Employee Succession Planning: Everything HR Needs to Know
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succession planning

Employee Succession Planning: Everything HR Needs to Know

Succession planning is one aspect of talent management that identifies and develops employees within an organisation with potential, in order to fill in key positions as and when they become available or vacant. Succession planning has evolved over the years and it is constantly evolving and changing to suit the changing business practices and scenario. With succession planning, companies can now focus towards building a robust leadership, meet a company’s resourcing contingencies, and encourage employees to be more proactive and aware of their career growth and potential opportunities available within the organisation. It also brings about a sense of awareness amongst the employees to understand the goal of the company. The concept of succession planning is not only about having the required manpower backup, but it is also about building ‘bench strength’ by having the right people, at the right place, at the right time.

What is Succession Planning?

Succession planning ensures that the existing employees with potential are developed and groomed in such a manner that they can scale up to fill in for any available key position within the company. The process entails developing the knowledge, skill, and abilities along with the personal traits aspiration & learning agility of the employees so that they are prepared to take on the relevant challenging role within the organisation via employee promotion. Succession planning ensures that employees are constantly groomed and developed so that they can act as fire fighters if any sudden or unplanned vacancies occur within the organisation. It is a trend within organisations that with expansion, the companies face attrition. So to mitigate this parallel risk, succession planning is a handy program which guarantees that in any circumstance, the company always has buffer employees who are ready to take on the new role in the event of a sudden vacancy.

Who Needs Succession Planning?

Employee Succession planning is not just important for larger organisations. In fact, every organisation irrespective of the size should imbibe and adopt succession planning, as it is the need of the hour in today’s volatile and fast paced market. It is understandable that you may not find potential successors to fill in for every other role in your company. Yet when you cross train employees of your organisation, it still leaves you in a better position in the event of resourcing emergencies. The concept of succession planning is not a novel one. In fact, it may not have been a part of formal process within organisations, but it always existed in an informal manner, where if a member was identified as a strong potential candidate for a certain position, he or she was given the next preference whenever a certain suitable position used to get vacant.

However, it is highly recommended that companies need to adopt succession planning formally. The advantage of having a formalised talent management process in place is that it brings in a certain level of commitment from a grooming & bench strength perspective. With a formalised process in place, managers within the organisation are aware of the key employees and which employee can fit the bill for a certain position. It gives a wider choice for bench strength consideration whenever any key position opens up within a team.

Succession Planning Advantages for Employers and Employees

Employee Succession planning if adopted by organisations, offer advantages for both employers and employees and is mutually beneficial and worth investing time in.

Advantages for employees include:

  • When employees are aware that they have been groomed for a certain key role, they have a sense of expectation and satisfaction what lies ahead of them in the event of a vacancy for the said position. It boosts their self esteem and encourages them to be more efficient in performing their responsibilities in the current role.
  • Every employee expects the organisation to be sensitive towards their career growth. With succession planning in place as a formalized system, the employee knows that the organisation has plans to help their career graph take an upward trend with the next potential opportunity coming up for them.
  • Employees take interest in identifying the key skills and experience required to scale up to fill in for a certain potential role when an opportunity presents itself. With this awareness within employees, they are better prepared for progression whenever an opportunity shows up.
  • Succession planning creates a harmonious relationship between supervisors and employees, because a supervisor is the key person who can help the employees by developing the right career plan for them. The supervisor needs to set the right kind of goals for the employee, so that it helps him or her prepare in the direction of the next available opportunity.
  • It adds to the individual value of an employee if he or she is competent to fill in for the next potential key position in the company. Hence, if succession planning is formalized, it gives more visibility to the employees in the company. Managers are aware of the key employees who qualify for a certain key position. This would not be possible in an informal system though.


Advantages for employers include these:

  • By adopting succession planning, an organisation is able to depend on its employees even more and thereby accomplish its goals. It also saves them from feeling the pinch when a key employee suddenly decides to leave the organisation.
  • Employee Succession planning offers organisation the bench strength by having employees who have been groomed well to step into the required key roles as the company continues to grow and expand.
  • When a company has a backup plan ready with trained and groomed employees, it makes implementing necessary changes a cake walk for companies without being hit by dearth of replacements.
  • With a formal succession planning in place, managers have a 360 degrees view of the available and well groomed and trained resource pool within the organisation to choose from for any open position.
  • Proactive and effective succession planning prepares an organisation to manage any kind of resource crisis.


Develop Employees for Succession Planning

In order to develop employees for succession planning, you should adopt practices such as promoting lateral shifts within the organisation, providing scope for your employees to be assigned to special projects, promoting and facilitating both internal and external level of training, identifying employees who can scale up to be team leads, and providing scope of overall talent management & development of your employees.

By introducing and adopting formal employee succession planning in your organisation, you also have the edge of retaining key employees, as everyone appreciates the effort towards enhancing career growth of employees. Employees will value the time, attention, and scope that you as an organisation offer them. They feel motivated and end up displaying more productivity. To carry out successful succession planning, an organisation needs to identify its talent management strategy and long term goals and hire resources accordingly. An organisation also needs to identify, understand, and promote the career growth of its employees. It should also create awareness programs within the organisation, so that its employees are also on the same page. Organisations also need to pay special attention towards retaining key resources. It is mandatory for an organisation to be aware of the employment trends prevailing in the industry and make amends in the company policies at regular intervals.

Effective employee succession planning has a positive bearing on performance management. It not only ensures that key positions will continue to stay filled with a bench strength of competent and willing employees, but it also helps in saving the company’s financial resources which are otherwise invested for external recruitment and training.

Ari Kopoulos

CEO at EmployeeConnect