Succession Planning

It refers to making an employee eligible for a planned change in role within the organization. It is of huge significance because if a crucial employee departs unexpectedly then somebody is immediately needed to takeover his/her position since hiring someone from outside can be time consuming and the new recruit may take time to adjust in the environment plus understanding the ongoing business practices.Succession Planning
Besides, it can also facilitate when a company feels that there is a possibility that their business might expand in the near or distant future. Therefore, they need to identify talented employees, beforehand and provide them with essential training thus preparing them for broader responsibilities and superior roles. As a result, it opens more expansion opportunities for the companies who have adopted this process.
On the other hand, it may not be that simple to implement, as it tends to increase employee expectation levels and can sometimes de-motivate candidates not promoted during the process. Its success is also linked with employee development plans, particularly with the support of the management.
Have your say – what according to you are the pros and cons associated with succession planning? Moreover, how it can be made more effective for short and long term success of the business.


  • Succession planning enables your organization to identify talented employees and provide education to develop them for future higher level and broader responsibilities. Succession planning helps you “build bench strength.” Succession planning helps you decide where people belong on the bus. Find out more.
    Succession Planning
    Succession planning is a process whereby an organization ensures that employees are recruited and developed to fill each key role within the company. Succession planning ensures you can fill key roles from within your organization.
    Succession Planning Best Practices
    Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business Report offers best practices in succession planning based on a research study. Keep your succession process simple and rely on coaching and development are two best practices. Good company examples of succession planning practices are provided.

  • Succession planning is important if organization is focusing on process driven and not only on people. People are important for any organization but established processes drive them in a structured way. This approach is helpful in managing things with defined processes so any one can take it over from departing employee.
    The second most important element is close monitoring of the employees. I believe, individuals have their own skill set where they feel comfortable and can add further value. It is not necessary that technical person could be a good supervisor or vice verse. When organization is expecting to expand its operation it is always a good decision to search possible candidates within and have interviews conducted with them. However if required skill set or experience is not available then we have no choice but to find the person from outside organization. I must emphasis, training can be provided but skills are men-made.
    An un-biased succession planning based on strong HR policies would never demotivate people. Encourage self-appraisal techniques and quarterly line-manager assessment to identify the most talented people around you. If assessment is an annual activity bring to quarter as it will help to identify the possible strength, weakness, opportunity and Threat in the HR management.

  • First of all why succession planning require when someone leave or ask to leave the organization? Why HR or management start looking for talent as succession planning when person leave? Is it best policy or best strategic planning by top management or by HR? If this is the directive given by management to manager talent and best approach to find right talent in that case I will suggest one individual personally to watch “3 Idiots” movie. Unfortunately its Hindi movie and available with English subtitle.
    During the recession time, talent management is good word while having coffee talk inside company or outside company and several HR and other management will not think twice and say it’s very difficult to manage talent. But the bitter truth is that same people do not working towards any plan to retain the talent, most of them are busy to save own chair from recession, so where is need to discuss such things. I conveyed several time, proper mentorship is missing from most of the company at all different levels. It’s high time for top management and HR to think seriously and try to bring back the good mentorship at all levels back in the industry – which was available 10 years back. Why I am putting this point, because your succession planning fail so many times because its great possibility that inside organization person do not have gone through proper mentorship to take next level challenges. I do agree that it’s difficult to get right person outside organization in short time. So that the challenge for top management and HR to come up with good strategic policy and proper solution….if not then take big risk. Result will be successful or failure. If successful then take all credit, if failure then uses your expertise to play ball game….so many people are great experts in that and always love to play that game.
    Movie has conveyed so many great messages and one of them are doing run behind success. Work towards a situation where success should run behind you. Keep your confidence and move with proper mentorship…success will be running behind you.
    See the movie and get so many answers, where most of the organizations are lagging in strategic planning, execution and several other things. I am sorry if you are able to get message after watching movie. Because lot of people have liked the movie as comedy movie.
    Best Regards
    Learner & Helper
    Ravi Sharma

