Succession Planning: A Complete Guide for Mastering It

Succession planning is a backup plan for your company’s future. When a key person quits without enough warning, the organization may be placed in a difficult position. Even long-term workers are permitted to quit at any moment.

Small businesses are especially vulnerable to losing high-performing employees with lots of responsibilities. To protect your business and make sure it can keep running even if a key employee leaves, a company needs a succession plan for each job.

Creating a succession plan may help your firm handle leadership changes smoothly. It may boost morale and prepare your team for future business issues.

Don’t wait until you need a replacement. You may select the incorrect individual if you scramble. Let’s look at the whole succession planning guide to prepare your staff.

What is succession planning?

Succession planning is a deliberate process for identifying and preparing high-potential personnel for future leadership roles. It aids in the development and retention of your company’s talent pipeline, allowing you to fill open leadership positions swiftly.

It all starts with a specific job description and a list of the skills, abilities, and personality traits required to complete the position. With a succession plan in place, you may begin replacing important jobs as soon as a person leaves, even if you don’t have early notice.

The finest succession plans are dynamic, breathing, regularly examined and updated entities.

It’s a process that you must continue after you’ve started. It’s something your firm should go through every year to make sure everyone is on track and to check if there have been any adjustments or moves inside the company.

This is your go-to guide for mastering it. Follow these guidelines:

A complete guide for mastering succession planning

Succession planning is an all-encompassing approach for identifying and nurturing future leaders in your organization – not just at the top but in key positions at all levels. Having high-potential personnel for promotion allows your company to pull its socks up for all situations.

Here are seven suggestions for getting your business’s succession planning process started.

Be prepared with a strategy 

This stage is essential for identifying your succession plan’s objectives and aligning with all stakeholders. This may require a board meeting to discuss strategic goals in some instances. For many others, a discussion with top executives will need to outline the qualities desired in a successor.

You will be prepared for the next stage after you:

  • Define the positions, responsibilities, essential capabilities, and experience a successor will need.
  • Collect data and input on the above from members of your team or specialists in your network.
  • Estimate your company’s requirements. Consider patterns in employee turnover, retirement dates, remuneration plans, and management training.
  • Reflect on your acquired facts and update your position description and leadership models. Before you start searching for prospects, you should clearly know what you want.

A candidate for succession

You’re ready to find candidates now that you’ve made succession plans and job descriptions. Make sure your method is easy to follow and doesn’t introduce too much bias. It can be useful to get help from the HR team. They can give you the tools you need to get candidates interested and make the process easier.

To select candidates, you can:

  • Look for people who can grow others, complete tasks, take action to promote the company’s mission, and lead well.
  • You may learn more about each candidate’s objectives, temperament, and potential by conducting interviews, developing surveys, and forming focus groups.
  • To get buy-in and determine who is engaged with the process, ask for suggestions on strengthening succession and leadership.

Allow them to be aware of your plans.

The question of whether or not corporations should inform workers that they are succession candidates is hotly debated. However, telling individuals of their potential would encourage them and keep them from worrying about their job security. If a fantastic prospect is in the shadows and believes they might find a better offer elsewhere, they may jump ship.

Instead, state your goals regarding the jobs, people, and plans. Make sure your expectations for the jobs and people involved are clear.

Aim to improve professional development

Employee onboarding and training programs are almost certainly in place at your organization. As a matter of fact, growth is all about giving individuals the opportunity to learn new things. Individuals who are prone to becoming mired in a narrow field of expertise should pay particular attention to this.

The particular skills and information that a candidate will require to progress to the next stage will need to be determined after you have identified them. An employee’s professional growth is typically facilitated by a personal development plan, regular feedback, mentorship, or coaching, as well as formal education and communication between the employee and their supervisor.

Try out your succession plan in a preliminary form

Potential successors will become severe competitors for leadership positions as their development accelerates. This is an excellent moment to begin trial runs to evaluate their understanding and introduce them to different facets of the job. Candidates may learn what good leadership looks like and get insight into the company’s broader objectives by exposing them to real-world scenarios.

There are many methods for involving applicants; just select the one that makes the most sense for the position.

Integrate your succession planning with your hiring plan

You’ll have to make an offer to a possible applicant at some point. And you’ll have to find someone else to take their place. Fortunately, the successor may utilize their new leadership abilities to assist in the interviewing and training of the person who will take their place. This might be a lower-level employee or a fresh hire.

As a result, it’s critical to alter your recruiting approach to account for the responsibilities of successors. Your strategy will not run as well without them; their staff will be scurrying to fill the void.

Imagining your future successors

If you accept a new job or retire, your position may need to be filled. Include your job in your company’s succession plan. Who would take the lead? What can you do today to assist that individual prepare for the transition?

It’s a multilayered, difficult procedure. The change will come, however. Celebrate the succession. This shows workers that your organization values excellent leadership and career growth.

A gradual shift is sometimes necessary. Due to family ties, emotions, and connected history, family companies struggle with succession planning. A sound change in leadership based on business demands is vital to the company’s success.


These are some of the fundamental stages that are necessary when approaching the process of succession planning. Nonetheless, it is the responsibility of management to comprehend the when, the why, and the where of succession planning implementation. 

If it is left for too long, the whole procedure may become much less effective. It is essential for every firm that aspires to grow larger and more successful in having accurate succession planning in place.

When done effectively, succession planning provides a firm a competitive advantage and enhances its position by educating and developing its employees.

If you’re seeking to get started with succession planning, check out QuestionPro Workforce, a culture and employee experience survey and analytics platform that can help you achieve the best type of change by providing relevant metrics and insights about your people.