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Succession Pitfalls

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Succession planning has often been an activity fraught with pitfalls and difficulties in all types of business organisation, from large to small.

In small and medium-sized organisations, time and resources are often under pressure, and therefore succession planning is frequently left until it's too late. Consequently, counter-offering a leaver is seen as a viable option to gain six months before their inevitable replacement.

In large organisations with well-developed talent management functions, succession planning can be plagued with other issues such as sheer size, visibility, political manoeuvring, hoarding (line management not wishing to lose talent to other parts of the organisation), silo's, language issues etc., and that is before we even come to culture differences in new acquisitions.

There are many good articles and books out there that discuss the hows and the whys of succession planning so I won't repeat them here. Suffice to say, a clear and effective talent management policy around succession is as essential now as it ever was and those academies of HR excellence such as GE, IBM, Honeywell, P&G etc. remain successful. However, two significant issues affect all major corporations irrespective of how good their internal talent management function is.

The first is maintaining bench strength in senior leadership. Think of it this way. Company A has a relatively young CEO with a great track record. She has a reputation attracting great talent to her team. However, top talent usually comes with a side order of ambition.

Consequently, unless the CEO has laid out a clear plan to exit, the team becomes frustrated and impatient and listen to other opportunities as they are presented. Even if the CEO has an exit plan and an anointed successor, the other team members may quickly exit leaving the successor with sizeable holes in the board. These holes need to be plugged immediately.

The second and perhaps more significant issue that many large well-established organisations face is competition from the highly disruptive, fast-moving tech sector. How do you change the focus of a major corporation using internal talent that views the world through their traditional corporate frame? In a world of increasingly flexible workforces, how flexible are major corporations?

So, in addition to developing a robust and diverse internal talent pool, organisations increasingly find that they need to establish an external talent pool of motivated, engaged and culturally aligned individuals that can be called in at short notice.

Of course, corporations that need to change direction fast, need to look beyond the usual competitors to understand the kind of talent that will allow them to stay relevant in a fast-changing landscape.

Jordan Sheppard has been listening to these concerns from CEOs and CHROs for many years and has been helping their clients to develop live and active talent pools to assist these corporations through transformation and change.

We have developed not only a highly proactive methodology to identify and profile outstanding and diverse talent but also a platform that delivers that information digitally in a precise and targeted manner.

For a discussion and a VC demonstration of how we do this, please contact Mark Pennington on +44 1625 540077 or email

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