Is your Successor prepared?

Following a number of years working in Landed Estate HR, one issue seems to appear on a regular basis.  The readiness of potential successors.

In the Corporate world, succession planning involves identifying potential successors and seeing how “ready” they are and developing clear plans for the individual to ensure that they have all the skills and motivation to lead that department or organisation.  It’s a long-term view, but not as long term as in Landed Estates and Agriculture!

I recently presented at a Saffery Champness event on this subject and was interested in the feedback.  Key issues are:

Lack of communication

Open and honest communication about the need for planning and development, I am sure this is talked about on a regular basis but probably in passing, alongside other business conversations.  Setting up a regular appointment for the specific reason of discussing readiness should provide focus and nip any problems in the bud.

Assumptions over readiness

I am not saying that this is intentional!  It happens in every organisation, sometimes it can be not discussing the situation on a regular basis in the belief that everyone is on the same page, it is not until a neutral party asks a few critical questions can the reality be seen.

Lack of support

The support I am referring to is the more structured support of training courses and networks for individuals.  We know about events and courses by Historic houses and by the Worshipful Company of Farmers (https://farmerslivery.org.uk/our-courses/advanced-course-in-agricultural-business-management).  However, a training course should be a steppingstone to further development of the successor; mentor ship, coaching, networking and work experience should follow to embed the learning.

Skill and Will

In HR we talk about “do they have the skill and will to do the job?”  Basically, can they carry out the tasks to standard required and are they motivated to complete the work?  These 2 elements need to be addressed in the succession planning.  If no skill, “back-fill” with excellent team and service providers. If no will, ask the question whether they are the right fit or explore the lack of motivation.

Personalities

Families are families, we have disagreements.  Finding support from a trusted neutral individual can help in navigating difficulties or misunderstandings along the way.  A clear understanding and an agreed way forward for the successor’s development plan can avoid disagreements if developed in the initial stages of the succession planning process.

What can HR Consultants do to help?

HR Consultants are useful to develop a long-term succession plan, with complete involvement of the Successor and the Estate.  We can be the neutral independent adviser and critical friend to help smooth out any bumps in the road.  We can also source particular learning events and be there as a confidential support for all involved.