Safeguard your business continuity

Part of the ASPIRE Talent Management series

“Succession planning helps you to identify and prepare future talent to fulfil critical and key roles to safeguard business continuity”

Out of any resource in your organisation, whether it be machines, materials, or information, your human capital is seen to be your most important resource, and as such it is vital to ensure your business is ‘talent fit’, with the right type of talent, at all times in order to be able to safeguard your business continuity.

Not this kind of hippo...

What do we mean by the right types of talent? We’re talking specifically about high potentials, or HiPo’s; those people who you bring in your organisation, or who are already in your organisation, who have got the capability to take on broader responsibilities or to take on more leadership, and critical and key roles in your organisation. (NB: Not this kind of hippo)

This is not about full organisational workforce planning; the key is to focus on those critical and key roles which, if you do not fill these positions, means that you will likely experience business interruption of some kind, or will result in some downturn in your activity or capability to perform that activity in your organisation. Obviously a lot of those will tend to be centred around leadership and management roles, but you may identify other positions in your organisations that you feel are critical as part of your business continuity. You may have some specialist roles relating to specific technical skills or knowledge, or expertise in a particular area of sales or a particular territory that could cause you a business problem if you do not safeguard against that person leaving the organisation and having somebody available to backfill that particular role.

The cost of a GOOD hire

In our previous article on talent acquisition, we talked about the cost of a bad hire and the impact on the organisation from a financial perspective if you managed to recruit the wrong person into your organisation and they leave during the first 12 months.

HiPo - High Potentials

When we’re talking about bringing high potentials in to your organisation if you don’t look after them, don’t nurture them and give them the opportunity to progress into those critical and key roles with broader responsibilities, they’re very likely to start thinking about leaving your organisation or they may not give you their full effort and commitment, and therein lies the cost of failing to nurture that good hire.

High potentials need development and nurturing. As driven and motivated people, it will be important to them to have a visible career path, with a clear vision of where they’re headed and they will have expectations as to what this will look like for them as an individual. Fail to provide this, or fail to enable them to feel as if they’re progressing at the right pace, and they will look for other opportunities elsewhere.

Ensure career navigation becomes your guiding compass

These HiPos are a rich source of talent for the future of your business. If one of your current employees in a critical or key role was to leave your organisation, what would be the impact on the business? This ought to be part of the conversation you’re having as a leadership team, executive team or management team. What would happen if you can’t replace that person in a short space of time? If it’s a critical and key role with specialist knowledge, skills or behaviours needed, the acquisition journey could take up to 12 months to bring a new hire into your business. It is much better to have somebody already in the organisation with high potential and who is being developed ready for that role.

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Which bring us onto the topic of career navigation. Not only will your high potentials want to know where they are going and when they can get there, they will also want to know what they will need to develop to enable them to carry out their future role, in terms of the right knowledge, the right skills, and the right behavioural aspects as well.

This is where it is important to understand that individual’s expectations and preferences; what they expect from the role, what they expect from the business and the timeframes which are involved – how quickly does that person want to progress? If that HiPo is a specialist, as mentioned earlier, do they want to progress in that role as a specialist or are there other technical competencies which they want to improve? For many high potentials, their progression path will navigate through the management and leadership route, which then begs the question, do they want responsibility, how quickly do they want that responsibility? How keen are they to manage others, deal with others and have the ability and competency to start influencing others in a management position?

The more expectations of your high potentials that are being fulfilled, the more likely these people are going stay with your organisation.

Having a clear career navigation pathway and a clear and detailed development plan will help you to explore the different development needs for each individual, whether that be knowledge, skills, or behaviours.

We find that when many people talk about improvement, they tend to focus on what are seen as an individual’s weaknesses. However, rather than focusing on a particular weakness – which can often be compensated for by other strengths in the team or business – it could be more helpful instead to help someone to develop, enhance and improve something that’s already a strength so they can become even stronger in that area.

Consider a coach and a mentor

Two things that have become really important to many HiPo’s are to have a mentor and a coach in place to support their development journey.

