The concept of the “heir” and the “spare” is usually associated with the British monarchy, where the eldest child of the reigning monarch is known as the heir to the throne, and the second born is known as the spare.
In business, this concept is also relevant when it comes to decision making regarding two equally qualified candidates.
An example of how having a “spare” works concerns a company that had a difficult time deciding between two equally qualified candidates. The job was offered to Candidate A who accepted their offer but quit a few weeks later for a much better paying job. This left the company in the lurch but luckily they had the “spare’ in the wings who was more than willing to take the job and the company was been very pleasantly surprised to find that the “spare” was doing an outstanding job.
Internally, having a spare can create healthy competition between employees. When two employees are competing for the same position, it can motivate them to perform at their best which can lead to better work quality and higher productivity.
Succession Planning is another area where having a “spare” allows a company to develop and groom an executive to fill a key leadership role in the future. This ensures that business continuity is maintained should a key leader become unexpectedly unavailable.
The concept of the “heir” and the “spare” may seem outdated but it is still quite relevant in business. It can provide a backup plan, create healthy competition, as well as be an asset in succession planning. Therefore, companies (and recruiters) should always consider have a “spare” in place, just in case. Who knows? The “spare” may just turn out to be the missing piece that takes the business to the next level.