Susan Popoola

Leveraging The Value of People
March 11th, 2015

The End

I recently read the headline of an article entitled “the beginning”, strangely I found myself thinking of endings. Not totally off point as often for something to begin, something else must end.

They say all good things must come to an end. I don’t believe it’s ALL things. However sometimes they just do. Not because we didn’t give our best, stopped caring or what have you – sometimes things just change and the synergy is just not there – it becomes hard work and/or it ceases to be fulfilling.

This happens on a personal level in the various relationships we have. It also happens within various work environments. Often the signs are there long before we realise that its time to bring a chapter to a close.  There may be agitations, irritations and frustrations – ultimately it’s not as fulfilling as it used to be and/or people seem to act different towards us and we suddenly become increasingly aware of all that’s wrong.

When we finally realise its not working any more we typically try to do one more thing; to give things another go  – no one wants to be seen as someone that has given up or failed.

If we have the opportunity to talk to a representative of the other party sometimes we do so in a desperate bid to make things work. If they are willing and able to put things in place or changes things or if both parties are willing to work together – all may be well and good, as things just may turn around.

Often times though things have changed for a reason – a change in strategy, focus and priorities and so though the heart may be willing the reality is things are different and sticking around under those circumstances often ends up doing more harm than good.

I once worked with an HR director who said that when employees tell her they want to leave she never tries to persuade them to stay, as they will soon leave anyway.

Whilst I’m more I inclined to listen to the language they use, to take the time to understand their reasons and consider how far down the line the individual is; more often than not I do believe she’s right.

For the other cases an organisation’s employee engagement strategies should actually prevent them from reaching the place whereby they consider leaving in the first place. By engagement strategies I’m not necessary talking about anything fancy. More than anything else it’s basic communications be it through open communications that enables employees to speak openly to managers; one to one meetings that assess where employees are/what’s going on; and/or performance management processes that show an employees next steps/plans and whether/how they still fit with the organisation.

The ultimate decision however lies with an individual – it’s easiest to accept and handle things if there is a key incident or if a new and compelling opportunity arises. However one thing I’ve learnt is when it’s time, it’s no use dwindling, you just prolong the pain. So make a plan (openly if its practical to do so), pack your bags and move on. The sooner you do the sooner you end the negativity and open yourself up to fresh, new opportunities

After all not talking about leaving just because someone upset you one day. I’m referring to deep prolonged issues that the different parties aren’t ready/able to work together to resolve.

Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2015. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

January 17th, 2015

The Talent Left on Your Doorstep

I was at one of my favourite music venues, The Stables in Milton Keynes on Sunday. I went to listen to a lady named Sally Barker play. If you live in the UK and watched the TV completion, The Voice last year you will probably know who I’m talking as she was the first runner up.

Sally was great on The Voice. I absolutely loved her rendition of songs or better, put her interpretation of them. When I heard that she was going to be playing in Milton Keynes, it was a given that I was going to be there to listen to her.

It was lovely to hear her perform a number of the songs that she had sang on The Voice and I can say that she gives Dionne Warwick a run for her money with her version of “Walk on By”. Equally, it was lovely to hear her sing a number of her own songs that she has written herself over the years. She also does a very good job on the guitar, a skill that she didn’t display whilst she was on The Voice. In addition, I discovered that she has a great sense of humour, she’s a great conversationalist and has a deep interest in history.

I found out that following on from The Voice, she had been offered a contract with Universal Music. She had, however, turned it down. They wanted her to record an album of covers, but she was not satisfied with this. Remember I said she writes her own songs. She therefore wanted to record her own material. She has since re-released one of her older albums, “Maid in England” including some of the songs that she sang on The Voice.

I believe that Sally is a talented, world class performer and that by not accepting her for who she truly is and what she represents and has to offer, Universal Music actually lost out. As she told the story, I found myself thinking of the talent in the workplace.

We typically recruit people on the basis of job descriptions – totally understandable. We’ve got to have some parameters. However, do we ever take the time to understand the additional skills that people have to offer and where appropriate make use of those skills. I’ve seen research that indicates that a third of employees are likely to look for new jobs this year. I believe highly skilled and capable employees that don’t fill full appreciated or utilised are likely to be high on the list of people looking for new opportunities where they will be truly fulfilled.