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It’s worth mentioning that there is a difference between a mentor and a coach. A mentor will take a fairly informal approach, be someone who they can look up to, who can give them a broader scope of the subject and/ or business – someone to bounce ideas off. Coaching is a more structured and formal process where the biggest priority is to improve performance that impacts the present job.

It may seem like an extravagant expense to provide this ‘extra benefit’ for members of your team, but a global survey of coaching clients by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Association Resource center concluded that the mean R.O.I for companies investing in coaching was 7 times the initial investment, with over a quarter reporting an R.O.I of 10 to 49 times. So whatever may spend on coaching, whether it seems expensive at the time, you will see a return on that investment for that high potential.

Mitigate the risks of your HiPo’s leaving

Having then established the need to ensure business continuity, explored the potential cost of not looking after your ‘good hires’, and the need to ensure you provide a clear career navigation pathway which includes a development plan, mentoring and coaching, what other key steps can you take to mitigate the risk of your HiPo’s leaving your organisation?

ID your critical & key roles

As a business owner, leader, or HR expert do you know which are the critical and key roles in your organisation? Have you included this as part of your business continuity strategy? In our experience, many people don’t actually consider this until it’s almost too late. It’s important that the senior team in your organisation spend time on understanding and defining those roles, which if they were to become vacant could really cause damage to the business, so that you can create a detailed strategy and plan in order to reduce that element of risk.

Develop robust job descriptions

All roles should have a job description at the very least – something most organisations will have put in place as part of the recruitment process. Most job descriptions will usually outline the eligibility (knowledge, skills and qualifications) needed as standard.

However, in order to really support a good succession plan strategy, more importance needs to be placed on creating robust job descriptions so that they become the foundation of the role. As well as the eligibility criteria, the suitability factors – the behaviours, attitudes, values, intrinsic motivators and the emotional intelligence required to succeed in the role – should also be included.

Another thing which should form part of a good job description but is so often missed, are KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators). KPI’s which are specific to that role, for that individual, so that it is clear what success in that role looks like, and which will then tell you whether that person is performing in that role.

Shine a light

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We often find that documents or organograms referencing critical and key roles and existing job descriptions are created and then filed away until they’re next needed for recruitment. Better, instead, that these documents and strategies should remain visible to your senior team and even better yet, that they be included in each individual HiPo’s career navigation pathway and personal development plan to be reviewed and referenced on a regular basis. This can then help you to be able to look at any gaps and enable the individual to be developed and coached against these gaps.

3 things to implement to safeguard business continuity and growth

To summarise this exploration on the topic of succession planning, high potentials and safeguarding business continuity and growth for your organisation, here are the 3 things we would advise you consider implementing in your organisation:

1.      Make sure you have an organisational development plan

Your organigram will help you to identify those critical & key roles and develop your plan of attack for the future. The horizon of that future is up to you. You could look at 12 months down the line, or further ahead to 24 months, 3 years, 5 years. This should not sit in a drawer gathering dust! It needs to be a live document

2.     Bring in the HiPo’s

To develop and maintain a good organisational development plan to be able to sustain and grow your business, you need to bring in those high potentials – that illustrious group of individuals who will be the rising stars in your organisation, and who will reach a certain level of responsibility and performance.

3.      Provide clear career navigation and improvement plan –

This is an absolute must for these high performers. Good hires have needs which need fulfilling; they will want a clear navigation pathway which will detail where they are going, what it looks like, how they are going to be developed and they need a clear improvement plan.

The bottom line is, if your HiPo’s expectations are not met they will navigate their career but it will be somewhere else!

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This wheel provides a reminder of those 4 key elements of ASPIRE: Acquisition, Succession Planning, Improvement, Retention and Engagement, which covers the full talent management cycle.


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Peak Performance Partnership Ltd (3P) is a Business Performance Consultancy specialising in Talent Management. ASPIRE by 3P is our talent management solution which supports the talent life cycle of Acquisition, Succession Planning, Improvement and Retention & Engagement.


Co-authored by Lindsay McGhie, Trevor Norman and Michelle Manning