An executive will ideally spend a relatively long time with a company. It’s of course always helpful when any strong employee stays with an organization for the duration. High turnover is a costly issue.
However, when someone plays a leadership role, it’s particularly beneficial to keep them around for as long as possible (assuming they are a good fit for the company). Transitioning to new leadership is naturally challenging.
That’s not to say it needs to be excessively difficult. Companies simply need to prepare for these challenges accordingly. If an organization stays in business long enough, at least some of its executives will almost certainly leave eventually. Even if they don’t pursue opportunities elsewhere, executives, like all employees, retire at some point.
The following are potential difficulties that can arise when this happens. Again, the point isn’t to concern anyone worried about the potential departure of an executive. By knowing what to expect, major decision-makers at companies can prepare more effectively.
Difficulty #1: Not Having a Plan in Place
This problem should be relatively easy to avoid. However, it’s one that many companies face when they don’t take the time to prepare for the inevitable.
The specific way in which a company will onboard a new CEO and executive will depend on a range of factors. That said, it’s extremely helpful for companies to establish a general plan for handling the transition ahead of time. This plan should define how the company will find a new executive, how the new executive will learn about the company’s overall strategy, and how the executive will get up to speed on essential processes that may be crucial to maintaining consistent operations.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to draft a plan for hiring and onboarding a new executive at the last minute. For obvious reasons, this plan won’t be as well thought out as one that was established beforehand. Take the time now to prepare for what will occur eventually.
Difficulty #2: Struggling with Culture Fit
Company culture plays an essential role in all organizations’ success. A company is more likely to thrive when the majority of employees share its values and attitudes.
Culture fit is particularly important when hiring executives. Anyone playing a leadership role needs to be on the same page with their coworkers in regards to vision and overall approach to work. The fact that someone was a successful executive in one environment by no means guarantees they will also succeed in a new environment.
The problem is, knowing you need to hire a new executive who is a good fit for the culture isn’t the same as knowing how to find them. That’s why it’s important to leverage all available resources when seeking replacements for departing executives.
For example, if the CEO of your company was planning on leaving in the near future, you might coordinate with an executive search firm. Such agencies specialize in helping companies find executives who are a good fit. Thus, their experts understand how to identify executives who are not only talented, but who can also naturally adjust to a new company culture.
Difficulty #3: Losing Other Important Players
This is an unfortunate (but arguably understandable) development that organizations must nevertheless prepare for when executives depart. When one executive leaves, in many cases, other high-ranking employees may feel they deserve the vacant position.
In some cases, they are correct. This makes what could be a difficult situation much easier to manage. Replacing a previous executive with someone who is already deeply familiar with the company can simplify what is otherwise a somewhat challenging process.
However, in many instances, it is necessary to hire from outside. (Again, it’s smart to work with an executive search firm when this is the case.) This can upset current employees who thought they would get the job. Feeling overlooked, such employees sometimes leave as well, forcing companies to replace them as well.
Companies can guard against this problem in a few ways. The simplest is to genuinely consider whether any current employees actually would make for strong successors. That said, if no current employee is right for the position, decision-makers should at least identify those who seem to believe they should have been considered.
The best step to take in these situations is to be honest. There are always authentic reasons the board decided no existing employees were right for a departing executive’s position. Honestly communicating those reasons while still expressing respect for the strength of employees who wanted the position is the best way to convince them they still have the potential to continue advancing professionally within the company.
These are points all members of a company’s board should remember. Once again, executives are probably going to leave eventually. That’s less likely to have a negative impact on operations if you prepare accordingly.