The Strategic HR role for Succession Planning

80% of your Corporate Knowledge is held by 20% of your people, but do you know who they are?

Business in the Twenty First Century is about the inspiration and empowerment of people to be all that they can be. Post Brexit, HR will need to ensure that the organisation maintains the critical skills vital for continued success, this is the vital strategic role of Human Resources Directors and Managers.

One of the biggest mistakes of succession planning is that it is treated as a “changing of the guard”. Ask yourself, “what are the demographics of the current workforce?” Then ask, what will happen if you lose several of the critical people who are currently vital to business success.

I have worked with many wonderful and dedicated business leaders who have created and grown enterprises and inspired their people to greatness BUT the clock this ticking and everyone in the company is thinking what happens when the boss leaves or retires. The strategic role of HR is convincing the CEO that his / her greatest legacy is to choose worthy successors with the right DNA and skills to drive the business to the next level!

I bet that we can all quote from our own experience of a business, charity or Public-Sector organisation that was not the same when “the boss” left. One company I knew, valued at £6m was owned by two equal shareholder business partners. One died suddenly and there was no shareholder agreement so the wife inherited the business and she parachuted their son into the company as the new MD. After only eighteen months, several key people had left because of the way the company was run, customers lost confidence and went to competitors and the business was eventually sole three years later for £2.5m.

Business Thrival not just Survival!

100,000 businesses fail each year due UK wide to lack of succession planning (Passing the Baton Report dti 2004) and post Brexit we need not only to save these companies but to understand WHO is critical to the success of these businesses. WHY because we need to PASS THE BATON to the next generation not just for survival but for high growth!

So, WHO are your stars?

Your stars are not obvious; on one sad occasion, we were called in after the sudden death of a Manufacturing Manager who was in his forties. When we looked at his role he was a “hidden star and critical to the company.

It is the PEOPLE who make the business, strategy is the design of a plan for the way forward but WHO are the ones that will make it happen and WHY? So, ask yourself the following simple questions:


  • Who is vital to the success of the business? Ask, what makes us stand out and why do our customers really buy from us?
  • Who gets paid the most and why?
  • Who maintains the best customer relationships?
  • Who is the most productive team member?
  • Who develops our new products and improves our services?
  • Who is the best and most successful sales person?
  • Who provides the “glue” to put things together and make things happen?
  • Who is the best leader and why?
  • Who is the best manager and why?

The approach to succession and evaluation of critical roles requires a more comprehensive structure, but I bet that when you answer the above questions they will help you to get started and provide a better understanding of where your corporate knowledge is now and who your key people really are! So, the next step is to attend our next Wales HR Network Meeting and find out more!

Peter Jenner is an Alumnus of the American Government’s International Visitors Leadership Program.

Share This

Written by - Peter Jenner,

Date - 26/09/2017