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9 Best Practices for a Successful Succession Planning Program

Succession Planning Program

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Succession Planning Program

Succession Planning Program


Succession planning is defined as the ongoing process of identifying and tracking high-potential employees who are able to fill top management positions when they become available. It involves assessing and developing a talent pool of employees who are highly capable. Not only does this ensure a continuity of leadership for all critical positions but also allow employees to receive targeted training and development activities.

Succession planning is a specific strategy, which identifies the steps to be followed to achieve the mission, goals, and initiatives identified in workforce planning. It is a plan that managers can follow, implement and customize to meet the needs of their organisations and department, allowing a healthy return on the organisation’s training investment. Organisations also save costs on external recruitment and training, which can be significantly more expensive than promoting internally.

Research shows that most corporations have little succession planning prepared and are not fully aware of how much the lack of it can cost their organisation, especially in an unstable economy. Managing the succession of talent is a vital strategic process that minimizes gaps in leadership and enables the best staff to develop the skills necessary to climb up the corporate ladder. In addition of providing a safety net for the company, succession planning provides great benefits for employees and employers alike.


Best Practices for a Successful Succession Planning Program

  • Prepare leaders to participate
  • Align the program with business objectives
  • Use a variety of methodologies
  • Incorporate in performance management
  • Promote a long-term view
  • Look beyond the obvious
  • Plan for knowledge transfer
  • Look at succession planning in layers
  • Job development is not limited to promotion


Prepare leaders to participate

Cultivating high-level commitment and support will have a positive influence on the succession planning program. Succession planning involves not simply making time to provide learning opportunities for employees, it also involves leading the culture toward lowering barriers and creating a learning organisation.

Align the program with business objectives

When selecting job roles for the program and methods for knowledge transfer, best to align them with business operations, practices and schedules.

Use a variety of methodologies

Examples of various techniques to be used includes through mentorship, cross-training, job enlargement or enrichment, job shadowing and case studies, vestibule training and classroom training.

Incorporate in performance management

Employee interest in succession planning, willingness to be involved in it and efforts toward achieving goals associated with it, should be part of performance management. This allows incorporating relevant goals in development plans as well.

Promote a long-term view

Succession planning is a long-term preparation process that takes between 12 to 26 months. It encourages team members and leaders to think and see the big picture during program development.

Look beyond the obvious

Good candidates for succession are not necessarily already in traditional feeder positions. Look far and wide for employees with complementary skill sets who may be appropriate for the program.

Plan for knowledge transfer

Succession planning includes identifying skills and competencies that next-generation employees will require to have to hold in these future key positions. Developing systems to identify and transfer that knowledge while shortening the learning curves should be the primary objective. Partner with a trainer to determine the best way to promote learning.

Look at succession planning in layers

Layering competencies achieves many of the same benefits as developing skill complements for succession planning paths. Even if certain roles are not well suited for formal succession planning, the incumbents may be candidates for acquiring layers of related skills. Consider including them in a sort of “a la carte” learning along with the succession planning participants.

Job development is not limited to promotion

Succession planning might include job expansion in addition to job progression. That is, if traditional step-by-step succession planning does not work