Succession Planning … A Four Letter Word?

  • Article
  • 28 July 2021

Many of my clients, faced with an aging workforce, fewer employees entering the workforce,  and multiple generational cohorts, are talking about succession and succession planning. Why? Who will take over the reins of leadership when the Baby Boomers leave the workforce?

In the past two years, workforce dynamics have changed significantly, new leadership is required, and most organizations are NOT addressing this issues. As a result, two key questions emerge:

  • Who will take on those leadership roles going forward?
  • How have managers/leaders in organizations been developed and groomed to take on those roles?

If your company is like many organizations, the answer to the latter question is they haven’t! For years, little effort was expended on training and developing managers to become leaders. Training and development of leaders has become haphazard and unfocused.

So, what now? How do organizations plan for the next five to ten years? How can they ensure that there are sufficient leaders to move the organization forward, and ensure that these leaders are well equipped to do so? How do they ensure that succession is addressed?

The following outlines 6 steps in developing a succession plan.

Step 1: Link Strategic and Workforce Planning Decisions

This step involves reviewing strategic plans to confirm the long-term vision and direction of the organization. Connecting succession planning to the values of the organization, its future vision and direction, and to the needs of the organization based on industry and market trends is critical.

Step 2: Analyze Gaps

In this step, core competencies are defined. In addition, current supply and anticipated workforce demand are identified for both the short term and long term. The difference

between current supply and projected demand forms the gap that needs to be closed. A business plan is then developed to focus on long-term talent needs.

Step 3: Identify Talent Pools

This step involves developing competency models for the organization and evaluating competency and skill levels of the current workforce against the desired model. By completing the process of competency or position profiling within the organization, current and future employees gain an understanding of the key responsibilities of each position. This includes having knowledge about the qualifications and behavioral and technical competencies required to perform them successfully.

Step 4: Develop and Document Succession Strategies

Once critical positions have been identified and have been profiled for competencies, the next step is to choose from a menu of human resource strategies, including recruitment, retention, and developing internal talent pools to create a robust succession program. Developing an action plan for each provides a mechanism for clearly defining timelines and roles and responsibilities.

Step 5: Implement Succession Strategies

Once strategies have been developed and documented, the next step is to communicate them to the entire organization and to implement them. Linking the succession planning process to Human Resource processes such as performance management, compensation, recognition, recruitment and retention, and workforce planning will ensure that succession strategies are embedded in the workplace.

Step 6: Monitor and Evaluate Effectiveness

Monitoring workforce data and evaluating activities to make necessary adjustments will ensure that succession planning efforts are successful. Listening to leader feedback will provide excellent insight on succession planning effectiveness.

What is your experience with succession planning? Are there other steps that you recommend?

Transcend coaches leaders and their teams to live, work, and succeed like high performance athletes.

Developing robust succession plans helps maintain organizational momentum, create a high performance organization, and builds bench strength in case of injury or defection. To discuss how we can assist your organization, contact us at 403.669.7926 or

Dr. Wilma Slenders PhD, PCC

Dr. Wilma Slenders is a renowned change management facilitator, leadership coach, and strategic advisor for organizations of all sizes and industries. Her insights come from over 20 years of hands-on experience and thousands of hours of teaching, consulting on, planning, and executing long-term professional leadership strategies and organizational strategies.

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