Succession Planning: What is and The Importance in Business - Peter Boolkah

Succession planning is far from just a box-ticking exercise; it’s a strategic process that helps ensure the continued success of an organisation, even in the face of inevitable departures. Critically important roles will, at some point, become vacant, no matter how good your retention efforts are. This is where the real value of succession planning shines through, helping to fill the void and minimise disruption to leadership roles. Yet, it doesn’t stop there.

Succession planning also plays a crucial role in nurturing the leaders of tomorrow maximising the potential of your workforce by fostering talent from within. It’s not about finding people who were born to lead, but developing individuals into leaders equipped for executive roles.

In today’s read, you’ll learn about succession planning steps, why it is important and how to find suitable succession candidates.

What is Succession Planning in Business?

Succession planning is the process of developing talent to replace senior executives, leadership or other key employees when they transition to another role, leave the company, are fired, retire or die. It’s a tool that ensures business operations continue to flow seamlessly and without any hiccups, even after the departure of vital personnel, be it due to new job opportunities, retirement, or unforeseen circumstances. But it serves a purpose beyond just filling vacancies.

Succession planning also sets the stage for a liquidity event, which allows the transfer of ownership in an ongoing business to up-and-coming employees. It’s a beneficial way for companies to make certain that they are ready not only to promote but to advance all workers—not just those in managerial or executive positions.

Benefits of Succession Planning

When it comes to a succession planning strategy, the benefits are numerous and meaningful for both companies and their employees. On the employee side, having a clear succession plan can boost morale and job satisfaction. It provides a clear path for career advancement, potentially up to the level of ownership, giving employees a sense of empowerment and a secure future within the organization.

Additionally, succession planning can help demonstrate the company’s commitment to the personal and professional development of its employees. This commitment often involves hands-on mentoring and the transfer of valuable knowledge and expertise from supervisors to employees.

From a company perspective, succession planning offers a structured approach to recognizing employee contributions and identifying potential leaders within the organization. This internal tracking system is invaluable when filling positions, especially during a mass exodus into retirement, ensuring the continuity of company values and vision.

Moreover, engaging in succession planning can be a powerful tool for public companies, especially when grooming a respected candidate for the future CEO role. A well-communicated succession plan can boost investor confidence and prevent stock sell-offs when the current CEO retires.

Finally, leadership succession planning plays a vital role in nurturing future leaders, allowing business owners to confidently exit the organization, knowing it is in capable hands.

The Importance of Succession Planning in Business

Succession planning is an increasingly important part of business operations, ensuring a seamless and uninterrupted continuum of leadership. This planning becomes crucial during times of change, which can be the outcome of employees departing the workforce due to career transitions, company switches, retirement, or even unexpected events such as the sudden loss or unavailability of a team member. A well-planned succession strategy is your safeguard against such uncertainties, guaranteeing that your business remains on track and continues to thrive.

Successions Planning - Peter Boolkah

7 Steps of Business Succession Planning Process

Navigating the complexities of change in leadership roles can be challenging, but with a solid succession process in place, businesses can ensure a smooth transition and uninterrupted operations. Here are the key steps for a succession planning:

1. Identify The Key Positions and Critical roles

A well-crafted succession plan involves identification the roles that may need a succession plan in place. While some managers may choose to have a plan for the entire team, it is crucial to at least have a plan for the senior positions and leadership roles.

These positions have a significant impact on the organization and its operations. By creating a succession plan for these roles, you can ensure the smooth functioning of the team and the organization as a whole, even when these critical positions become vacant.

2. Leadership Development

Leadership development is a crucial step in the succession pipeline, ensuring that potential leaders are equipped with the necessary skills to excel in higher roles. It’s not just about filling vacancies; it’s about nurturing individuals from within the team and giving them opportunities to grow.

This process involves mentoring, training programs, project leadership, and other development activities. These experiences effectively prepare them for future leadership positions, enhancing their business acumen and honing their decision-making abilities.

3. Identify Succession Talent Management Options

Before you take any further steps, it’s crucial to clearly outline your organization’s objectives. These targets will act as a guiding light, helping you to decide which roles to train for and gather materials and resources accordingly.

At this stage, your talent management system can serve as a useful tool to help predict future needs and expectations. This step is about being future-focused and thinking ahead to determine how many people you’ll need in critical roles, as well as identifying the specific experience and skillsets that these positions will require.

Moreover, you’ll have to develop an effective selection process that is impartial, transparent, and aligns with your organization’s core values. This approach will help you ensure that you have the right people in the right roles, guiding your business towards a prosperous future.

4. Nominate Potential Successors From the Qualified Positions

The third step in the business succession planning process is to identify your talent management options. Take a close look at the skills and abilities within your current team. Are there individuals who already possess, or have the potential to develop, the necessary skills to fill key positions? This could involve promoting from within, providing cross-training opportunities, or implementing development programs.

Alternatively, you may find that bringing in new talent from outside the organization is the best option. This step requires a deep understanding of your team’s capabilities and an honest assessment of any gaps that may exist. By evaluating these gaps, you can develop strategies to fill them, whether through training, recruitment, or a combination of both.

5. Assess Development Needs & Identify Gaps

To successfully navigate the ever-changing waters of leadership, it’s crucial to truly understand the capabilities of your team. One invaluable tool for this is the talent matrix. It allows you to assess your employees based on their past performance and future potential. What’s really amazing about this matrix is that it not only highlights the top performers but also identifies those who, with a little guidance, could become outstanding contributors.

With a comprehensive overview of your workforce, you can pinpoint potential successors and identify areas for growth. This data-driven approach ensures you make informed decisions about succession, filling in any gaps and preparing your team for the future.

