Planning for Board Succession – are you Ready for Tomorrow?

Succession planning, one of a board’s most vital oversight responsibilities

Time for that grim moment. Every now and again it happens. An executive is done, time to move on. How will this affect business? Can a new person keep up the same corporate spirit? Should it even be kept or is it time for a renewal? A good succession planning will ease this transition and work in favour of boards, shareholders and companies.

The process of having an executive leave is happening in boardrooms all over the world, all the time. To have a plan is, to say the least, important. Safe to even say that succession planning is one of a corporate board’s most vital oversight responsibilities.

Many boardroom executives agree on this. In the Spencer Stuart 2017 Board Index, nearly half of the directors said their board reviews succession planning annually. But still, it is not uncommon that boards stand with no options for new C-suite executives. Some companies even rely on an “ease out”-period for up to three years to get out with the old and in with the new. So, what if there is an emergency succession in need? A company can suffer major losses if it is not governed appropriately.

Growth in line with succession

Seeking for new blood can be tricky, especially if the board already has the perfect composition. But when it is time, importance lies in staying on top of maintaining a stable company. Furthermore, when planned and executed in a thoughtful way, succession of executives can enable corporations to find new opportunities for growth, improve the development of senior management and their strategic needs, and ultimately ensure continued drive of the company.

An article by Forbes explains that CEO-turnover at many companies averages about once every three years. This number is slightly more sustainable within other executive roles, but it is still a present issue for boards. Succession planning is a way of having the right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time. That, if something, can be complicated. It is however, also something that plenty of shareholders find a pressing issue.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc. had to answer to this recently. He said that at every Apple Board Meeting in the recent years, succession planning has been on the agenda for all key executive roles, making for an appreciative public.

Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail

As written in an article on the site Ethical Boardrooms, a regularly reviewed, timely, transparent and structured succession plan is essential for success. The cost of a poor succession process can be damaging to a company’s financial stability and reputation.

Though, a smooth process requires an absolute focus from the board members, and should be considered a top priority on the agenda!

Succession planning is like creating a safety net, protecting the board from critical leadership gaps. As the board, first and foremost, has a fiduciary duty to stay objective while considering what is best for the shareholders and the company, it should be a number 1 priority to keep the business stable.

effective succession planning – stay on your toes

There is probably nothing like an ideal process when it comes to succession. As with most things, everyone has their own way of making it work. As for pointers on how to think in order to stay on your toes and be effective in planning for tomorrow’s succession, here are a few:

  • Have a “succession culture”

Keep a culture where the importance of a demanding succession process is considered the backbone of your board. This will enable to start thinking about a successor from the first day of a new executive, without there being momentum about it. A type of succession culture that allows for transparency will also benefit shareholder communication.

  • Focus effort internally and map it out

A thought to keep in mind is that mentoring employees and creating a succession map, even on lower levels, within a company can make for great next generation leaders. They will be groomed and taught the knowledge of where the company is going, where it has been, the core principles, attitude, skills, experience and personality necessary to prosper in an executive role.

  • Always keep an eye open, not to target individuals

It never hurts to keep a good network. And at that, one should keep an open mind. Looking at the impact of broad trends can help find the type of successor that is necessary. But rather than targeting an individual, aim for future necessary skill. Focuses could include how business will be affected by challenges such as the continuing globalisation, the needs of investors, or the risks and opportunities brought by a changing digital climate.

  • Ensure there is an emergency succession plan

In order to have a smooth transition, having an emergency plan until the long-term solution can be put in place is necessary. For example, having a non-executive board member/senior management, who understands the tasks and importance of an executive role, be ready to step in and maintain stability can be a decent emergency plan.

In a fast business world, young blood can be an advantage

There are many things to consider when planning for succession, such as determine which skills are lacking on the board. Therefore, it is crucial not to overlook the younger candidates. The average board member is still 63.1 years old (Source: Spencer Stuart Board Index, U.S. boards), but the needed skill is often not found amongst the older applicants.

The current business environment requires boards to manage challenges emerging from rapidly evolving issues including cybersecurity, sustainable development and technology. Responding to these matters has become something businesses must address daily. A lack of proper skills to handle these issues can be disastrous to an organisation. Therefore, the integration of young directors in the boardroom should be considered a priority.

Get started with the help of DiliTrust

DiliTrust Exec can easily help onboard your new executive and bring her/him up to speed. With features such as meeting organisation tools and electronic management of documents and archives, it is easy to get going for a new board member. The solution also contains effective collaboration tools, including digital note taking and a powerful search engine. Therefore, the portal helps directors (old and new) to act with due diligence by providing real-time access to information for its users at anytime and anywhere.

Connect with us for scheduling a demo or if you’d like to know more about how DiliTrust Exec can help your board grow.

Stay connected and continue your read – Two reasons to give your boardroom the facelift of age diversity