Helping CEOs in Succession


The 2013 "HR@Moore Survey of CHROs" focused considerable attention on understanding the CEO succession process and the CHRO's role in it. We asked CHROs how they have helped CEOs with the succession process. In essence, CHROs provide support in two ways: Process and Personal.

Process.CHROs reported a number of ways that they help CEOs that focus on the development and implementation of the basic CEO succession process. First, as a consistent theme across questions, CHROs push for the development of the "future" CEO profile, as opposed to the profile of the current CEO. Second, they can help to design a clear succession process for the board to follow. Third, they can ensure that each potential successor has a clear individual development plan designed for them. Fourth, they ensure that good assessment tools are implemented. All of these aspects may or may not directly involve the CEO, but rather are the ways in which CHROs help to create the "best process" aspects of CEO succession for the board to follow so that the CEO does not have to devote his/her valuable time to the process development.

Personal.In addition to the rather objective and public process, CHROs provide more private and personal support to CEOs. One must recognize that any individual's "retirement" creates emotional stress, and that this is accentuated for those for whom the departure means giving up significant fame, visibility, respect, income, and responsibility. First, they can discuss the timing of the CEOs intended departure, not necessarily to accelerate the timing, but to get information regarding the speed at which successors must be identified and developed. Second, they have discussions (and disagreements) about the potential successors' capabilities and potential. Third, they often prod the CEO to engage in development (mentoring, restructuring, etc.) of the potential successors. Fourth, they noted their role in keeping CEOs focused on succession. Fifth, they counsel the CEO on the board, both in the board's role in succession and in prepping them for discussions on succession with the board. Finally, they report being the sounding board for CEOs emotions and frustrations as they prepare for their departure from the CEO role.

In the next blog I'll focus on the difficult conversations CHROs have had to have with CEOs.