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The Do's and Don'ts of Succession Planning

The Do's and Don'ts of Succession Planning

Posted on 05/11/23 By Guest Contributor


A smooth-running business has a team of top talent and a plan to fill key positions if the current occupants leave due to retirement, disability, death, or sudden resignation. Still, only 35% of organizations have a formalized succession planning process to fill critical positions. Succession planning is essential to help organizations plan ahead by preparing current employees for future key roles and helping them develop in their careers. It is more than just having a strategy for developing future company leaders but also provides advancement opportunities to top employees to fill significant roles at every level. 

What is Succession Planning?

Succession planning is a business strategy to prepare organizations for inevitable changes. It involves identifying, developing, and replacing leaders and managers when a key employee leaves to make the shift as smooth as possible with little interruption of daily operations. Succession planning helps promote and advance employees by passing leadership roles down to one or more employees.

Why it is Important to Create a Succession Plan

The importance of succession planning is to streamline the process when there's a change in leadership by having someone prepared to take on the role successfully. Succession planning benefits both employers and employees by reducing hiring costs, boosting employee retention of top performers, and empowering higher job satisfaction. Therefore, it is important for companies to continually examine their succession plan to ensure there are employees on track to act if changes happen within the organization. 

Key Steps in Succession Planning

Once you decide to implement succession planning for your business, there are seven steps to follow. 

  1. Identify key positions within your company: Look past top leadership to pinpoint positions with high institutional knowledge and importance to your company's success. 
  2. Determine the risk of those positions becoming vacant soon: Look for employees about to retire, currently pregnant, or showing signs of unhappiness in their role. 
  3. Create job profiles: Develop a list of skills, knowledge, and qualifications necessary to succeed in the job.  
  4. Start developing a talent pool: List potential employees who could step into the role and provide upskilling training for current employees to prepare for these new tasks. You may also choose to recruit external talent. 
  5. Choose and appoint a successor: Find a new employee who will be a technical and cultural fit for your organization. 
  6. Handover period: The new employee should have ample time to train with their predecessor and coworkers to excel at the role. 
  7. Document the transition: This helps improve the process in the future and optimize recruiting strategies. 

What You Should Do for Effective Succession Planning

A few must-dos for effective succession planning include: 

  • Starting early
  • Creating a clear, written plan
  • Identifying the positions requiring a successor
  • Looking at the entire company, not just senior leadership
  • Determining obstacles and pain points during changes and management transitions
  • Identifying multiple candidates for each position
  • Creating a talent pipeline by identifying top-performing potential employees and providing them with opportunities to grow and develop
  • Monitoring and adjusting the plan by staying dynamic and allowing the roadmap to be flexible as your company's needs change 

The Don'ts of Succession Planning

While there are several things you should do when implementing succession planning, these are some to avoid: 

  • Narrowing your search to obvious candidates
  • Neglecting diversity and inclusion
  • Forcing the opportunity on uninterested employees
  • Making decisions based on seniority
  • Only focusing on technical skills
  • Failing to communicate the process
  • Ignoring employee development — It's naive to assume employees will naturally develop the skills they need for leadership roles. Therefore, investing in employee development and providing training and growth opportunities for current employees is essential. 

Learn More About Implementing Succession Planning with Training from Lorman

Lorman offers live and on-demand courses, allowing professionals to train at their own pace. Our courses enable learners to access videos, slide decks, white papers, and MP3 recordings and expand their knowledge and skills with training in multiple business topics, including succession planning. With our Succession Management and Introduction to Replacement Planning courses, you will learn how to incorporate succession planning in your organization.

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