By Daniel Hunter

Succession planning is a growing concern for all business. However, it's the UK's small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector which is failing to prepare for the future as worries about cost, wasted time and internal politics are all causing major stumbling blocks.

Lining up the next generation of leaders to run an organisation can ensure that a company continues to thrive but many SMEs are failing to focus on this business critical issue due to a number of factors.

Many SMEs point to the lack of financial resources to tackle non immediate concerns like succession planning, as well as the burden of extra work and the lack of a dedicated people management resource. However, with two thirds of all new jobs created between 1997 to 2007 in companies with fewer than 50 employees the economic importance of the SME sector in the UK is all too evident.

The latest Hays Journal explores how this oversight carries clear business risks and how an unexpected departure can take on a more significant impact the smaller the workforce, as the immediate talent pool from which to source a replacement is so much smaller, and the potential impact is so much greater.

"You don't need a large HR department to address the challenge of succession planning. It's the job of leaders and managers to answer some basic questions and put the business in a better state of readiness," Barney Ely, Director, Hays Human Resources, said.

"They need to ask themselves, which roles are critical? What capability exists in them right now? Who are the potential successors? Whatever the business, succession planning can seem like an unnecessary and uncomfortable chore. However, avoiding these occasionally difficult decisions will only create greater risk as the company grows and matures. With that in mind, in many ways, the key to succession planning is just to start."

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