The question every business should ask itself – ‘What If?’

Endaba Group

Let’s begin with an alarming statistic: only a third of businesses admit to doing any contingency planning for their employees [source: Harvard Business Review]. The majority, therefore, do not have proper plans in place for the talent they’ll need in years to come. With only a third of hires being internal and one in four CEOs being appointed from outside the company, mapping talent pipelines has slipped down the agenda.

“It’s this lack of thinking about people that scares me,” says Patrick Egan, Endaba’s Managing Director. “I had the ‘what if?’ principle drilled into me from my time in the military. We have contingency plans at Endaba for all our team members. We’re always looking at who could then go into that role, who could get promoted, scoping outside talent and how we would cope should something happen.”

Companies that have neglected to take such measures naturally tend to have a knee-jerk reaction when an employee unexpectedly leaves, and in the panicked rush to fill that vacancy as quickly as possible they often employ the wrong person – or someone merely “good enough” under the circumstances and time pressures, rather than what they really need: “the one”.

From there, the consequences can snowball – if the new employee turns out to be a bad fit, more people leave – it’s a cumulative effect. This is a particularly big problem in Europe where the law makes it extremely hard to let people go, as we’ve heard from some of our clients in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and France. Hire the wrong person and you’re stuck with them for twelve months or more, which is a substantial drain on resources, time and other employees.

In contrast, by employing the ‘what if?’ principle and taking the time to succession plan, businesses are able to prevent the costly, inefficient hiring process. It involves identifying various possible scenarios and maintaining good quality, detailed descriptions of what actions would be taken. The vast majority of businesses have contingency plans for data loss or supplier failure, yet don’t consider what would happen in the event of a catastrophic failure of another key asset – their people!

We all know how demanding the daily pressures are, but it really pays for businesses to ask themselves ‘what if?’ across all areas of the organisation. After all, you never know…