  • I’m going to try and answer the “how to make it more effective?” part of the question as briefly as possible.
    First, a lot of the problems associated with succession planning can be circumvented by taking a talent-oriented approach instead of a position-oriented approach.
    Instead of tapping individuals for a particular position, you would build an on-going process of ID’ing top talent, assessing their capability and investing in development/mentoring to best prepare them to take on any range of higher-level roles as the need arises.
    Assessment would include all three factors that indicate current and future capability– competencies (KSA’s), commitment (interest and values), and capacity (raw intellectual horsepower to handle a particular scope of problem).
    Development/Mentoring would be customized to the individual and based on assessment results, not all assessed employees would necessarily be considered prospects for top leadership roles, but all assessed employees would receive some degree of development. Much of this development can be achieved through stretch assignments within the organization to enhance organization specific know-how.
    Further, instead of creating a laser-like focus in a high potential employee on the one position he/she may be intended for (and on the seeming permanence of the individual currently in that role), the high potential is being developed to contribute to the organization at a particular level. This change in approach achieves a couple of things: 1. the high potential broadens their view of how they might contribute to the organization in the future, improving commitment & engagement, and 2. the organization has greater flexibility in role-creation in response to business needs and industry changes.
    Additionally, human capability and business needs are dynamic, which can cause a program created one year to be abandoned the following. To accomodate this dynamism of people and environment, the succession planning should be an ongoing process of talent identification, re-assessment and new development goals as people and environment change over time.
    As Karen mentioned, there are many examples of companies struggling with talent assessment accuracy and the eventual fall out of such errors. It helps a great deal when assessment encompasses all three elements required for an individual to demonstrate capability for a role — commitment & interest, raw intellectual capacity for the scope of role, excellence in competencies for org and position fit. I have been fortunate to see it done pretty well, so I know it’s possible. Of course, aligning such a process with a broader, company wide performance management system lends it credibilty and sustainability.

  • Before you do anything for a company to have succession planning, you have to know what makes employees to leave the companies.
    Employees lack to interest working at the companies, it bring huge burden to the companies.
    It comes out with two forms.
    Psychological and Physical behaviors provide employees to escape from the work places.
    The psychological behavior comes out with moonlighting, daydreaming and cyber loafing.
    The physical behavior comes out with tardiness, long breaks and missing meetings.
    After you know these two factors, you should start to write a succession planning for your job enrichment.
    In addition, you have to know what make employees to have satisfied in their work places.
    There are pay, promotions, supervision, coworkers and work itself satisfaction.

  • Salima
    In terms of pros and cons, my experience has been this:
    > Knowing and developing your bench strength
    > Having people prepared — through education and developmental assignments — for stepping into key positions.
    > Enabling a company’s ability to promote from within, which can, in turn, enhance employee loyalty and retention
    > Helps to sustain continuity and corporate culture
    Most such processes rely on early identification and focussed development and mentoring of ‘high potential’ talent. In my experience, despite a plethora of psychometric and other assessments, companies are just not that good at identifying future leadership success factors and attributes. And I have observed any number of subjective biases intrude upon such talent determination: Racial, cultural, gender, age, attractiveness biases (often unconscious); Halo (or horns) effect; preference for ‘people who behave/dress/look/speak like me’; and so on.
    I have found ‘fast track processes are extremely damaging to the self-esteem and motivation of what will be the majority of a workforce.Dr. Deming was once asked about ranking employees. The executive in question insisted such categorising was important so that the company could both reward its talent, and get rid of its dead wood. Dr. Deming replied, ” Why did you hire dead wood in the first place?”
    Additionally, as Alicia commented, the current business environment is turbulent if not chaotic. Structure, ways of working, core competencies and the needs of an organization are currently changing rapidly in response to (or ideally in anticipation of) new challenges. As one example, five years ago,one of my clients maintained a regional, relatively stable, hierarchical structure. However, recently going global, and outsourcing functions to other parts of the world has meant shifting to a flatter, more loosely organised, far-flung and culturally diverse ‘beachhead’ structure. The key leadership challenges in managing such a system are dramatically different from the more conventional roles of five years ago.
    Most of my clients have also shifted from individually focussed roles and responsibilities to the broad use of teams — in which it is difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate and compare the contributions of various team members.
    The final downside that I see is that most Succession Planning processes are one-way: The company identifies, produces and controls developmental plans for the ‘high potential’ group. Presumably, they are asked about their interests and goals, but they are not initiators or active partners in planning and implementing their careers.
    My belief is that whilst the company should provide resources for career development (available to everyone) (e.g., a career centre; career, interest and skills assessments; coaching and/ or mentoring; educational support, training, rotational assignments, job exchanges with other companies, encouragement and institution of ‘informational interviewing’ etc), the employee should be responsible for defining their own career goals, discovering what is required (credentials, experience, knowledge and skills, personal attributes etc.) and creating developmental plans — whilst staying current with changing structures, roles, expectations, new needed competencies, etc. With such a system, it is also important that employees actively solicit feedback on how they are doing from in terms of both performance and development from internal (or external) customers, colleagues, fellow team members, managers, subordinates and so on.
    To enable such a system, a few things are very helpful:
    > A focus on improving systems versus trying to improve organisational performance through evaluating and ‘fixing’ individuals.
    > Implementation of career ladders with requirements to demonstrate specific areas of proficiencies, experiences, knowledge levels, and attributes for each step.

