7 Easy Steps for Business Succession Planning Success


7 Easy Steps for Business Succession Planning Success

July 30, 2020 | 7 Min Read

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In our previous article we covered learning and development (L&D) and how Human Resources uses competencies in order to structure their training curriculum. Businesses cannot be run without their employees having the proper skills development so an allocated time and budget is invested in order to get them up to speed. Great right? But what if 3 years down the road that employee, who is in a key position, decides to leave? Who will their replacement be? With a succession plan businesses can be one step ahead of this.

What is a Succession Plan?

A succession plan is a strategy that involves the right candidates and positioning them, within the company, for future leadership opportunities and developments. Thus providing the ability for people to readily fill or succeed in a position when need be. This strategy allows companies to plan for contingencies mitigating time and money from finding brand new candidates.

Maybe don't because they believe the process is too complex with “Two thirds of companies have no formal succession plan in place.” with a good job structure and engaged learning culture it can be very beneficial. Not only in succession planning but for talent retention as well. 


Why should companies adopt a business succession plan? It boosts morale, engagement and retention. Herzberg's theory of motivation states that recognizing employees for their growth and achievements can play a huge factor in retaining star talent. 

This can be key to structuring feature training programs with years of data and experiences that has been collected over the years. In addition, knowledge management of this data can help reduce learning curves for critical positions as workplace experiences can pass from one to another.

Common Obstacles

  • Resistance to change
  • Business silos
  • Absence of support from persons of influence or upper management
  • Employee competition
  • Impeding development due to lack of performance feedback
  • Lack of time and resources
  • Personal self esteem, reluctance to share one’s expertise

Competencies and Approach?

Depending on the size of the company the succession planning process should involve reviewing employee competencies and skills which should be in the habit of at least 1-2 times per year. Reasons for a succession plan is to allow for adaptation for talent scarcity and recognizing or honing, on those talents, can provide seamless transitions into new or existing job roles.

A replacement plan for a high competency individual can utilize time and resources. Therefore competency management or model assessments can provide aid in comprehending skills gaps and replacing complex competencies.

Understanding competencies can be complex as it involves an individual's personal experiences and social development. Learn more about the 3 Core Competencies Your HR Must Have For Successful L&D.

Employers should identify the necessary positions that require a succession plan such as positions involving a strategic goal, positions that are highly specialized in an industry, influencer positions within the organizations, jobs with learning curves or positions involving observational learning.

Below are 7 steps to take into consideration when implementing a succession plan:

1. Have a plan!

Be proactive and have a plan preparedness for any staff departures especially for positions that are more difficult to replace such as retirees or industry specialized roles. Design a plan with layered skills and know which positions are suited for succession planning. You want to ensure you can keep as much talent in the pipeline as possible so understanding the job structure will help a coordinator such as an HR (Human resources), can see how well the skills of an individual will translate into the next job. And don't be afraid to vary your learning strategies!

2. Recognize potential employees

Who has the highest potential for advancement? Sometimes this includes the person who has the right skill set, not necessarily the one who is immediately next to take over the position. Be mindful that people have different goals, so be aware that people may not be looking to advance. Providing and encouraging feedback for your employees is imperative!

3. Notify those candidates of potential

Things are always subject to change however but your candidate should be comfortable with workforce fluidity. They should have the interest in learning new skills, accepting uncertainties and be able to adapt to multiple work environments. Note that not all candidates are ready for successor roles so honing in on complementary skill sets may support further development.

4. Have professional development available within the organization

Creating a learning culture is important to encourage growth and can be supported through mentors or job rotations. Learning and development can include on the job training in tandem or separate from professional development endeavors. This allows Identifying skills and matching potential roles to the suited individual an easier process. Candidates should be actively interested in taking part of achieving the company's goals towards succession planning and performance management.

5. Have your succession plan tested

Best practice is to start as soon as possible. You can look at your succession plan as a form of hierarchies or layers. Test potential candidates by giving them managerial responsibilities and determine whether they will need additional training. Always encourage them to think long term. Also having an L&D that falls outside of your succession planning scope is ok! Your program does not have to be necessary for promotion purposes and could serve as a way for layering additional competencies or acquiring related skills.

6. Keep your succession plan in mind during recruitment

Fill any gaps for development! Before recruiting, going through past L&D endeavours and common training needs for new hires can help you understand how to better reach your business objectives. What does employee success look like? This can be done during the planning process. 

The data collected through your L&D can be key to developing and refining your current one. Especially with the constant changes in the workplace environment. Read more on Big Data for HR: How Predictive Analytics Can Deliver Business Value in this free eBook.


7. Keep yourself in mind

Don't leave yourself out of the picture! Using your own insights and expertise will help you immensely with choosing. Know how you want to plan for knowledge transfer and development to keep the learning curve as short as possible.

Have the future in mind. Remember change is inevitable and business succession planning should be part of a workplace life cycle. This should acquire additional considerations from other parties within the organization so this should not be a stand-alone decision. Careful selection of the right candidate with the right potential should be considered.

A compliance structure can be complex if your business has strict regulations. This can fluctuate depending on the size of your company and the nature of competencies involved. Read our go-to ebook on Compliance and Competency Training Made Easy with LMS.

Software Support & Technology

Succession planning doesn’t have to be hard! There are software programs that can track progress and be formatted into supporting your organizational structure. Through HR management systems, maintaining a summary of skills and matching them to resumes with potential interest can make recruitment and development a simpler process.

Creating a chart of assignments in development and identifying milestones within programs can support the transitions between targeted positions and successor positions.

Lambda Learn is a great tool to manage everything you need with an abundance of features such as open-source plugins, cloud hosting and amazing support services. Read more on what this LMS can do to make managing your succession plan easy.

Totara Learn LMS Features

When it comes to a succession plan an LMS (learning management system) can be essential to coordinating your L&D for employee advancement. Totara Learn can provide the support your business needs with some of the below listed features.

Talent Management and Succession Planning

Have the flexibility to add modules to your learning plans. Apply competencies to your training and manage the curriculum.

Course Management

Multiple templates are available for you to format your learning and development for you to meet your business objectives.

Performance and Team Management

Monitors how well an employee is doing to ensure business objectives are met by creating custom goals involving your workplace competencies. For tracking and credentials purposes you can create custom certificates to support completion.

You want the right information to run your succession planning. Analytics software can prove the impact of your L&D. Take a look at how Lambda Analytics can support your return on investment (ROI).


Management of Hierarchies

From organizational to positional, you can format and create a path for your learning and development linking them to your competencies and company goals. Rest assured, Totara Learn has you covered.


For more advice, best-practices, and how-to guides to creating, implementing, and improving your Learning and Development programs, we have all of these additional resources:

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