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How Succession Planning Can Simplify Replacement Hiring and Aid Retention

How Succession Planning Can Simplify Replacement Hiring and Aid Retention


With the Great Resignation still in full force, retention measures are crucial, but they aren’t enough on their own. HR departments also need to develop strategies to ease the transition when employees do leave—especially those whose knowledge and skills are hard to replace.

In this article, you’ll learn how to implement a succession plan for your most valuable employees that will simplify the hiring process, improve employee morale, and help motivate your organization’s top talent to stick around.


What Is Succession Planning and Why Does Your Company Need It?

Succession planning refers to an organizational strategy implemented to pass leadership responsibilities down to another employee or group of employees. The goal of the strategy is to ensure a smooth transition after key employees move onto new companies, retire or pass away.  The process of succession planning prepares experienced employees in advance to assume key roles when they become available. 

Succession planning is popular for C-suite positions in large organizations, but it is just as useful for small and mid-sized companies, and may be even more necessary. Consider these factors:

  • Despite your best retention efforts, people in key roles sometimes leave. In addition to the Great Resignation and the possibility of earning more by leaving a job than by staying,  many organizations are feeling the effects of higher-than-projected rates of retirement impacted by the pandemic.
  • Recruitment and training are expensive, especially for roles that involve specialized skills, and these roles extend far beyond the C-suite. For example, a salesperson with especially strong customer relationships or a technician with decades of experience using your organization’s equipment can be as hard to lose as a high-level executive.
  • Regardless of the role, transparency about the potential for employee growth within the organization is good for morale, productivity, and retention.


The 5 Steps to Implementing a Succession Plan

  • Plan in advance. Succession planning is a proactive approach, not a reaction to rumors of a vital team member leaving, and a strong succession plan can involve up to three years of strategic planning and training high-potential employees. 
  • Identify key roles now. Who in your current workforce is especially valuable? Whose loss would have the most immediate and wide-reaching effects? Start developing succession plans for those roles that extend beyond just the next position down in the organizational chart. 
  • Work with departments. Speak with other teams to find out which roles are most impactful for them and who on their team might be well positioned to transition if someone leaves. It’s also a good idea to encourage cross-functional collaboration among departments, as high-potential employees for one role could come from other teams as well. 
  • Be transparent with employees. Talk to those in your talent pools about their goals, and show your trust in their potential without promising any particular role. Incorporate the training progress into interested employees’ existing performance management by making it part of weekly 1:1 meetings with their manager. 
  • Foster diversity in training. This includes both demographic diversity through intentional DEI initiatives, as well as diversity of skills, talents, and perspectives. Be open and creative in who you consider for training in your succession plan, as a fresh viewpoint can sometimes be as valuable as an experienced one.


Challenges and Advantages of Succession Planning 

As with any change, you are likely to encounter some growing pains while implementing succession plans:

  • Succession planning is not a quick fix. It takes time, and there may be some turnover before the program is fully in place.
  • Organizational silos can limit your talent pools. If employees rarely interact with coworkers outside their own teams, you could miss out on opportunities for cross-departmental collaboration that might grow the pool of potential successors for a given role.
  • Employees may feel entitled to a position they’ve been “groomed” for. If you’re not transparent about succession planning as preparation (rather than pre-selection), morale and retention boosts can be undone when an employee becomes resentful about a position they do not get.

Despite these challenges, succession planning is more than worth the trouble.

  • It’s proactive, not reactive. Succession plans require a lot of time investment upfront, but the payoff is huge when an employee does leave and your organization is not left scrambling to recruit and hire a replacement.
  • It’s great for retention and morale. Promoting from within can help you keep your best talent, and a transparent succession plan can help keep them happy and productive as they know they have a path to growth at your organization.
  • It helps you walk the talk. Most companies market themselves as great places to work. Internal hiring, professional development, and transparent succession planning are all ways companies can prioritize their employees as the valuable team members they are.


Keep Your Organization Vibrant

Overall, succession planning is a great tool for hiring, retention, and continuity in your organization. It’s an essential part of a comprehensive retention plan, and investing time in succession planning now can help keep your company running smoothly for years to come. 


Additional Resources

You can stay informed, educated, and up-to-date on succession planning and other important HR topics using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news
  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance
  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics
  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics



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