Equally common, is the habit of recruiting staff with great skills and talents that we identify and indicate that we very much admire during the recruitment process, which we then fail to utilise once they are in our employ. Dictating that they perform a role which does not utilise these capabilities or that they perform tasks in a (procedural) manner that does not optimise that which they have to offer, that we originally said we admire.

It’s not just about talent. I’ve heard people express the frustration that they can’t fully express themselves and be who they are within the workplace. This is especially true of people from diverse backgrounds who have been told that they should act in a certain way in order to conform and be accepted. Yes, there are limits, but do you encourage the people that work with you to freely be who they are within the workplace?

If you do, I believe that you will find yourself with a much fulfilled and effective workforce. If not, I would strongly recommend that you start to do so.


P.S. Oh, and if you appreciate good music; if Sally Barker is ever in your town make sure you go along. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Susan Popoola is an HR Specialist at Conning Towers which specializes in HR Transformation and Talent Management.  Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain which explores Disatisfaction, Disengagement and Diversity within Britain is her second published book.

November 2nd, 2014

The Myth About Who You Require for The Job

Recently I was walking past a small café. Outside was a sign – “Full Time Position Available. Experienced Only Need Apply” I smiled whirly as in some ways it reminded me of the stories that you hear about rooms for rent in properties back in the 1960s (or even later) with signs in the windows reading – “No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs”

On the face of things, there is no correlation between telling people not to apply for a job if they don’t have experience and telling people that they can’t rent a property because of the colour of their skin or where they originate from. However, if you stop and think about it, in both circumstances people are being excluded, without being given a chance. No one is or was taking the time to find out who they are and what they do have offer.

The experience case is probably easier to justify – people say they need someone who can come onto the job and get on with what needs to be done. The requirement for experience often comes with assumptions. About eight years ago I came across an organisation that was looking for HR experience in a specialised area. The organisation specified the requirement for five years experience. I had about three years extensive experience in the relevant area so, I decided to contact the organisation outlining the projects I’d work on over a three-year period and the impact of my achievements. They decided not to see me. About three years later, they were once more looking for help. In the interim period I had done a few small pieces of work in the specialist area, but not much. I contacted them once more, specifying my experience over five years. They met with me and they absolutely loved me and my work. The funny thing is that what really stood out for them from the conversation was the experience they I had gained from my earlier years. The experience that I had when I first contacted them. Ultimately, what was more pertinent, the length of my experience or the quality of my experience?

You may go on to say, that a place like the Café that I mentioned needs to employ someone with experience – they don’t have time to teach people from scratch, you might think! However, if you think about it, who would the Café or for that matter anyone else be best of with – a person with a fair amount of experience who is used to doing things in certain ways which may not actually be appropriate to the culture or general way of working of the new environment, who thinks they know it all or someone who is perhaps a quick and keen learner with no preconceived ideas.

My driving instructor explained it best. She said the easiest person to teach to drive is a person who has never been behind a steering wheel. It’s much harder, she said to teach someone who has got behind the wheel and picked up a lot of bad habits.

I believe there are other areas in which we consciously or sub-consciously exclude people without giving them a chance because they don’t have the experience or capabilities that we think we need. For instance with Christmas coming up I’ve just received a little card through my front door from Royal Mail. “Santa isn’t the only one who needs help this Christmas” because of the increased volumes of mail over Christmas they are looking to recruit people from the local community to help deliver their services.

They specify that it “is a fast paced environment where you will need to be flexible and adaptable, changing from one role to another to move the mail quickly along the processing chain” Imaging the environment I could immediately understand why they had specified the requirement like that. However, I couldn’t help but think that if I was someone with a mobility problem of some kind that I would immediately think that they did not want someone such as me. The truth, however, is that Royal Mail could cope with a few such people that would be perfectly good for the job if they were allowed to work in specific areas without having to move from one role to another. In fact they might actually benefit from some people focused on specific roles whilst others move around as required.

It’s easy to exclude people that could add a lot of value without realising it or without meaning to simply by taking the obvious, routine approach without thinking of the implications.

On the other hand,  if we take a little bit of extra time to think of how our messages come across, who they may exclude and then think a bit outside of the box, we may be surprised by the gems that come knocking at our doors.


Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain.



October 27th, 2014

Enabling Creativity

Employability skills has become mainstream terminology in the business world, especially when it comes to the employment of young people who are often criticised as not coming out of education equipped with the appropriate skills for the workplace i.e. employability skills.

