Guarav Chattur, Managing Director, APAC, Catenon

A postgraduate in Business Administration and Management from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, Gaurav has an experience of over fifteen years with diverse organisations in the domain of technology. He comes with Management Consulting experience at Cognizant Business Consulting, where he consulted clients across Insurance, Technology, Healthcare and Life Sciences verticals in the US. During his stint at Cognizant he was closely involved with McKinsey in implementing an Operational Excellence initiative across the organization. He has also worked with Infosys as a Project Lead and a Process Consultant.


The pandemic has proven that life is unpredictable, and when it comes to the corporate arena, intentional business planning is a must. Almost all businesses are tech businesses now, and the ones that remain are proactively working towards their digital transformation efforts. ​​

As such, it is obvious that a large majority of players both big and small are voraciously acquiring the best available tech talent out there. And it is safe to assume that even a filled position at a senior level will always experience some amount of delay, as the hire can always get a better offer and drop out. However, for any organisation to move forward undauntedly, a great leader becomes synonymous to long run success. 

No business can be run without backups, and this is exactly where Succession Planning steps in. In fact, Succession Planning should be acted upon as an opportunity to plan ahead of key leadership departures and prepare pipelines and nurture them. Here are three things to keep in mind-

  1. Hire ‘a level below’ with high potential 

Whenever you think of a leadership role, it would be ideal to hire at one level lower, for a candidate with high potential. This candidate should also be a cultural fit and bring a set of complementary skills to the table. What this means is that all potential identified candidates cannot have the same set of skills. 

While considering the competencies of the outgoing leader and their potential replacement is important, one must also be cognizant of the remaining skill sets. The talent acquisition team should ensure that the new candidate forms a cohesive picture at the c-suite level by bringing in the ‘missing element’ from the existing set of skills and expertise. This adds to the leadership strength to ensure increased board diversity. 

By hiring a level lower, and allowing this gestation period of sorts to build true human capital, an organisation can ensure that Succession Planning is an ongoing process rather than an unanticipated selection of the next replacement. Needless to say, this period allows for enough time for the candidate to grow into the role and perform better.

  1. A Succession Planning Committee

As a part of the whole Succession Planning exercise, it is a must to set up a dedicated committee as the first step. The committee should ensure that a few board members of the concerned organisation are a part of it and overlook all of its ongoing activities. 

The board members of any organisation are a critical business asset and their experience and knowledge should be leveraged wherever possible. Moreover, the board represents an organisation’s direct stakeholders, which helps in aligning all actions and in conjunction with the overall vision of the company. 

As such, it is advisable for organisations to have a few of its board members looking into succession planning, right from the very start. 

Having a few board members involved ensures that the new leader fits well with the company’s strategic plans. Additionally, it provides the new leader in training with access and visibility to the first tier leadership of the company i.e. the board of directors.  

  1. Specifically curated L&D Programs

It is ideal to invest in the professional development of the candidates that are internally chosen as successors. The Learning & Development team of an organisation should create a training and assessment program at all levels to ensure there are internal backups available as the next step. While senior positions may require the expertise of an external recruitment agency, a stop-gap candidate can be prepared to hold the fort through an internal training program. Having a backup available as the external recruitment agency works to get the desired candidate will help the organisation in continuing to function in the interim period.

Such a program can have multifold benefits, beyond the main goal of choosing the next organisational leader. These include better decision making skills across senior levels of employees, improvement in company structure and organization, and improvement in soft skills through collaboration. 

Organisations that invest in a thorough and well structured program also get a window into talent gaps in their existing workforces. This insight can be leveraged strategically to help in identifying where an organisation’s future recruiting efforts should be focused. 

In Conclusion

Succession Planning is one of the best investments an organisation can make, and if implemented well can bear fruit in the long run. 

In the coming years, upskilling existing talent and moving forward digitally will be crucial to all organisations. Factors such as an unexpected death, illness, retirement, legal issues or the onset of a pandemic should not become massive hindrances in this process. Hence, Succession Planning will be a critical tool in combating such situations led by a nurtured and future looking leader.

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