  • It is always a challenge to replace somebody leaving unexpectedly the company. The question is to know precisely why he is leaving the company.
    More than before, human capital represents an asset of the company. There are few principles to be focused on.
    – Have a long term view on your business,
    – Identify the needs in term of competences,
    – Have a permanent picture about the competences and the expectation of your employees.
    – Have a permanent and efficient appraisal system for your employees in order to define clear objectives and indentify the needs to ensure the reach of these objectives,
    – Make a planning of the people who will leave the company because of retirement or who will be promoted to another function, in order to ensure a smoothly transition and knowledge transfer of the actual function to another team member,
    There are always unexpected leaving people. But remember that manage means to forecast. Have always a “crash plan”, an alternative action plan in case of unexpected even. Develop and maintain your network with people who can help you in critical situation.
    Best regards,

  • I watched my previous employer embark on succession planning initiatives four times in my 29 years with them.
    I think the pros are obvious.
    As for the cons, I can only speak from experience with this one company. But the biggest mistake I saw was the lack of depth in the process.
    And by depth, I mean those executing the plan looked exclusively at manager-level positions to be groomed for top management. In my view it was a huge mistake not to look at the entire ladder of the organization for individuals who show potential to move from up from, say, a sales rep position to an ad manager slot.
    I watched as too many excellent associates across the entire enterprise never got the opportunity to grab a coveted spot on the proverbial bench.
    Sad, but true, and the company lost great talent to others because those associates eventually figured out their future was elsewhere.
    Just one company, but I don’t think this scenario is uncommon.

  • Hi Salima,
    Succession planning in conjunction with a detailed professional development plan and deliberate mentoring maintains employee interest over the long term. The trio mitigates job burnout for the employee, increases knowledge retention over the long term, and reduces employee turnover. Significantly, I’ve learned from managerial experience this cohesive approach increases employee loyalty because the employee feels the company is playing an active role in defining a career path; i.e. the company is demonstrating it cares about its employees.
    As far as cons are concerned, the effort required to implement and maintain an employee development program is not only time consuming, but also involves a relative cost compared to not implementing. So, the effort needs to be viewed as an investment with an expected return on investment at each milestone that is weighed against a metric or expectation. Without proactive managerial and supervisory participation, the program will fail and employee enthusiasm will dwindle.
    To ensure the program is successful, frequent and meaningful communication between employee, mentor, and the current supervisor is essential. I have found an informal quarterly review is beneficial, using a checklist to verify the employee is reaching predefined way points as he or she progresses upward upon a well-defined job progression ladder or laterally in a cross-training matrix.
    Best Regards,

  • As I’m reading the thoughtful answers posted here I’m struck with the notion that we’re perhaps being too narrow in our thinking. Instead of Succession Planning as a process, should we be expanding the topic to Talent Mobility? In the past, Succession Planning has been focused on the top executives of companies. As the science of organizational development has matured, Succession Planning has broadened at many companies to include “critical positions”, those that have a major impact on a company’s ability to operate. An example would be an insurance company actuary, since insurance pricing is entirely based on actuarial science.
    As we look towards the future, talent in general will start to be looked at as an organizational, versus departmental, asset. Companies are already implementing processes and systems that help provide a single view of organizational talent, including performance assessments, skills and behavioral competencies, education, certifications and career preferences. Companies with a single view of talent can look across functional areas and find the best people for assignments, taking into account the employee’s career preferences as well. The result is an engaged workforce, with lower attrition of top performers. Succession planning becomes a way of comparing talent, both internal and external, at all levels of a company.

  • Judith Angell

    Sometimes the long term development (e.g., getting a person to get another degree) creates a “cronyism” dynamic and disincentives to bring in new talent to strengthen teams in disarray–both which can lead talent to depart. Often it is only at the top that such planning occurs, but there can also be technical or subject matter experts with significant value and no back-ups or cross-training that could possibly hurt the organization even more with a departure. And related to retirement(s) is the only predictable time — and departures at other times are becoming far more frequent. This suggests a different approach and central premise for planning may be needed in many organizations.

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