While the need for CEO succession plans is well documented, it’s just as important to plan for succession at the executive level of the organization, says Brian McHenry, senior vice president/principal at c. myers.
“Human resources is moving more toward strategic people growth,” says McHenry. “Talent underpins an organization’s ability to move forward, take advantage of opportunities, and mitigate risk.”
Southern Lakes Credit Union in Kenosha, Wis., knows the importance of succession planning at the C-suite level.
From 2016 through Jan. 1, 2022, the $120 million asset credit union had four people fill the CEO role in either a permanent or interim role. With turnover at the top, C-suite employees took on additional duties during stressful times of transition.
“It’s one thing to have presidential turnover, which can inject apprehension and uncertainty into an organization,” says John Lyon, who served in an interim role for seven months before being named president/CEO on Jan. 1, 2022. “But the C-suite/VP level provides stability in these times for the credit union, its team, and its members.
"When the C-suite leadership is in flux along with the president, it can be even more stressful for many team members. It further may cause leadership and knowledge gaps in the organization which makes it even more difficult for team members and requires extra effort in both training and leadership.”
Southern Lakes’ story highlights the importance of having a succession plan in place at the executive level. McHenry says leaders should take these five steps:
Southern Lakes’ previous succession policy and plan focused mainly on the president/CEO role, Lyon says. Longer-tenured employees were cross-trained and could step in when needed during a CEO vacancy.
“A comprehensive succession plan lends stability in uncertain times and helps team members feel less apprehension when a specific plan is in place,” Lyon says. “This in turn helps them focus less on the uncertain future and more on their normal job duties and the membership.”