All You Need To Know About Succession Planning

Succession Planning

Did you know that only 49% of leaders are sure they can plan for the next leader in a clear and consistent way? Not that I blame them—making succession plans can be a task. That’s why knowledge of succession planning is absolutely necessary.

Every forward-looking business owner wants to see their businesses continue to thrive long after their active years. Who doesn’t? They also don’t want their business to collapse due to the sudden exit of a crucial team member.

To make this a reality, however, certain steps need to be taken. Taking these steps requires that leaders seek knowledge of what succession is all about. After reading this article, you will have a better perspective on what succession planning entails as well as how to go about it. Ready? Let’s go then!

What is succession planning?

Succession planning is a strategy used by leaders of organizations to create or produce leaders who will take over from them. This plan is put in place to identify individuals with the prospects of taking up leadership roles in an organization.

However, a succession plan is not strictly for leadership roles. It is also designed to replace key employees without much hassle, in case they leave the organization abruptly.

Steps to take in succession planning

Identify the roles that need successors

This is the first step to take in planning succession in your organization. Note the positions you want to create a succession plan for. Therefore, not all roles need succession planning, so concentrate on the ones that do. Also, you may need to plan quickly for who will take over an important role if someone is sick or for other similar reasons.

List the skills required for the roles

The next step is to identify the roles that need to be filled. Prepare a list of the skills required for the roles. Take note of the needs of each role and what the prospective successor must have to fill the post. This makes it easy to identify the individuals that would fit the roles.

Pinpoint potential successors

At this stage, look out for employees that have the potential to take on key roles. Also check for other leadership characteristics like competence, diligence, hard work, and qualities of a team player. Because you have a list of the skills you need, you can narrow your observations and focus on the skills you need.

Notify potential successors

Let people who could take over know that they are being looked at and considered for certain jobs. However, make it clear to them that telling them about the succession plan is part of the process and there are no guarantees.

Provide professional development

Establish a culture of personal development if it isn’t already in place. If it is, intensify the efforts and provide specific training for prospective successors. You can set up job rotations as well as start a mentorship program. This will help in grooming potential successors.

Test your plan

Now that you have checked every other box, it is time to test your succession plan. If a supervisor is on annual leave, for example, let the prospective successor act in the role during this period.

This is a perfect opportunity to observe the individual on the job. In the course of your adaptive assessment, you may see areas where they need more training or mentoring. You may also discover that they’re unsuitable for the role.

Document and constantly review your plan

Once you have a working succession plan, make sure you document it. Make it part of your HR practice. Furthermore, ensure that you review it on a regular basis to see if there are any areas that need to be improved.

Invest in corporate travels and retreats

Employees might put on an act in the office, and you might not be able to observe them properly. This is where corporate travel and retreats come in. You can turn to a travel agency to make the process seamless, or you can even get a travel management tool. If you’re at a loss as to which tool to choose, consider Egencia or its alternatives. You will surely find an option that fits your business and budget.

During business trips and retreats with possible successors, you will see them in their natural habitats and maybe in a less guarded and more relaxed mood. This will help with your assessment.

Benefits of succession planning

It safeguards the business from sudden occurrences

With succession planning, your business remains resilient in the face of unexpected change. With the day-to-day activities that occur in a business, CEOs can easily get carried away and forget what happens to a business if there is a sudden resignation or layoff.

Having a plan for who will take over the business in the event of a sudden situation makes it less likely that the business will become unstable.

It’s easy to believe you have a rock-solid team until a team member is diagnosed with a terminal illness or leaves for a competitor. A succession plan protects your business from being negatively affected by unpredictable happenings.

It helps to identify employees with leadership qualities

Not only does succession planning let you see the roles that are crucial to the growth of your business, but it also lets you see the workers with great potential. Part of the succession plan is discovering the skills, abilities, and desires of potential successors.

This process enables star employees to shine. It also motivates them to see that their skills, abilities, and commitment are rewarded in due time.

It exposes skill gaps in your organization

When you have a succession plan, you see the skills gap and vulnerability in your organization. The process lets you evaluate the skill set of your employees and see the areas where they need training. You can relate these gaps to your business goals and see how they affect your business strategy.

It promotes personal development

One of the steps in succession planning has to do with training, grooming, and mentoring. Employees’ needs are discovered and appropriate training and mentoring are provided. This process, when done continuously, improves the personal development culture in the organization.

It saves recruitment costs

Succession planning saves costs that would have been used for the recruitment process in its absence. For instance, if a key staff member had to resign abruptly and there was no succession plan in place. In that case, a new employee would have to be hired, which would cost more than expected. However, if there was already a successor in place, there would be no need to incur recruitment costs.

Challenges of Succession Planning


One of the challenges of succession planning is tackling bias. There are different types of bias. Bias based on gender easily comes to mind here, as some organizations might favor a certain gender over another. Other biases are based on factors like race, ethnicity, religion, education or coaching, and socio-economic background. 

Lack of trust

Trust is one of the challenges of succession planning for sensitive roles like the CEO. Sometimes, the CEO might not trust anyone to run the business as they do. With this belief, paranoia will set in and make it difficult for the CEO to take steps toward planning for succession. 


Some leaders sabotage succession plans due to their unwillingness to let go of power. They pretend to go along with all plans of succession, even though they’re not ready to succeed. They watch as the company pumps funds into succession planning, but they keep finding loopholes in the plan, simply because they’re unwilling to let go.

Best practices of succession planning

Plan long term

While one of the reasons you need a succession plan is to be stable in cases of sudden occurrences, you also need it as part of a long-term plan for your business. When you have up to a 5-year successive plan, you’re able to strategize well and put all the right elements in place. One of the best ways to plan for succession is to focus on the needs of your staff and train them to take over in the long run. 

Keep a record of employees with leadership qualities

Don’t wait until you have an emergency; start keeping records of staff who show outstanding leadership qualities. Look out for those who take up responsibilities when they’re not likely to be compensated. Employees who use their initiatives are also to be penned down. This will make it easy to plan for succession instead of using a “fire brigade” approach at the last minute. 

Be open about the process

Succession planning should not be a “hushed” affair. Include all the important people, just like you’ll make your company’s core values and share them with your team. Transparency goes a long way in making your succession plan work. Some employees might feel sidelined and sabotage the process. Let everyone concerned know about the succession plan as well as the processes involved. 

Key Takeaway

Succession planning is the process of making a plan for how roles will be passed on and taken over in an organization. In succession planning, you need to find the roles that need to be filled, write down the skills needed, find the employees who show potential, let them know, and spend money on corporate travel. 

There are many benefits to succession planning. Some of these benefits are protecting the business, finding employees with leadership skills, pointing out skill gaps, helping with personal growth, and saving money.

Planning for the next leader can be hard because of bias, lack of trust, and unwillingness. Best practices for succession planning include long-term planning, keeping a record of employees with leadership skills, and transparency. What is your major takeaway from this article? I would love to hear from you.


Moyofade Ipadeola

Moyofade Ipadeola is a Content Strategist, UX Writer, and Editor. She loves personal development and helping people grow. Mo, as she’s fondly called, is fascinated by all things tech.

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