Succession Planning: Meaning, Process, & Steps

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Succession Planning
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Gone is the era when people used to dedicate all their careers to a single organization. Today, we expect most employees to have wider experience across numerous types of organizations. HR needs to understand that the people who are working in the company today may not be here within a few years in the future.


Some positions in the organization cannot be kept vacant for a long time nor can you trust these positions with people with insufficient skills and experience. Effective succession planning can help you to get the people at key positions in an organization. When you have a strategy for succession planning in HRM strategy you can stay worry-free about the key positions in the organization.


What is Succession Planning?

A succession planning is the process of ensuring having the right people at key positions in the organization and developing the right talent within the company to fill these positions in future. The succession planning in human resource management is meant to create a talent pipeline so that important positions are filled immediately and avoid any hindrance in organizational operations.


The process of succession planning in HRM is all about the crucial positions which can not be kept vacant for a long time. Mostly The succession plan is curated for the higher managerial roles, but it’s always best to assess the company’s current and future needs before jumping into the process for a successful succession planning.


For example, a succession plan can be made to ensure you always have skilled operators at the manufacturing plant. Technology is changing at a record rate and it may get difficult to find people who operate a particular type of machine. Since your product directly or indirectly depends on these machines there is a need for succession planning for the future.


In this blog, we will be looking at some crucial aspects of succession planning, so let’s start with the benefits of having a plan of succession for an organization.


Benefits of Succession Planning

There is a requirement for succession planning in every organization as there are always some job roles that form a bottleneck effect in an organization if they stay vacant. Incorporating succession planning in HRM strategy ensures that stagnancy will never happen due to vacant key position. Succession planning also brings many benefits to an organization, some of which are listed below.


1. Lower Hiring Costs

One of the benefits of succession planning is that it can drastically bring down the cost of hire when done right. Recruitment is one of the most costly processes in the organization. When a crucial position in the organization stays unoccupied for the long term, companies often panic and end up paying higher than they should be and rush into bad hiring decisions leading to long-term regrets.


Succession planning is a tool that helps you ensure that you don’t need to make those hasty decisions and always have the talent in the pipeline. That way you can save money wasted on the hiring effort and the losses that the company might incur if the position stays vacant or gets handed to the wrong person.


2. Increased Retention

Ambition is one of the key qualities when it comes to the top performers. The best talent in the industry prefers to work with the companies that help them grow in their career. So when you have a good succession planning program in the company it not only ensures that the leadership needs of the organization will be met but also attracts new talent. The opportunities that a succession plan brings, build you an image of an employer who cares about their employee’s skills and development.


When you have a succession planning program it creates growth opportunities for your employees. A succession plan allows you to offer them growth opportunities so the employees don’t need job hopping, and stay in their job for a longer time resulting in higher retention.


3. Skilled Workforce

When you have succession planning as a crucial ingredient of the growth strategy in the company you get a high-potential workforce for the long term. When there is succession planning, you also train employees for future roles of leadership and other critical roles.


This way, you craft a well-skilled workforce that is ready to tackle bigger challenges. In addition to that you get higher retention, which means the top performers and skilled employees stay longer resulting in a skilled workforce.


4. Reduced Disruption

Effective succession planning is a great way to mitigate the risks of disruption that might happen due to unfilled critical roles in a company. In unforeseen incidents when someone leaves without notice, such as in case of severe health issues or unexpected death, the company can always rely on their succession planning program.


It’s always difficult to find the right people for the roles of higher responsibility and the delay can have devastating effects on the company. But when you know that have the right people within the organization you mitigate all such risks.


5. Saves time

When you have a plan in place for the succession planning process you end up saving a lot of time for the company.


Once you invest your time to identify high-potential employees and include them in the succession planning program you don’t need to put your time and effort separately into various challenging situations that may arise. Such as when an organization needs someone to handle greater responsibilities than what their current role demand you know to whom you can trust.


In addition to that when you include succession planning in HRM strategy of your organization, the training and development is carried out with the perspective of the leadership. Candidate who are part of a succession plan are likely to share their learning with their team leading to the development of the entire team.



Steps in Succession Planning

When it comes to the term succession planning it can mean something different for every company. As the goals and needs of an organization differ so does have to be the succession planning process. The core of the term succession planning is the same so are the basic steps that need to be followed, you need to modify these to make those most effective for your company’s goals. 


1. Identify the Key Roles

As with every other planning the succession planning process also needs to be aligned with your goals. You can start with what your company want to achieve in the next 5-10 years. Then you can jump to whether you want to be prepared for the C-suit for middle-level management or if is it a new key role that you need to be crafting for.


Access the key roles which can drastically affect the organizational process for example, you can’t afford to keep the position at C-suit vacant when a company is going through some significant transformation. These times often cause changes which might lead to turmoil if you don’t have someone who can make quick decisions in the position of leadership. 


Similarly, if you are going for expansion or entering a completely new market you may need to assess the skill requirements for the workforce on the ground. Succession planning helps you ensure that you will continuously have people with the right experience and skills in the company even if these are very rare in the market. You definitely need succession planning for the key role where talent in the market is extremely rare. 


2. Build the Profiles

Once you identify the goals and the roles that need to be included in the succession planning you need to make an ideal profile for the same. The profiles include the skills, experience and expertise that you need for these positions.


These profiles also include factors such as leadership qualities and decision-making skills. You may also have to craft a completely new position for the goals and objectives that a company want to achieve. 


3. Identify High-potential Employees 

Once you understand the profile you need for the key roles in the company. The next comes in identifying the high-potential employees in the company who can be groomed for the future requirements of the company.


It’s best if you start your succession planning at the stage of recruitment where you can select candidates who possess the soft skills that you need in the organization’s leaders.


Assess the present talent in the company that matches the profiles in the succession planning. You can discuss career planning with them and identify the areas for training and development. You need to perform this assessment at every level of the organization that needs to be included in the succession planning according to the goals of your succession planning program.


You can also come up with the criteria for your succession planning needs so you will get all the data related to your skills and knowledge. Defining criteria helps you asses employees uniformly so you don’t miss out on the talent you need. 


4. Construct a Training and Development Plan

After shortlisting candidates for the succession planning program, you need to mend a training program for them. Focus on the crucial skills, knowledge and experience required for the position and design a program around it. 


When it comes to the positions of leadership in the organization, you also have to include wider exposure, leadership skills, and decision-making for the candidate. It is also a good idea to get them into a mentorship program with an employee who has the experience they would need to speed up their preparations. 


5. Review the Succession Planning

When it comes to the succession planning process you can’t overlook the reviewing element. The Succession is a continuous planning and you need to evaluate the progress of your employees a regular intervals to ensure the training and development efforts are aligned with your succession strategy. This will help you to identify the shortcomings in the plan and make the necessary changes. 


Succession planning is usually a long-term process as you are preparing in advance plenty of changes can occur and you need to adapt accordingly. For example, the candidate in the consideration leaves a company or the organization goes under reformation and the position is no longer available. 


Along with assessing the development of those employees in the program, you should stay open towards the other emerging talents. You also need to keep the succession planning program updated according to the changes in the market as well as the goals and objectives of the company.



The motive of succession planning is a maintain the productivity of an organization in future. In succession planning and strategy, you aim to develop talent in the company to fill leadership and other key positions for the future. You need to understand the long-term goals, identify skill requirements and train your height potential employees to fill these requirements in future. The succession plan needs to be flexible and constantly monitored and your company will be always prepared for future challenges.


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