No Employee is indispensable: Read here why this is true

No Employee is indispensable

A study we did a few years ago in Zimbabwe showed that less than 10% of Zimbabwean organisations have a formal succession plan in place. This trend is worrying given that corporate boards need to ensure business continuity in case of any eventualities. Why is there such low compliance with the development of succession plans in Zimbabwe?

We noted that this trend is not only in the corporate world but also in politics. When there is no formal succession plan in place, the takeover of key roles in cases where incumbents leave the organisation for whatever reason sometimes can be chaotic. This is why every board need to ensure that the organisation has a formal succession plan that is monitored periodically by the Board.

How can businesses ensure that there are formal succession plans for executives and all other mission-critical roles within the organisation?

  1. Start with a formal succession plan policy. This policy needs to detail why succession planning is important for the organisation. It should cover what roles will be targeted for succession planning and why. The roles to be covered must all be mission-critical roles (MCR). The more important part is how the successor will be identified and developed. If the process of identifying successors and developing them is done haphazardly, the results will not benefit the organisation. Key points to take note here, are that the process of identifying successors should be done on merit and should never be a preserve of one individuals or a select group of people. The process must be extremely transparent to maintain the credibility of the process. The first stage is for the organisation to spell out through a  scientifically-driven competency model, what the requirements are for each target role. Use psychometric tests and assessments centres to select the candidates and also identify development gaps the targets candidates may have.
  2. No one is indispensable – Most organisations make the mistake of creating certain individuals as indispensable. Successful organisations across the globe make it clear to all employees regardless of the level that they are dispensable. Once this message is made clear, no employee will then hold the organisation to ransom especially when they get new opportunities outside the organisation. It is a bad policy for an organisation to counter offer employees. If you have been developing your staff with succession planning in mind, you would never need to counter offer employees leaving your organisation.
  3. Put all people occupying key roles on fixed-term contracts- When you put individuals who occupy key roles on contract, you are sending a message that no one is going to be here forever. This will force your organisation to develop skills internally to take over such roles. It also helps in putting the individuals occupying such roles in the right frame of mind as they will be aware that they will have to leave when their term is up.
  4. Get into the habit of terminating good employees when their term is up. There has been a serious debate on the tenure of executive roles. The reason why this debate is here is that people have overstayed in roles. It should never have gotten to this situation where people have to be asked to leave through fixed-term contracts. Every employee needs to know that its good for them to not exceed 10 years with one employer if they want to build a solid career. What has constrained some well-meaning individuals not to leave sometimes has been the tight job market where not many job opportunities exist.
  5. It is important to screen at entry-  Get into the habit of getting good people at entry. Do not bank on developing the individuals once they are in the organisation. Many organisations have wasted resources trying to develop people who have no capacity for roles. You save money by selecting the right people at entry. Never bank on developing them, because most of them cannot change.
  6. Create competition for roles for internal candidates. Your organisation will flourish once employees know that they have an equal chance to progress within the organisation. If roles are occupied based on nepotism and other forms of corruption, good people will never show up even in cases where they are available internally.
  7. Terminate poor performers – Successful organisations take a very hard stance against poor performers. Yes, it is good to give them a chance but do not take too long to get rid of non-performers. They will cost you money and other resources and you may never be able to recover such resources.
  8. Force senior executives to go on leave periodically to allow their immediate subordinates an opportunity to act in their role. That will motivate subordinates to develop themselves and look forward to a day they can take over once they reach the right level of competency.

If you follow some of the points here, you should be able to develop a sustainable succession plan policy for your business. That will ensure business continuity at all times.

Memory Nguwi is an Occupational Psychologist, Data Scientist, Speaker, & Managing Consultant- Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. Phone +263 4 481946-48/481950/2900276/2900966 or cell number +263 77 2356 361 or email:  or visit our website at


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