As defined by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) the key employability skills are:

  •  A Positive Attitude – readiness to take part, openness to new ideas and activities, desire to achieve
  • Self Management – readiness to accept responsibility, flexibility, time management, readiness to improve own performance
  • Team working – respecting others, co-operating, negotiating/persuading, contributing to discussions
  • Business and Customer Awareness – basic understanding of the key drivers for business success and the need to provide customer satisfaction
  • Problem solving – analysing facts and circumstances and applying creative thinking to develop appropriate solutions
  • Communication and literacy – application of literacy, ability to produce clear, structured written work and oral literacy, including listening and questioning.
  • Application and Numeracy – application of numbers, general mathematical awareness and its application in practical contexts
  • Application of Information Technology – basic IT skills, including familiarity with word processing, spreadsheets, file management and the use of internet search engines.

In my mind, a number of these are related and are aligned to the natural curiosity and creativity that we all have as children. In many ways we process this out of children, by dictating not just what has to be done, but specifically how things need to be done. I believe this is followed through into the workplace. Without question there is a need for guidance on the how, especially when people are learning. However, there is a need for people to be able to use their initiative, to be flexible and to be responsive to specific needs.

I often see how over prescribed processes limit employees ability to work effectively. I believe this is, however, best highlighted by an episode of the television programme, Undercover Boss that featured DHL. On one particular day, the boss worked with a member of staff in the call centre, which had very specific flow chart processes on how staff responded to customer calls. This meant that when a customer called from Australia with a concern that she had previously called about which was yet to be resolved and asked to be put on hold, the staff member refused, as it was not in line with protocol. The undercover boss was quite annoyed by this, however, when confronted at a later stage, the employee pointed out that she had followed the (target driven process) and if she had done otherwise she may have got into trouble. It could be argued that she took things to the extreme.

However, if we really want to encourage skills amongst employees such as positive attitudes; self management; business and customer awareness and problem solving; we need to enable them by adopting processes that provide frameworks and guidance without dictating the details of how things need to be done.

Dictating the how, not only limits creativity in the workplace, I believe it also limits trust as it send a message that says that we don’t trust in employee’s capabilities and we therefore need to tell them precisely what to do and how to do it.


Susan Popoola

Susan Popoola is a professional Human Resources Specialist with close to 20 years HR experience working on numerous HR related projects across the Private, Public & Voluntary sectors.

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June 16th, 2013

Uncovering Employee Value via Undercover Bosses

Once in a while I watch the television programme Undercover Boss.  Currently viewing in the UK is Undercover Boss Canada. In many ways the programme is flawed as it simply highlights a lot of what organisations should already be aware of about the way in which their organisations work or not; and the people that work for them. I’m also conscious that it singles out a few of the people that the undercover boss meets whilst undercover and lavishes them with professional and personal rewards. Whilst I’m always pleased for the people receiving these rewards I do increasingly find myself thinking about the rest of the workforce, which may work equally as hard, face equally as challenging personal circumstances and have similar hopes and dreams.  I therefore hope that after the programme the employers work on schemes that provide personal as well as professional support to their entire workforces.

Beyond this though, I enjoy watching the programme because it talks about the hearts and values of people in mainstream workforces. – it highlights the things that are important to them like their families; the challenges they have faced or are facing; their dreams and aspirations and the dedication to and efforts of so many to their jobs.

Recently I watched an episode, which was focused on The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). It very much followed the normal format with the undercover boss in disguise working with employees from different parts of the organisations.  In this case the boss (who happened to be a female) as per the norm shadowed employees on their jobs, gaining insights from them without them knowing who she was. At the end, the key people that the undercover Boss worked directly with were called to the organisation’s Head Office to meet with her. She gave them feedback on the experience inclusive of some of the actions that she was going to take as a result of her experience with them. She then went on to offer them a series of rewards, which leave the employees speechless, in tears or what have you. Ultimately as one employee says – “Being acknowledged is quite humbling”

I won’t go on about the fact that all employees should be acknowledged on such a regular basis that it is the norm and no big deal. I will move on to the case of an employee named Carmen who really stood out for me.

