where the owners are inspirational leaders and it’s hard for someone else to take the mantel.
  • Businesses where the owner fails to delegate tasks, their controlling nature curbing the company’s growth.

Succession Planning in action

Julie Hawker CEO of Cosmic a leading IT Business in Devon says “I’ve been working on my own succession plan for the past 5 years now, and last year Cosmic moved to a Joint CEO model for its leadership. It’s a real pleasure to work with Kate in this way, and its my firm belief that this model has generated a whole new sense of how leading successful businesses can work.  We’ve also used the opportunity to promote others in the business into team leader roles, and we have invested heavily in their personal development. The CEOs of the future are certainly in this group… either at Cosmic or in other similar organisations. All of this work means that at any given time the company can be completely confident of the robust nature of leadership and the skills and ambition which this model has developed.”

5 ‘simple’ steps to effective Succession Planning

Be proactive

Step one is to be proactive with your succession plan. Because you are planning for a potential future occurrence, it’s easy to put it off and concentrate on something else. However, even if you don’t think you’ll need a replacement in the near future, prepping someone to assume an important role creates an invaluable safety net.

Keep an open mind

For many key roles, there may be an obvious successor, who already have the key skills necessary to step up and do a good job. However, don’t disregard other employees straight away. Some people may have the skills to thrive at a higher level than they are currently at. If there are no obvious internal candidates then it’s time to call in a specialist recruiter to map the market and find the perfect candidate for your needs.

Provide ongoing training

As you identify your top performers, offer mentoring and training, which is of value to help them develop new skills and refine existing ones. As well as ensuring they have the skills to step-up when necessary, it’s also great for retaining key talent.

Have a trial run

Holiday times are great opportunities to have a potential successor assume some new responsibilities. The employee in question will gain experience in the role while you learn how prepared the person is to take on more responsibility.

Identify your talent gaps

Once you’ve identified your internal employees who are successors for key roles, who is going to replace them? Do you have the necessary key skills in place? This is where working with a specialist recruiter is of a big help as they can help you devise an efficient and effective hiring strategy.

King Recruit is a Management and Executive Recruitment Partner based in Exeter, Devon. Our Vision is “To enhance the growth of careers and business with strategic recruitment excellence”

We’re often asked by clients to assist with succession planning especially where there are talent gaps. For a confidential discussion, contact Helen Plumridge MD of King Recruit on 07808 537696.

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