Succession Planning Process – A six-step how-to guide

As a business leader, you are always likely to face a situation where key team member(s) of the business vacate their position. It is important to have robust succession plans in place to prepare for this eventuality and mitigate any potential risks that may occur as a result. In this article, we explore what succession planning is, highlight its importance and discuss a six-step succession planning process that you can apply within your business.

What is Succession Planning?

Succession Planning is the process of identifying and developing talent to replace key employees when they have transitioned into a new position or exited the business. It helps build capability within the business. Succession Planning is sometimes narrowly viewed to focus solely on identifying a successor for a departing CEO or a business executive. However, the process should be used for identifying successors for all key positions throughout the business.

Succession planning can sometimes be mixed up with replacement planning. It is important to differentiate one from the other. Replacement planning is the process of identifying a replacement for a departing high-level employee, such as the CEO. In contrast, succession planning is focused on developing your team members to progress into the vacated positions that may become available in the future.

Importance of succession planning for a business

Many businesses fail to recognise the true value of succession planning; as a result, they leave it too late to prepare for the eventuality of key employees leaving/ vacating their positions and rush the process when the time comes. Although it is sometimes difficult to foresee a key employee leaving, it is important that you have a succession plan in place to ensure that your business continues to operate smoothly when that happens.

However, you may find that there aren’t any suitable internal candidates. If this is the case, recruiting external talent will be required. With the work already gone into developing a success profile, you will know exactly what to look for in the external candidate. You can then nurture those individuals for future key roles and provide them enough time to familiarise themselves with the business.

Six step guide to succession planning process

Now that we have discussed the importance of succession planning for a business, it is time to discuss what the process involves.

1. Identify key roles
First, you need to identify key roles within your business. These are the positions that are important for running your business operations and for its continued success. After identifying them, you can then carry out a risk assessment to assess the business impact if these key roles were to become vacant. This will help in prioritising your focus in terms of developing succession plans for the roles with the greatest risk or impact.

2. Develop competency /success profile for key roles
Once you have assessed each position and identified the key roles within your business, the next step is to identify the competencies required for each role for the individual to perform it successfully. This will include defining skills, qualifications, personality attributes, etc. required for the role. Developing a success profile will enable you to gain a greater understanding of the key responsibilities and the requirements for each candidate to perform well in the role. This step will also help you when you begin to map out your training and development plans. If you need any help with developing a success profile, our team of business growth consultants can advise you on that.

3. Identify succession management options
Once the success profile is developed, you can use this to identify the succession management option to be used against each role. If the strategy you choose is to develop talent internally, then you will need to identify and nominate candidates best suited to succeed the team member for when they are promoted or depart the business entirely.

4. Assess development needs & identify gaps
Now that the candidates have been nominated, it is time to assess their development needs. In this step, you essentially match current competencies of the nominated candidates against the success profile and analyse the gaps which will need to be addressed through training & development or through coaching & mentoring to reach the required level.

5. Create and implement the development plan
After assessing the candidate’s capabilities and identifying areas they need to improve on, you need to build a development plan based on the skills and capability gaps identified. The development plan will help candidates prepare for the potential new role by increasing their skills, competency and experience in the areas that need improvement.

6. Evaluate and monitor progress
To ensure effective implementation of the succession planning process, you need to regularly evaluate and monitor the progress of each candidate against the development plan. This will help you determine if the candidate is progressing well and whether they are the right candidate for the role or do you need to look at alternative succession management options. We advise you to implement a monthly review framework to highlight the progress made by the candidates and to adapt your plans accordingly.


Our advice is don’t leave succession planning until it’s too late i.e. where suddenly key team member(s) leave their position and you are not prepared. Having a consistent succession planning framework and a structured approach will prepare you for any eventualities and ensure your business isn’t left exposed to risks of a key person leaving. We have developed a structured succession planning framework and have worked with organisations to implement it to manage succession planning.

Every business has key roles within it that are vital and could leave the business exposed if circumstances changed suddenly. To help you mitigate that risk and give you that peace of mind, contact us directly to develop an effective succession plan for your business.

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