Carmen worked a 10 hours night shift in a bus depot – running around fuelling buses, checking the oil and cleaning around 50 buses each night. She specifically worked nights because she spent time during the day caring for and providing support to elderly relatives inclusive of a mother with health problems.

She probably fits into the category of working poor – those people that work very hard, yet struggle to make ends meet. Some such people have significant formal education, however a significant number such as Carmen less so – she would have liked to continue her education, unfortunately her circumstances until the intervention of the undercover boss did not allow for it.

She falls into the category of people often classified as unskilled, yet as illustrated by the attempts of the undercover boss, the likes of me and probably you with all our skills and capabilities could not do her job. Of people doing her job, she stated “We’re not perfect, we’re not machines, but we’re trying our hardest”.  As such shouldn’t we show greater appreciation of people in what we typically classify as low skilled jobs.

You make ask how? I’d say at one level – in things such as pay and benefits – the difference between minimum wage and living wages i.e. a wage that covers the cost of living.  At another level the way we talk about and refer to people in such jobs – remembering their humanity and input and not referring to them in the condescending manner, which we subconsciously do on many an occasion.  Finally, in the little things we all do and how we behave. In line with this case not leaving litter or food on public transport with the recognition that someone is going to have to clean up our mess.



Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2013. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated


June 9th, 2013

Unlocking Charity Giving

I recently read an article by Sunil Bali on an Italian sandwich shop, which faced with the threat of a Giant Supermarket opening next-door ending up sharply increasing their profit within the period of six months.  I believe they attained this contrary result because they offered something of high value to their customers; they had an engaging approach and they remained focused without panicking.

This led me to reflect once more on a telephone call I recently received on behalf of a Charity, which was looking, to raise funds for what I must say is a very good cause. The approach adopted did, however, make me feel very, very uncomfortable.

The Charity in question was offering information on cancer. I provided my details in order to obtain the mentioned information and this led to the above mentioned phone call.

I was asked if I had a few minutes to spare, to which I responded yes. (If talking to them/providing information would be of help to them – why not) I was asked for confirmation of my contact information so that the details could be sent to me.  I confirmed the information required.  I was then asked how much I know about cancer?  That’s a very vague question I responded. The lady proceeded to ask me a few other questions in relation to cancer. To each of my responses she gave me some information.  I began to feel as if I was in school being spoken to by a teacher.

She moved on to ask me whether I knew about recent breakthrough and spoke about a specific breakthrough treatment now being trialed. She went on to speak about how they need support.  She told me she wanted to tell me about 3 ways in which I could support them. She started talking about a direct debit option. Only half listening to her, I waited for her to finish so that I could inform her that I would consider how I would support them once I had, had the opportunity to review the information sent to me. She pointed out that this level of information would not be included in what was sent to me, as they could not afford it as a charity. I told her I’d look at their website.  She asked me if I would commit to making a lower payment by direct debit. I explained to her that I wasn’t saying that I couldn’t help, but I don’t make commitment over the phone/without proper information.  I thought this would be the end of it.

The pressure continued as my discomfort and resolve grew. They could only call me this once she said. With the breakthrough they needed immediate help. It was cheaper to process payments over the phone. There was a cooling off period ………

I pointed out that I was beginning to feel as if I was being harassed by a doorstep salesperson. She still continued not recognizing how comfortable I was or how disengaged I’d become.  Shortly afterwards the call finally ended to my relief. I had not provided any information and now although somewhat put off I’m waiting for the promised from the Charity to see if and how I will support the charity.

It’s sad because the Charity is doing critical work of high value – I recognized that from the conversation. I was totally disengaged and put off by someone trying to do what virtually amounts to bullying.

All in all it reiterates my thinking that Charities will receive support if they have a worthwhile/valuable course.  Critically, however, is to target people that identify with the cause and to ensure that all the people involved with the cause effective serve as ambassadors and communicate with people in a manner that is informative, engaging and compelling.

As with the sandwich shop – the product or service should speak for itself.



P.S. Of possible interest – Conning Towers Ltd.’s Strategy, Skills and Brand Ambassadors programme.

Copyright 2013. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

October 26th, 2012

When Potential Comes to Fruition

I listen to American news quite a lot. My favourite news programme is NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  I like it partly because of what I know about the news reader, Brian Williams who covered New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina long after others had stepped back. More pertinently at the end of each broadcast they have a “Making a Difference” report, which features things that people are doing within the community to resolve problems and make a difference.

