What To Do When a Key Employee Retires or Leaves Suddenly?

Plan Your Succession Strategy and Work Your Plan

Many companies are faced with the dilemma of a key employee retiring out of the blue or suddenly leaving the organization without much notice. What do great companies do? What do you need to do to protect your company and your viability?

The answer is to have a succession plan for every key employee and leader in your organization. Develop a strategic, thoughtful and detailed plan for each key employee. Questions to ask your management team are: Do we have a back-up for each manager and leader? Do we have current employees who have potential to move into higher level positions in the company? If so, what skills do they need? What experience and expertise are they missing? Do we have an effective mentorship plan to help guide younger staff to learn, grow and take on more responsibility? Are we an organization that rewards risk and professional development? Do we promote on merit or the “halo effect”? What are our values and do our leaders embody them? What are our guiding principles and do we live them in our actions and our words?

A solid succession plan includes developing a backup for each leader. Develop several potential employees who have the skills and emotional intelligence to be effective leaders. Help them get the experience and expertise needed by assigning them projects that will build their skills and enhance their leadership ability and emotional intelligence (i.e., the ability to influence others in a positive and proactive way and the ability to manage their own emotions). Give them tasks that require accountability, provide them some direction and support their decisions by guiding their actions and interactions with others. Teach them to actively listen and to empower others to take ownership of their roles.

Our Approach: Two business professionals shaking hands in a busy office setting with multiple colleagues and laptops around them, overlaid with a translucent, bustling cityscape.

Develop a mentorship program. Pair up senior leaders with newer managers to help them learn from the experience and expertise of the accomplished leaders. Teach them to lead by influence and not directive, to be open for input and to actively listen to their employees’ ideas, concerns and issues. Foster collaboration, a servant-leadership approach and engagement of the whole team to realize the whole team is greater than the sum of the individuals. Encourage teamwork and open, honest dialogue that is both respectful and thoughtful – based on facts, data and insight. Help combine the wisdom of experience with the youthful enthusiasm of the up-and-comer. Build relationships. Reward trust, respect, and results gained through cooperation with others (not simply individual input). Promote those with high IQs and high emotional intelligence.

This all takes time, money and considerable effort, but is worth doing for the goal of seeing your organization grow, thrive and succeed in changing times. A key backup plan is to develop a long-term relationship with an executive search firm who knows your culture, your history and what type of leader is successful in your unique organization – and can be a business partner with you to hire the right fit for your organization.