The Vancouver-based concrete waterproofing company has 85 employees
As CEO of a family owned and operated business, Kari Yuers has a unique perspective on succession planning.
Her father founded Vancouver-based Kryton International, a concrete waterproofing company, before Yuers took over as CEO in 2001, and her brother took on the role of operations manager.
“It has its own challenges, given the perceptions of people that you want to draw into your business and, ultimately, everybody’s goal is the same: Let’s get the highest talent and keep them and help them grow in the business. And, sometimes, family businesses can really screw that up,” she says.
That’s just one reason why a solid succession planning process is critical for any organization.
“You learn that people leave for a variety of reasons,” says Yuers. “It’s important to have a plan in place or you could end up with a big hole, and that could set your company or plan back quite a bit.”
The CEO in particular is the barometer to the organization, she says.
“When you have senior leaders like the CEO or the other key executives, they create that direction and engagement, and if you lose them and you don’t have any plans in place to fill it or it becomes ad-hoc, you could lose a lot of momentum,” say Yuers. “It’s kind of like a boat without a rudder.”
In any organization, people expect some degree of change, and the leadership has a responsibility to ensure there is still continuity, she says.
“When something unexpected happens, people lose productivity and lose confidence, and I think that’s the other psychological part that leaders have to consider is that it’s not about just ﬁnding somebody else who has the skills and plugging them in, it’s about people having the perceived feeling that there is a worked-out plan and their world won’t get rocked over these changes.”
The key to succession planning is the word “plan,” says Yuers — having an organized approach to having the components put in place.
“I’m in the concrete business so we often are looking at construction buildings…we talk about how important the foundation is because if you don’t have a good foundation, the rest of the building is going to be (vulnerable) to problems.”
Similarly, C-level roles need to have a solid foundation as well. It’s important to make sure you are clear not just about what the job descriptions are, but about what the functions and impacts of the role are, she says.
“Having the job evaluations done in such a way where you can not only identify what they’re doing today, but what are the expectations of growth and development of those positions?”
The temptation in many smaller organizations is to try to build around the people, says Yuers.
“It’s the worst thing you could do because if you start trying to build the components around a person rather than position or function, then you could get into trouble fast.”
Instead, it’s about ﬁguring out the key components of the roles, and having regular performance reviews and meaningful discussions around how the roles could develop in the future.
lt’s also important to try to groom internal candidates for higher-level roles whenever possible, she says.
“Across the board, any time you can promote from within, that’s good. It has so many nice ripples around it, not only for the person that sees movement in their career, but for other people to feel good that other people in the organization are moving up,” says Yuers.
“I think why (organizations) tend to go externally is… if you haven’t got talent or the skill sets being developed from within, you ﬁnd yourself needing leaders or leadership roles, and you haven’t got that capacity yet.”
It takes a lot of work to groom an internal candidate for an executive-level role on short notice, so sometimes organizations have to go externally to find someone with demonstrated ability who can hit the ground running, she says.
Bringing in outside perspectives is another benefit to hiring external candidates, says Yuers.
“The skill sets of people management and engagement and work ethic and attitude and humility, those are all things I want…if you have those skills, and you’re smart and you’re hardworking, you can learn (the industry),” she says. “It’s harder to train leadership and engagement.”
Source: Canadian HR Reporter