Our latest journal features Sarah Vick’s top tips for hiring, onboarding and retaining senior talent to ensure succession planning is clear to investors and potential acquirers. Sarah has spent 20+ years working with agencies and creative tech companies, helping them to grow.
In an ideal world, every company would have a clear succession plan and route for existing employees to progress from junior to senior roles, but in the real world, we sometimes have to hire externally, especially when a business is preparing for growth or an exit.
Here are our top tips for hiring, onboarding and retaining senior talent to ensure your succession plan is clear to investors or potential acquirers.
- Ensure the wider team supports the hiring plan. This is crucial, as if the wider team does not agree with the appointment they will reject the new person. A clear understanding of why the role is being hired, as well as how the role will impact the business, is needed by the team.
- The existing team and the new hire must share some common ground. Their integration will be harder if they come from a completely different background. There needs to be a shared language and understanding of the business’ overall vision and mission.
- The existing senior management team needs to have the capacity to manage the new person. It is a common misconception that senior hires take less time and effort to onboard and train. Senior hires require more time and effort to integrate and (to a degree) retrain. The existing senior team needs to plan for how they will spend the time making sure this is done properly.
- Ensure the person you are hiring is not ‘too senior’ for your organisation. This will not work out well if it feels like a reverse takeover.
- Take the time to learn as much about the candidate as possible. Spend time getting to know them, regardless of whether they are remote. Spend time with them socially to understand whether they will fit your organisation’s culture, rather than only conducting structured interviews.
- Having said that, ensure they go through your existing recruitment process. Assess each stage as you would any other hire, and don’t skip stages because the candidate is senior. In particular, don’t skip the presentation stage as you’ll learn a lot from a candidate at this stage.
Onboarding and retaining:
- Similarly to the point above, don’t skip any of your usual onboarding stages, and don’t assume that because the person is senior they don’t need training in your systems and processes. Retraining a senior is often more challenging than training a junior from scratch.
- Clearly define their roles, responsibilities, and KPIs from the start. Don’t assume they will figure this out for themselves because they are senior.
- Invest time in getting them to understand the business plan and vision.
- Don’t expect them to bring about massive change from day one. Like any new hire, they need time to find their feet and work out their plan of action. During their probation period, they will have to demonstrate their value, but it may take them some time to get there.
- Provide them with some practical tasks to work on from day one, where they feel they can add value and celebrate short term wins.
Here is a practical article about being ‘real’ during the hiring process: click this link.
Special thank you to Margaret Manning for her valuable insights on this topic.