Brands are often challenged to stay nimble and agile with a robust system (including succession plans (SP) of building and retaining employees with skills, motivation, and other attributes to be successful and committed to upholding the mission, vision, and values of brands or organizations. However, it should not be surprising to discover that most businesses and brands do not have succession plans in place to effectively and timely deal with human resource gaps as part of strategies to sustain brand resilience among others. Organizations “without succession plans” more often than not, face disruption and delays in replacing departing employees (either by resignations, deaths, retirements, etc) which affect the overall operational quality of the organizations, their reputational resilience, and growth.  

Succession Planning (SP)

According to Nadler-Moodie et al (2012; p. 357), Succession planning is a process of identifying and developing in-house talent with people who have the potential to fill positions in an organization. It is a process of increasing the availability of experienced and capable people who are prepared to assume roles when they (the roles) become available. In viewing this process through a plan, Ballaro & Polk (2017), posit that a succession plan is a written, detailed set of steps for how a business will continue in case of resignation, death, or removal of leaders in the organization, including the development and promotion of employees.

The purpose of a succession plan in an organization is to outline the proper steps to fulfill its mission, vision, and selection of qualified human capital to stay in business (Calareso, 2013). It is therefore necessary for brands to raise their levels of consciousness in this area, considering the importance of succession planning in promoting brand resilience and sustaining growth. Below are some key roles:

Talent Identification and Management: Accordingly, employee dedication and competency directly correlate with brand resilience. A succession plan comprises measures to support employee engagement and well-being in addition to tactics for talent acquisition, development, and retention. Even during difficult times, motivated and engaged staff members are more likely to have a positive impact on the success and resiliency of the business. Through a business Succession Planning process in particular, brands can identify the positions most critical to the company’s future success and select possible candidates who have the skills, values, and desire to take on these roles.

Besides, SP helps to develop a comprehensive corporate training plan to help ensure that individuals are ready to take on specified roles. The business SP process will help business owners identify possible competency gaps and groom successors for future leadership positions (Gabriel et al., 2020). The resources and funding needed to encourage more in-depth training are found in larger business organizations in the form of professional job coaching, mentoring, or a gradual increase in advanced responsibilities (Olivier & Trivedi, 2021).

Preservation of company’s brand: A company’s brand and reputation play a vital role in its performance over time (Banerjee et al., 2020). Hiring an individual unfamiliar with the company to step in as the successor at any level may just be a mistake many companies make. The person may not fully recognize the company’s fundamental mission and values, which could taint its brand in the eyes of clients and customers (Beatty & Zajac, 1987). Preserving brand awareness is vital for both small and large companies who want to continue building their business (Fong et al., 2020). Again, the cost of failure and lost productivity, recruiting expenses, compensation packages, and signing bonuses can add up to millions of cedis. Besides and in the case of the top level, Douglas (2014) argues that “40% of executives in new roles fail in the first 18 months”, especially if the process isn’t strategically designed to ensure an effortless transition.

Rouse and Ross (2018) stated that the process should reinforce the organization’s values and characteristics that distinguish it from its competitors. Leadership transition or succession in an organization should appear as an event that is greater than its choice of the next leader (Martin & Samels, 2004). Without careful planning, the transition may put an unnecessary financial strain on the organization plus adversely affect and increase demands on existing personnel (Ritchie, 2020). If the transition period is managed and well organized, the organization can stay united and vibrant throughout the process.

Keeping a positive brand image and controlling stakeholder perceptions are critical components of brand resilience, especially in difficult times. To protect a brand’s credibility and dependability in the eyes of customers, investors, and other stakeholders, a succession plan must contain tactics for reputation management, brand communication, and crisis management.

Innovation and Advancement: Business owners may profit by examining how innovation and advancement offer new procedures for their leadership or succession programs. When a key staff unexpectedly resigns, retires, gets fired, becomes seriously ill, or dies in a large business, having an active succession plan prevents disruption to the organization. To stay competitive in the market, one must constantly innovate, advance, and set themselves apart. A succession plan allocates funds for R&D, product/service enhancement, and market growth, all of which promote innovation. Remaining ahead of changing consumer demands and industry developments helps the company stay relevant and resilient against rivalry.

Reduces expenses and fosters flexibility: It is worth noting that making jobs publicly available is not necessarily a legal requirement for most employers, although external job postings may help avoid the appearance of favoritism or unintended discrimination. More so, it is confirmed that hiring an external candidate can be both time-consuming and costly when considering advertising, training, evaluation, and other expenses (Galbraith et al., 2012).  A well-defined succession plan (SP) includes tactics to meet the goals, objectives, and key performance indicators (KPIs). It also permits flexibility and adaptability in reaction to shifting customer tastes, market situations, or competitive environments. This adaptability ensures resilience in changing contexts by allowing the brand to quickly and efficiently pivot in the face of unforeseen problems.

Regarding business size, SP for small businesses will reduce expenses by allowing an established employee to learn a new skill set and grow into a leadership role (LeCounte, 2020). For larger businesses, SP boosts employee retention and allows current employees to rise on the career ladder (Wassell & Bouchard, 2020).

Customer Retention and Loyalty: Cultivating brand loyalty and solid customer relationships are key components of building brand resilience. Initiatives to improve customer experience, respond to customer feedback, and create emotional bonds with the target audience can all be included in a succession plan. By putting the needs and loyalty of its customers first, the brand can withstand setbacks and maintain long-term success.

In conclusion, it is widely acknowledged that an effective succession plan helps sustain business profitability, planning for the future, training for the personnel, and strategies to overcome barriers. Research also argues that considering the numerous benefits, it is important that brands are encouraged to not only value succession planning but embed it in their policies and also put them into practice on a day-to-day basis to ensure that it forms a critical element of overall strategic planning. This is in recognition of the important role SP plays in brand resilience and business success. It also serves as a roadmap for building and maintaining brand resilience by addressing key areas such as cost, risk management, adaptability, brand image, customer loyalty, innovation, and employee talent management.

Does your organization have a comprehensive succession plan in place? and is it effective enough to promote resilience across all segments of the organization?

By: Mohammed Ali: A Chartered Banker and Brand Advocate