The departure of an employee can provide an opportunity to examine the remit of the role and redefine it if necessary, making it easier to select the right replacement, says Christine Hayhurst

French retailer Carrefour has shaken up its management team in an effort to improve its sales figures. The performance of the world’s second largest retailer has certainly been widely monitored and this latest move - which involves restructuring of the board - is an example of solid strategic planning. Rather than being a knee-jerk reaction to falling share prices, it’s a move that has been in the offing for some time.
But replacing the chief executive and bringing in a new chairman are not easy things to do. They involve careful assessment of the state of the organisation, an analysis of immediate past performance (good or bad) and decisions about how to move forward. The toughest task is not finding someone for a role, but finding the right person. And getting the right person for the job means having a planned recruitment process that affords the business the chance to choose from the best available talent.
But how can you ensure your recruitment process will work? Can you be confident that when you need to replace someone, your organisation has an appropriate process in place to guarantee a smooth succession?
The first thing to do is decide whether you need to replace the person leaving. Is there a real need for new blood or can the role be divided into a series of reallocated tasks among existing staff? The job should, after all, be considered in the context of the organisation as a whole as well as a stand-alone role. You should consider conducting an audit of the organisation, which helps you define the kind of person you are seeking. You may, after all, already employ them.
If you decide the role does need to be retained, take a close look at its principal purpose. What are its main objectives? What are the areas of responsibility, and what are their limits? It’s worthwhile assessing this because job descriptions should not be static. We work in a business environment in which the pace of change is rapid, so when the status quo is retained because it’s the easy thing to do, it’s no wonder that many organisations have trouble finding and retaining the right people. The atmosphere they are creating is not a proactive, empowering culture where most would aspire to build their careers.
The key is to use opportunities of change to examine the remit of the role in question. That way, companies can build up a reputation that attracts new talent.
You also need to set clear objectives. Most people, according to research conducted by the Chartered Management Institute, are motivated if they have a sense of empowerment, particularly when they have specific goals. But this does not mean they should be left entirely to their own devices. On
the contrary, if people know - and agree - what’s expected of them, they are more likely to strive to achieve their goals.
Setting objectives is also closely related to measures of efficiency and effectiveness. So, when you’re looking to replace an individual, make sure their role is defined and its tasks are measurable. It’s important because, as an employer, you have a responsibility to support job-related development needs and so you need a way of identifying them.
Once you’ve decided on the structure of the position, you need to plan how to find the right person for the job. Advertise the role internally, as a courtesy to staff and as a potential way of cutting recruitment costs. People within the organisation may be suitable candidates or they may have contacts with appropriate external candidates.
The role of succession planning does not end when a replacement is appointed. At this stage you need to ensure the newcomer is integrated into the team and the organisation. Plan an induction process that familiarises them with the organisation, its aims and objectives.
The recruitment process is never easy. Organisations are concerned that they invest in the right person and individuals need to be certain that they are making the correct career move.
However, if properly planned and handled correctly, there is no reason why transitions cannot be smooth.
n Christine Hayhurst is director of professional affairs at the Chartered Management Institute.
Hayhurst will be leaving the CMI at the end of March and her column will be taken over by head of policy, Petra Cook.