Is your succession plan a work of fiction?

Mar 18 2014 by Brian Amble Print This Article

So you've got a succession plan in place for your key executives and leadership team. Good. That's more than many organizations have. But let's say one of your key people has an unfortunate accident or commits a career-ending faux pas. Suddenly there's an empty office and a big hole in the middle of your management team. How soon could you execute your plan and bring in a replacement? Immediately? Within six months? Within a year?

According to a new survey by recruitment network IIC Partners, while six out of 10 companies claim to have succession plans in place, only one in five would be able to replace a key person immediately if they needed to. Almost a third (31 per cent) of 1,270 business leaders quizzed for the survey admitted that although they had a plan on paper, they would only be able to source a replacement with a year.

For the less unprepared, some 16 per cent of those surveyed, their lack of a succession plan meant that they could take up to three years to find a replacement, while an unfortunate four per cent thought that the process could take even longer.

Given this lack of preparedness, it perhaps not surprising that a quarter of those surveyed admitted that their company had no succession plan and they would not speculate on how long it would take to replace a key person.

"The findings of this survey point to a gap in succession planning at many companies," said Paul Dinte, chairman of IIC Partners. "It is one thing to have a written succession plan, but quite another to be prepared for the departure of a C-level executive."

Companies that reported being least ready to replace a senior executive were not-for-profits (40 per cent said it would take up to a year to replace them) and family-owned businesses (37 per cent). This is despite the fact that nine out of 10 family business and two-thirds of not-for-profits said that they would suffer considerable disruption to their day-to-day activities if a senior executive left unexpectedly.

"No matter the location or the industry, there remains a gap in succession planning by many organizations," Dinte said. "This oversight will likely be worsened with the continued exodus of Baby Boomers from the workplace, as well as the different relationship with work that many younger employees have.

"Gen-X employees tend to change jobs more frequently. As this generation moves into C-suite positions, corporate expectations for length of service may have to be adjusted."