Revolutionize Succession Planning: From Tactic to Strategy

More and more, succession plans are becoming a requirement, whether it be from a board, governing body, or by executive leaders. Succession plans benefit the organization, if done correctly. The problem is the current approach many organizations take is wrong.

According to a SHRM survey, 56% of organizations don’t have a succession plan. There’s more to succession planning than simply naming a person who will step into a C-suite position. Based on a Deloitte survey, only 14% of leaders believe they do succession planning well. Succession planning needs to be an organizational priority—it helps organizations mitigate risk, save money, and ensure growth.

Many organizations’ succession plans are a check-the-box exercise. But it can and should be so much more. Succession planning can help determine how your organization navigates the future. It ensures you have the right people, in the right jobs, at the right time.


Nail Succession Planning Basics

Having a list of names in a spreadsheet isn’t enough. You need a thorough, detailed plan—one that is easy to monitor and update. Your talent analytics should feed into your decision-making, so you can make a strategic succession plan. Your plan needs to be intentional and scalable.

Here are some questions you should be asking when creating your plan:

  • Is there a possibility the best successor is in another department?
  • Do you have data to back up your choice?
  • Are you updating the succession plan with real-time performance and engagement data?
  • Do you have multiple successors for critical roles?
  • When will each successor be ready?
  • What development does each successor need to be ready for the role?
  • What talent gaps do you have?
  • Are you identifying a diverse set of successors that represent the makeup of leaders you want to see in the future?


You can take your 9-box or other employee data and use it to influence your succession plan. By using robust technology, you can take the data you’re already inputting and visualize your employees across the organization. Employees want to see the connections between their performance, growth, and how they impact business success.


Succession Planning as Workforce Planning

You may already be doing informal succession planning throughout the organization. Do you have a mentorship program? Are managers developing someone who can lead if they’re out? Are employees receiving leadership training or learning skills that expand their roles?

Once you have a succession plan for the C-suite, it’s time to think outside the box. Your learning and training plan is about developing more than just the C-suite. It’s inclusive of employees of every level—especially those in critical, hard-to-replace roles.

In imagining the possibilities, answer these questions:

  • What if your mentorship program was connected to your succession plan?
  • What if you could see people across your organization that are perfect for positions in other departments?
  • What if instead of one primary person, you had 2-3 individuals who you could be developing to step into a new role?
  • What if your choice of successor was backed by data?

Your succession plan should be a guide for your learning and growth initiatives throughout the organization. The same tactics you use to identify your future CEO can also be used to develop other leadership and critical positions.



Convert Succession Planning from Tactic to Strategy.

Right now, organizations have succession planning and learning and development backwards. Your succession plan shouldn’t be a bullet point to learning and development. It should guide learning, growth, and other initiatives throughout the organization.

By acting as an integrated network connecting all your performance, learning and development initiatives, your succession plan can inspire employee impact. How do you inspire impact? With goal alignment and clarity, coaching and development, and data-driven plans for the future.

Your succession plan should:

  • Be adaptable, not static. As the organization changes, your succession plan should change with it. You need more than a spreadsheet or presentation slides updated once per year. You need technology that updates with your performance measurement tools. Having a plan easy to act on in a moment makes employee transitions and changes less of a headache.


  • Align with individual and organizational goals. Investing in people requires a guide. The future of the organization, organizational goals, and individual goals should all be linked so everyone is rowing in the same direction toward the same goals. You need technology to help you connect the dots through performance, engagement, and learning to move the organization forward.


  • Guide individual L&D. Your plan should connect an employee’s future with the growth opportunities they need to be successful. What can the employee act on in the next 12 months instead of the broad timeframe of 3-5 years? You need technology to help you identify employees ready for stretch projects and provide learning activities that prepare them for the future and make them more likely to stay.


  • Inform performance conversations. The succession plan should help guide day-to-day coaching and mentoring. It should also integrate into manager workflows so that growth conversations align with the succession plan and engage and motivate high performers. Technology should then connect performance conversations back to your succession plan, so it is up to date with the latest information.


  • Recognize and reward great work. For leaders, this means recognizing forward thinkers who are building up their teams around them. They recommend their team members for promotions, develop them, and replicate their success. As your succession plan trickles down to other positions, it should help employees grow into their roles and move up the ladder or across the lattice. Your succession plan technology should give tools to encourage ongoing employee involvement and help everyone visualize their future at the organization.


  • Connect to engagement. Employees crave growth and don’t want to feel stagnate. How do you know what employees need and what their perceptions of your learning and development strategy are? You have to ask for employee feedback to uncover what is important to them. Having a one-stop technology center that includes engagement metrics is crucial to a successful succession plan.


Using succession planning as an organizational strategy emphasizes the impact component of employee success. Your succession plan should start with the C-suite, and then trickle out to critical roles. Whether you’re at the informal succession planning stage or have a formal, board-ready plan, your succession plan should be constantly evolving with your other people metrics.

When everything is integrated, it creates high-performing employees and teams at all levels. It inspires employee performance. When you create a comprehensive succession plan, you show employees the role they play in helping the company achieve success.


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