Four Letters. Infinite Potential.

Succession Planning is an Essential Element of Meeting Strategic Goals

By Charles Shanley, SPHR, CFS, Executive Vice President, Recruitment Services and J. Keith Hughey, Senior Consultant


The idea of developing a succession plan normally evokes thoughts of uncertainty that accompany the loss of a leader or other valued employee. And while a succession plan can have critical implications for an organization, from a continuity and regulatory perspective, a comprehensive plan can also have a major impact on a bank or credit union’s ability to reach its strategic goals and objectives successfully. 

Effective leadership and well-trained, motivated staff members play important roles in pushing an organization toward its strategic goals – from defining strategies to focusing resources, measuring outcomes and establishing a cooperative, productive work culture. With a thorough succession plan in place, your bank or credit union can identify and groom the individuals who will eventually be responsible for ensuring the institution is prepared to address the future challenges posed by increased regulation, changing markets and growing competition. 

With all of the unexpected challenges financial institutions face today having a pro-active succession plan in place can ensure an uninterrupted, stable management structure in the event of a leadership change – whether it is planned or unexpected.  And while this is undoubtedly an important aspect of the long-term strategic direction of an institution, succession planning can also enhance the processes that help to maintain an overall culture of success and staff involvement. 

Determine the skills required to meet your goals
Starting at the top, a succession plan can serve as a guide for what specific skill sets and leadership qualities are required to ensure long-term success. Before you start the search and recruiting process, ask yourself these questions: Is your institution posed for a merger or acquisition? Is there an urgent need to upgrade infrastructure or undergo a substantial strategy evaluation to make the institution more competitive in a changing market? This type of information can help to tighten the parameters used in an executive search process and demonstrates to serious candidates that your organization has a clear direction for the future. 

Is there a leader waiting under your roof?
In addition to charting the course for a long-distance leadership search, a succession plan should also outline the process to take regarding the identification of leadership talent within the organization. And while some organizations immediately set their sights on attracting the best and brightest that might have made industry headlines, remember: there are strategic benefits to beginning your search from within

An internal candidate is already familiar with your culture and staff, which can be beneficial to strategic planning initiatives. Plus, establishing a path to leadership within your organization will give you a better chance of retaining up-and-coming stars and guarantees continuity of service, which can be very important to keeping and attracting account holders. 

Also, by preparing existing staff members who have management potential to step in and fill an open leadership position – if even on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is put into place – you demonstrate to staff that you reward hard work and loyalty. 

Cultivate budding talent for future opportunities
While you may determine that existing staff members do not currently possess the leadership abilities you are looking for at this time, it is important to have a training plan and resources in place to cultivate the skills and expertise that you identify along the way. This will help to motivate staff and keep the organization moving, without interruptions in the workforce. Plus, by identifying employees who have potential, you can provide advancement opportunities to help them improve their skills and position them to take on increasing responsibilities, whenever possible.

Established processes can ensure smooth transition
A succession plan should include direction regarding the process to follow in the event of an open position, along with any outside resources needed.  Having access to a professional recruiter or search firm, development trainers or the best legal expertise will ensure a smooth transition and to make sure staff development plans are effective. This can help to alleviate extra work for those staff members who are tasked with keeping the everyday operations running smoothly, help to boost morale among employees and maintain uninterrupted, quality service for your business.

Timing is the key to successful strategic results
Succession planning is one of those initiatives that, in many cases, organizations put off until it becomes a critical need. With that shortsighted view, failure to prioritize succession planning and leadership development can lead to the attrition of quality talent and leave your bank or credit union staffed with people who are not prepared to lead in the years ahead. From a strategic perspective, if an organization is always trying to catch up to its previous level of accomplishment, it will have a very difficult time of attaining its long-term goals.

To learn more about succession planning or recruitment services, contact us 800-809-2307.