6.  Create an Action Plan to Prepare Successor

Creating an action plan for your successor is a critical step in ensuring the future success of your company. The goal is to equip your identified successor with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively step into their new role. This plan typically includes targeted training, mentoring, and hands-on experience. We can also involve the current role holder in the process, as their insights and input can be invaluable in preparing the successor. Remember, the action plan should be tailored to the individual, considering their current skill set and identifying areas for growth.

The focus is on building confidence and capability to ensure a seamless transition when the time comes. Regular review points should be included in the plan to monitor progress and adjust the strategy as needed. This preparatory phase is not a sprint but a marathon, aiming for a smooth transition that secures the ongoing success of the company. Let’s work together to make this transition a success!

7. Evaluate the Succession Plan

Assessing the effectiveness of your succession plan is crucial. It allows you to see if your efforts are on track and if any adjustments are needed. Consider key indicators like how ready potential successors are, how they perform in new roles, and how changes impact your organization.

Get feedback to understand how well your workforce understands the plan and if they feel prepared and supported. Also, stay updated on industry trends to ensure your approach aligns with best practices.

Creating Effective Succession Planning Template

Successions Planning Template - Peter Boolkah

How Does Succession Planning Improve Company Culture?

Preparing for the future is important for a company’s culture. Succession planning helps with this by creating stability, motivating employees, and being transparent. A good succession plan shows that the company is ready for change and growth. This makes employees feel secure and trust their employer.

It also motivates employees by showing that the company values their development and is preparing them for leadership roles. This makes them more engaged and likely to stay with the company.

Lastly, succession planning is transparent as it provides a clear path for career growth. This helps employees see how they can advance within the company, creating a positive culture and clear expectations.

What Are Some of the Common Mistakes Companies Make During Succession Planning?

Even with all its benefits, succession planning might pose challenges depending on factors like the project’s scope and the organisation’s culture and readiness. It’s essential to consider these potential obstacles when planning and marketing your program.

Succession Planning Takes Time

Comprehensive succession planning requires a long-term investment but today’s leaders often focus on short-term wins. Moreover, discussions concerning CEO succession often come up only when a transition is imminent. The key to overcoming this challenge is to start your succession planning early. Regular check-ins on your leaders’ career plans and proactive identification of future leaders can help ensure you’re well-prepared for any unexpected shifts in your key roles.

Succession Planning Can Be Unsettling

Succession planning can be seen as a threat, causing discomfort among current leadership. Some may see it as a vote of no confidence or fear it indicates plans of resignation. Address this issue right from your key executives’ onboarding process, reinforcing that succession planning is a standard procedure and not a reflection of their performance.

Uncertainty Over Succession Planning Ownership

In some organisations, it’s unclear who is responsible for succession planning, leading to a lack of ownership and accountability. A simple solution is to assign this responsibility clearly, whether to the human resources department, board of directors, or a functional leader.

Resistance to Change

Change can be discomforting, and new initiatives often face opposition simply because they’re new. Introduce succession planning progressively, beginning with familiar concepts like hiring and performance management. Then slowly bring in elements of succession planning.

Management Opposition

Some managers might resist succession planning, fearing the loss of their best performers. Encourage transparency about the goal of retaining talent within the organisation and emphasise the importance of team development. Also, ensure managers understand succession planning’s benefits and invest in developing their leadership skills.

Lack of Time

Everyone is pressed for time, and succession planning might get relegated to the backburner. A useful strategy is to compare the time spent on recruiting, training, and managing new talent with the time it would take to develop current employees’ skills. This can help illustrate succession planning’s efficiency and importance.


What is the succession plan in place?

Succession planning is a process developed by a company to ensure the smooth transition of leadership roles when the current holder leaves, retires, or is unable to continue in the role for any reason. Succession planning focuses on identifying and developing potential successors for key positions, thereby ensuring continuity, stability, and the ongoing success of the business.

It includes criteria for successor selection, timelines for the transition, and developmental programs for identified high-potential individuals. The plan is documented and communicated across the company to promote transparency and employee engagement.

What is competency based succession planning?

Competency-based succession planning is a strategic approach to succession planning that helps identify and develop future leaders within an organization. It focuses on the key skills, abilities, and traits—collectively termed as ‘competencies’—required for each leadership role. This approach involves evaluating individuals against these competencies, providing the necessary training and development opportunities to bridge any gaps, and leveraging strengths.

The goal is to prepare individuals so that they possess the competencies required by their potential future roles, ensuring a smooth transition when the time comes. It’s a methodical and proactive approach, providing a clear path for career progression within the company.

What is the role of HR in succession planning?

The Human Resources (HR) department plays a crucial role in succession planning, humanizing the process. They are often responsible for the overall management of the succession planning process, ensuring it is fair, transparent, and aligned with the company’s strategic objectives. This includes identifying potential candidates, conducting competency assessments, and coordinating training and development programs.

The HR team collaborates with leaders to understand the competencies required for each role and to identify high-potential individuals who could fill these positions in the future. Furthermore, HR plays a key role in communicating the plan throughout the organization, ensuring all staff understand the plan’s purpose and their potential role within it.

How does replacement planning differ from succession planning?

Replacement planning and succession planning have different characteristics. Replacement planning is like a quick response when an important position suddenly becomes vacant. Its goal is to quickly find suitable individuals to fill the role. On the other hand, succession planning is a forward-thinking strategy that focuses on future-proofing your company.

It involves identifying and nurturing potential leaders within the organization over a longer period of time. While replacement planning is a short-term solution, succession planning is part of a long-term plan to ensure business continuity and promote growth.

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