I’ve listened to many reports that have inspired me and others that have brought tears to my eyes.  The one that had an indelible impression and stands out most in my mind is one that featured a project run by Usher the singer.  He had set up a project working with young disadvantaged and disengaged young people.  A young man was interviewed. He was asked what made him turn his life around.  He responded, that Usher believed in him until he was forced to believe in himself.

As someone that used to be a youth worker in London, working with young people who came with no sense of purpose and were often transformed like caterpillars to butterflies I can completely identify with this.

Whether engaging on a community level or at an HR level within organisations, my starting point is always that each and every individual has value – of which they can add/apply to their environment.  Sometimes individuals are fully aware of what they have to offer.  The frustration may then arise if they don’t know how to express themselves properly and demonstrate what they have to offer; if they are in the wrong role or if people don’t realise what they have to offer.

Beyond this, there are so many that have capabilities and potential beyond what they are aware of. It’s great when other people recognise this and support individuals to realise their full potential.

I also believe that HR has a key responsibility in this area.  I believe that HR process and systems such as Competency Frameworks, Performance Management processes, Succession Planning programmes and Mentoring schemes are only truly worth while when they help to bring out the best in people and as such enable their employers in return to get the optimal outcomes from them.

Critically, the right systems and processes will never be effective if the individual does the have the wherewithal, the attitude and disciplinary and he/she does not have management that effectively operates the systems and support the individual.  They do say that people do not leave organisations, but rather they leave managers.


Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

September 20th, 2012

Social Capital in The Workplace

On the soft side of things, talent management within the workplace is important because diverse, mutually respectful, happy teams with shared values perform best. ref: Carol Long, Three Triangles Performance Ltd. This is beneficial for organisations at an individual level, but there is also an economic imperative for effective talent management. I recently read that Brazil now claims to be the fifth largest economy in the world. France is also a threat to Britain’s position. This means that Britain is now moving backwards and is potential ‘just’ the seventh largest economy in the world. Even if Britain has still managed to maintain its position at the moment, where will Britain be positioned in 10 years time if we do not become more strategic in our actions and approach to the management and utilisation of talent?

I believe that we are still in a privileged position where people look up to us and want to work with us or do business with us. There is therefore a need for businesses to create and implement strategies that ensure the effective and efficient development and engagement of the local and global talent offered by all within communities.

At a basic level there is a need for a clear, strategic understanding of where British industry plans to go within the next 5, 10 and even 20 years. Individual businesses both large and small need to have an understanding of where they fit within that plan and what their subsequent strategy to deliver and achieve results is. When we talk about strategy, more often than not, we tend to focus on the operational and financial elements of the business but we tend to play little attention to the people side of things until there is a more immediate need.

I think the shape of the economy and global talent market that is developing means that this must now change and we must start thinking about people management – or to be more specific skills – from a more strategic perspective.

I always advocate for a skills or competency framework approach which highlights both the immediate and future resource requirements of an organisation from a skills basis.

It means that industry can broadcast skills requirements such that the education system is best positioned to prepare individuals with the flexibility to meet actual and potential needs and professions that currently don’t exist but which may exist in the not too distant future. It also enables government to have a more strategic, pragmatic view on immigration so that it is aligned to the country’s needs rather than simply pandering to those who are simply and plainly against immigration with a big full stop. It also enables better planning for jobs that may be best outsourced, with the enablement of processes to prepare and redeploy individuals who will otherwise be rendered redundant by such structural changes.

I believe a skills/competency framework also better enables open engagement with the wider community. Where it is clear to people what the competency requirements to work at different levels within an organisation are, it is more difficult for them to claim that they did not get a job because they were discriminated against for one reason or the other. It also better enables people from within the different British communities to mentor and support people from within their own communities to enable them to develop the skills required to obtain jobs at different levels. In fact, I was impressed to go into a McDonald’s store recently and pick up a little booklet with the basic framework of the different roles within the organisation and requirements to work at each level.

As we are now what is popularly described as a ‘global village’, I believe Britain, with its vast diversity has an advantage as it should be able to use that diversity to effectively interact with and understand different cultures around the world. I believe that British organisations should be mindful of this and look to use this to their advantage.

