Succession Planning & Talent Development in Remote Times

Drexel University’s Gupta Governance Institute and Grant Thornton’s biweekly Nonprofit Directors Dialogue Miniseries features nonprofit leaders and board members as they share insights and strategies for turning today’s challenges into tomorrow’s successes.

How should nonprofit boards address succession planning and talent development for the CEO and other key members of management during remote working environments?

At the end of the day, when it comes to a board’s role in any organization, especially in the nonprofit world, strategy is the fun stuff you get to do and it’s important that you try to set the strategic direction. But if this period of time that we’re going through now has done nothing else, it underscores how little you actually know. These exogenous factors suddenly hit you, and you have these incredible strategies in place, but they no longer make sense. So what’s the antidote to that? The antidote to that is talent. If you have the right talent in place, they figure out how to pivot, how to adapt, and evolve according to the current conditions.

What I’ve seen in the best nonprofits has been an absolute focus on employee wellbeing and the level of talent in the organization. You’d be crazy not to suggest that people haven’t been under immense financial pressure and that actually has made it difficult for people to be as aggressive on the talent front as they wanted to be. But for some organizations that I’m involved in, we’ve looked at this as an opportunity to actually go out and get talent to be, in a sense, contrarian. I would say it’s incredibly important to identify the right depth of talent. It’s not just about the CEO. In an organization with 25 people, no CEO, himself or herself, is going to be enough.

You’ve got to make sure that you’ve got the right level of talent throughout the organization. I actually think the most important thing a board does is establish that bar for talent and make sure that the organization is doing everything it can to attract and maintain that talent. It’s difficult during these times, but you have to be creative, and it must be on the agenda every meeting.