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The art of succession planning for businesses with high retention rates

I recently reconnected with a client that I had dealt with a few years earlier. After 30 years working within the same organisation, they decided that the time was right for them to retire. After all, they had reached their peak in terms of what their role required and had steered the business on smashing their aggressive growth plans over the past few years – they were leaving on a high.

Surely there was someone ready to step into their shoes, I thought. But instead, the answer was, “No! That’s why I contacted you – I need you to recruit my replacement”.

After some probing, I found that most of their Senior Management had been working for the organisation for 15 years or more. This business boasts an enviable workforce stability that provided a solid foundation for growth and success throughout the years, but I couldn’t help but feel that the lack of knowledge sharing could put them in a difficult situation going forward.

Within businesses like this one, the main challenge lies in ensuring a seamless transition of leadership and maintaining a skilled workforce despite employees staying on until retirement age. This is where effective succession planning steps into the spotlight, offering a tailored solution to the peculiar needs of companies with high retention rates.

Understanding the unique landscape

Businesses with high employee retention rates have a distinct advantage in terms of stability and institutional knowledge. However, this advantage can quickly become a stumbling block if not managed strategically. The risk of knowledge gaps due to sudden retirements or unforeseen departures looms large, making the need for a comprehensive succession plan imperative.

Implementing a Culture of Growth

Promoting from within becomes more than just a hiring practice; it’s a philosophy that helps to improve your company culture. Successful businesses with high retention rates recognise that each employee is a potential future leader. To harness this potential, they invest heavily in training, mentorship, and professional development. Employees are provided with opportunities to expand their skill sets, take on new challenges, and develop leadership qualities – boosting their engagement and satisfaction within their roles.

Identifying and Nurturing Talent

A central aspect of succession planning is the identification of high-potential employees. These individuals possess not only the necessary skills but also the right attitude and mindset to step into leadership roles. Through regular performance assessments, managers can pinpoint these talents and design personalised development plans that align with the company’s long-term objectives.

Knowledge Transfer

In organisations with long-tenured employees, institutional knowledge becomes a prized asset. To ensure this wealth of experience is passed down effectively, mentorship programs are established. These initiatives facilitate the transfer of knowledge from senior employees to their younger counterparts, ensuring that valuable insights and industry wisdom are not lost when a seasoned employee retires.

Cross-Training and Skill Diversification

To counter the potential pitfalls of employees becoming overly specialised, companies with high retention rates focus on cross-training. Employees are encouraged to acquire skills beyond their immediate roles. This not only prepares them for unforeseen leadership roles but also bolsters the company’s adaptability in the evolving business landscape.

Structured Career Paths

Unlike businesses with frequent turnover, where the focus might be on short-term objectives, companies with enduring employees map out structured career paths. Employees understand the trajectory of their growth within the organisation, fostering a sense of purpose and commitment. This approach also aids in keeping employees engaged and motivated over the long haul.

Flexibility in Leadership Transition

Succession planning in high-retention environments necessitates flexibility. Employees might not be looking to ascend the corporate ladder at the same pace as in other organisations. Therefore, leadership transitions should be adapted to the individual’s readiness and preferences. Sometimes, this might mean overlapping roles or adopting co-leadership models.

Adapting to Change

Change is inevitable, even in businesses with high retention rates. To prevent stagnation, these organisations actively encourage innovation and adaptability. They foster an environment where employees are empowered to challenge the status quo and contribute fresh ideas. This forward-thinking culture ensures that the company remains competitive, even in the face of industry shifts.

Succession planning in such organisations is a delicate balance of nurturing existing talent, encouraging a culture of growth, and preparing for the eventual transition of leadership. Identifying and nurturing your potential leaders in advance mitigates the disruptions caused by the departure of key personnel due to retirement, resignation, or unforeseen circumstances. If you want to discuss succession planning within your own business, please get in touch with us. We would be happy to consult and share some insight.


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How to improve your employee retention

Work is a huge part of our lives, so we should enjoy what we do. Therefore, it’s no surprise that people who dislike their job or feel dissatisfied with what they’re doing, won’t stick around for long.

Working to improve staff retention rates and keeping talented team members should always be a business priority. Low staff turnover means less time and money spent on recruitment; it also helps to build a strong employer brand, increasing your candidate attraction.

So, how can you improve employee retention and set your business apart from your competitors?

Hire the right fit

This might sound obvious, but the foundation of staff retention starts with hiring employees who align with your company’s values, culture, and job requirements. In terms of how we approach recruitment at Corvus People, we conduct thorough interviews and assessments to ensure that candidates not only have the necessary skills, but also show the right attitude, behaviours, and enthusiasm for the role and our own or our client’s organisation.

Have a clear onboarding process

A structured and comprehensive onboarding process can set the tone for your employee’s tenure. It helps to provide new employees with a warm welcome, an introduction to company policies, and a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. This in turn will help them feel valued and confident in their new position.

Communicate effectively

Communication is important in any business, and it’s clear that employees favour an open and honest working environment. Clear communication is essential in the workplace; especially if you want to build trust and ensure you have a positive company culture. Managers play an important part in this and businesses should equip them with the resources they need to deal with any issues effectively.

This helps staff feel supported in their role and improves staff retention rates. Employees appreciate feeling listened to by their managers and will ultimately feel happier in their jobs.

Encourage a good work-life balance

Poor work-life balance can lead to stress, burnout, and ultimately exits within your team. It’s important to consider your employees’ well-being and encourage a good balance across your business.

Some ideas could be to:

  • Provide flexible and remote working options
  • Encourage managers to focus on productivity rather than hours
  • Encourage breaks
  • Regularly review workloads
  • Give employees time to volunteer
  • Increase support for parents

There are many ways to prevent stress and burnout in employees, it can be as simple as insisting that employees take their full lunch break and leave the office at a reasonable time. Not only does it help your staff, but it also increases their productivity when they’re in the office.

Offer development opportunities

Career progression is a priority for the majority of professionals and a lack of development opportunities can lead to disengagement. As an employer, you should take the lead on this from day one. Work with your employees to decide on a clear career development path, and catch up with them regularly to check their progress. This could consist of monthly, quarterly, and yearly 1-2-1 meetings. This will help improve staff retention as you’ll ensure you’re giving your team members added responsibilities as they develop. As a result, they’ll feel confident that they can advance in the business and have influence within your organisation.

Praise and reward

Recognising hard work and showing staff that you appreciate their efforts is vital to improving retention rates in your company. One way to do this is to implement a monthly incentive scheme. For example, this could include crowning a ‘team member of the month’, where a small prize or bonus is given to the deserving winner, boosting morale and helping to make employees feel appreciated.

Ensure you are keeping up with average pay in your industry; if what you’re offering doesn’t meet this then your employees may go looking elsewhere. Don’t worry if you can’t offer the most competitive salary, there are other rewards and benefits that you might be able to provide, work life balance goes a long way in creating a desired work environment.

There are many ways to improve staff retention in your company and recognising that employees play a crucial role in your businesses’ success is a great start. By treating your staff well; and looking out for their best interests is a surefire way to ensure they don’t look elsewhere for a better opportunity.

Written by Helen Cosgrove


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