This, however, will only work if workers also do their part. I believe there are currently too many organisations, especially in retail, where the workforce is highly multicultural but highly segregated. I specifically remember doing some work in one such organisation. I went to their canteen at lunchtime and found that a large proportion of employees sat together with people from the same background as themselves, often speaking in their own language. As highlighted with a recent case involving McDonald’s, you can’t legislate against this, but I don’t believe it is very constructive and would venture to say that it is a poor reflection of multiculturalism where the gains are minimal.

Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

November 30th, 2011

Managing Staff Through The Tough Times

Managing Staff Through The Tough Times

While there are businesses that may be thriving, the recent recession and its aftermath mean that it’s been a tough few years for a lot of businesses.  If we are to be honest things are likely to remain tough for the next few years as we contend with Government cuts, problems with Europe and what have you. The natural instinct under these circumstances is therefore to knuckle down and focus – expecting those that work for us to do the same thing – grateful that unlike so many others they have work.

The tendency is to put structures and processes in place to ensure that we things work both effectively and efficiently – this is something I highly recommend. I also advice on the need to become more stringent about absences and what staff do within work time – this is something else that most businesses will probably be doing now. Additionally most businesses will also be becoming more focused on targets and expect staff to have the same focus.  All of this is perfectly understandable and logical – after all unless a business is run on volunteers and unpaid interns, the people working with you are being paid to get a job done in what is now a very competitive market.

I do believe, that it is, however, important to remember that just as businesses are going through a tough time, so are a lot of people that work with us.  What with the increased costs of living and the possible unemployment of a partner; close family members and/or friends,  this can all very easily serve to put pressure on those fortunate enough to have a job.  This type of pressure on staff may also be enhanced if you have already had to implement reduced hours or a pay freeze for a few years.

So yes, do expect the best from your people, but also please be a bit sensitive too.  Where possible take the time to understand their circumstances. Allow for a little flexibility within your structures and processes if it will help them without being detrimental to the business.

Fundamentally communicate with them on the position of the business, the plans that you have for the business i.e. the strategy and the logic behind it. Be open to their input and ideas – they may actually be the source of input that makes all the difference to your business.

In balancing the requirements of your business with the needs of your staff, I believe you will attain their crucial support and their vey best through the on going tough times that we are all faced with.

Copyright 2011. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

August 29th, 2011

The Importance of Succession Planning

The resignation of Steve Jobs as the CEO of Apple has brought the subject of Succession Planning to the forefront of conversation. The importance of Succession Planning cannot be overemphasis as a key requirement that must be satisfied if organisations are to survive and prosper is that replacement leaders and officials must be available to assume critically important leadership and specialist positions as they become vacant. Many research studies have emphasised the importance of succession planning – primarily at the senior leadership level, but increasing across organisations as the scarcity of crucial skills and ensuring war for talent grows.

Chief Executives and Corporate Boards consistently point to succession as one of their biggest concerns, with a growing recognition that they have the same obligations to protect the human resource asset base for shareholders as they do to protect the balance sheet. This is particularly the case for professional services organisations whose value derives in great measure from the specialist skills and knowledge of their people.

Some of the most compelling reasons for any organisations leadership to seriously considering putting a succession planning process in place are:

  • The continuing survival and prosperity of the organisations depends on having the right professionals and leadership in place
  • Leaving leadership development to chance and hoping that qualified successors can be found either insider or outside of the organisation on short notice when needed may have worked at one time, but the war for talent in the present and future years makes the approach highly risky. There is therefore a need to systematically identify and prepare high-potential candidates for key positions.
  • Middle management is the traditional training ground for leaders. Because of the scarcity and subsequent competition for skills, there is a need for great care to be taken in identifying promising candidates early and to actively cultivate their development. There is otherwise the risk of losing individuals who are high performs in their present job and/or high potentials for future leadership positions.
  • When Succession Planning is left informal and thus unplanned, it can have a number of undesirable consequences. Suspicion about secret lists and shoulder tapping is highly demotivating and at odds with building a high performance culture. There is also the tendency under informal approaches for job incumbents to identify and groom successors in their own image with the potential for limiting the quality of the successor pool.
  • On the other hand, a robust and well understood succession planning program can be very motivating, and a powerful driver of a high performance culture. Such a program will signal to staff that the organisation is an environment where career goals can be mapped out and pursued and where learning and development is encouraged. In short, an environment where people are highly valued.

Copyright 2011. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated