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Creating a succession plan
for corporate compliance

The previous installment of this series discussed the generational clash in the workplace between established employees and incoming “millennial” workers, specifically in the context of corporate compliance. It contended that, despite the perceived personality flaws of millennials that many employees of older generations believe to be obstacles to millennials’ successful integration into an organization’s culture of compliance, such “flaws” can nevertheless be utilized as assets with adjustments in perceptions.

For better or worse, companies have little choice but to find effective methods to bring millennials into their respective cultures of compliance. The realities of time will eventually force older generations out of the workforce – leaving millennials and the generations that follow at the helm.

This may be a sobering realization for those currently in positions of leadership at every level of an organization – who may be woefully underprepared for this succession. What’s more, many companies are still struggling with the influx of millennial employees itself and haven’t even had the opportunity to consider the implications of the departure of older employees.

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Fortunately, there’s still a sizeable amount of time until this transition becomes a reality, allowing companies time to prepare. Without question, such preparation is a considerable undertaking involving multiple steps and parties within an organization – so it’s prudent to begin as soon as possible.

The remainder of this series will focus on creating an effective succession plan for corporate compliance, with this particular installment concentrating on the obvious question of how to begin such preparations.

Identification of Current Talent Assets and Needs

Prior to formulating long-term plans for your organization’s resources, it’s wise to first inventory the current talent portfolio to better understand your company’s existing needs and capabilities.  Once the organization’s present state is better understood, future projections become far easier.

To be sure, cataloging an entire organization’s talent resources and needs is a massive undertaking – and thankfully one that is unnecessary for these planning purposes. Instead, one need only directly focus on your company’s compliance department, with only secondary attention on the company at large.

First, identify the skills and talents of all members of your organization’s compliance team.  This information may be obtained from employee reviews, cataloging employees’ respective job functions and assignments, and through interviews with employees themselves and those who work with them.

This collection of data will provide substantial insight into the current compliance needs of your organization – with any potential gaps being filled by additional analyses into broader, company-wide compliance needs being addressed by other departments.

Prior to commencing with this cataloging, the development of a uniform classification system for talent and skills is highly recommended.  For example, one may have separate categories for soft skills (e.g., oral and written communication) and hard skills (e.g., knowledge of anti-money laundering regulations), with each having several subcategories (with perhaps additional subcategories under those larger subcategories). This information should be assembled into a chart or spreadsheet that clearly and visually conveys each employee’s level of skill in each skill category.

In addition to the awareness gained about the company’s current talent assets, this study may also reveal shortcomings about unmet compliance requirements that must be addressed as soon as possible.

Projection of Future Compliance Needs

Once the current state of an organization is established, its future needs can be forecast and the fulfillment of those needs planned out.

How is this information obtained?

While there is no means to fully predicting your company’s compliance demands in the next three, five, or ten years, current needs often serve as a valuable indicator of future ones.  After all, although it’s certainly possible for corporate regulations to diminish in the coming years, it’s anything but a certainty, and even if federal regulations loosen, that doesn’t stop individual states from separately increasing companies’ regulatory burden.

In short, organizations would be prudent to never assume that regulatory burdens are going to decrease in the future without imminent changes unequivocally indicating as much.

That said, shifts in compliance focus are often likely.  For many organizations, shifts in focus may already be underway when you begin your succession planning, and the individuals and teams responsible for these transitions likely have their own projections on changes to future compliance needs.  This information should be collected and integrated into your own succession planning projections.

Though certainly no one has a crystal ball with perfect knowledge of the future, higher-ranking members of your company’s compliance and legal departments would have the most awareness of any factors that may prompt future changes in compliance focus.  Consequently, interviews with these individuals are recommended.

Projection of Specific Skill and Talent Losses

Once you’ve cataloged your organization’s current talent resources and needs, as well as its projected future needs, the next step in your succession planning process is to determine which skills and talents will be lost to retirement in the coming years – such that you are able to create a plan that best works to ensure that future compliance needs are adequately fulfilled.

Again, there is no way of knowing the future with complete certainly; however, most individuals who are within 10 to 20 years of their retirement age have a fairly concrete retirement plan in place already.  Thus, employees within your company’s compliance department should be interviewed about their expected retirement ages (this can likely be done at the same time as the interviews for the talent and skill catalog discussed above).

Once collected, the information is best presented through a visual timetable – one that tracks the approximate retirement dates of each individual employee in the compliance department.  Ideally, this timetable can be presented alongside the employee skill chart described above so that there is recognition of the talents being lost along with the retiring employee.

Although the resulting product may be useful in its own right, the development of awareness of a compliance department’s current talent assets, needs, and projected future deficits is only the first step in the succession planning process.

Although the remaining steps are anything but significant, they will be covered in detail in future installments.

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