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Succession Planning

What is succession planning?

Succession Planning is the process whereby one or more successors are identified for key posts (or groups of similar key posts) in an organisation, and career moves and/or development activities are planned for these successors. Successors may be fairly ready to do the job (short-term successors) or seen as having longer-term potential (long-term successors).

In order to have an effective Succession Plan for your organisation, therefore, you need to do the following:

  • Identify the key positions within your organisation – these are not necessarily the ‘top’ or highest paid positions they are the ones that are most critical to the successful performance of the organisation;
  • For each key position identify at least on Emergency Successor – this is someone who can step into a key position at very short or immediate notice if the current position holder is suddenly unavailable;
  • For each key position identify one or more individuals who could take on the role at some time in the future – they may be ready now, ready in 1 to 2 years or ready in 3 to 4 years’ time;
  • For each member of the Succession Pools created above, identify appropriate development interventions to prepare them for the new role in the required timescale;
  • Report on the status of the Succession Plan regularly to the CEO and the Board

As can be seen from the above, Succession Planning sits inside a very much wider set of resourcing and development processes known as Talent Management. This encompasses the management resourcing strategy, aggregate analysis of demand/supply (human resource planning and auditing), skills analysis, the job filling process, and management development (including graduate and high flyer programmes).

What do organisations want from succession planning?

Organisations use succession planning to achieve a number of objectives including:

  • Improved job filling for key positions through broader candidate search, and faster decisions
  • Active development of longer-term successors through ensuring their careers progress, and engineering the range of work experiences they need for the future
  • Auditing the ‘talent pool’ of the organisation and thereby influencing resourcing and development strategies
  • Fostering a corporate culture through developing a group of people who are seen as a ‘corporate resource’ and who share key skills, experiences and values seen as important to the future of the organisation.

Of these, it is the active development of a strong ‘talent pool’ for the future which is now seen as the most important. Increasingly, this is also seen as vital to the attraction and retention of the ‘best’ people.