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Avoid Succession Panic in 4 Steps

Posted by The Bean Team

09-Oct-2014 15:00:00

Currently, about 1/3 of companies have no succession plan in place for their key leadership roles. Just think about that for a moment: if your CEO pulls a J. Peterman and takes a yearlong safari sabbatical tomorrow, will you be prepared to keep the door open and the lights on? Succession planning is one of those vital, yet back burner issues in business. You don’t need a succession plan, until you need a succession plan. That’s when it becomes a succession panic.




Attraction and retention are both growing concerns among the majority of employers. The workforce is aging, and heading for retirement by the masses, and worldwide employee engagement is looking dismal. Without a succession plan, you have a lot working against you when it comes to finding a suitable successor in a reasonable amount of time. Plan instead of panic.


Identify Roles

Don’t make the mistake of only planning for the succession of executive level positions. A good rule of thumb is to fill in this blank: What in the actual hell would we do if __________ left tomorrow? If it can be considered a key role, you need a succession plan for that position.

Also, keep in mind that one perspective isn’t going to cut it. This must be an ongoing and open dialogue between Human Resources, the Board of Directors and Executives. One person doesn’t have the scope to identify all key roles.


Create Role Profiles

Each role that is part of your succession plan needs to have a living profile, meaning this profile is going to change over the years, and even months. These profiles need to be kept up-to-date, and agreed upon by your succession planning team. In this manner, everyone is in constant agreement when it comes to the skills, experience and training that each proposed successors should have. 

Keep in mind that 93% of HR managers agree that technical skills are easier to teach than soft skills. This bit of information is vital when deciding on the necessities of each position. It might be best to place soft skills closer to the top of your “must-have” lists.


Identify Candidates

Like so many other processes in HR, you have to apply objective decision making to a pretty subjective process. According to research done by Sheila M. Rioux Ph. D. and Paul Bernthal Ph. D., organizations most commonly identify employees as possible succession candidates in the following ways:


  • 94% of organizations consider employees’ career aspirations and wishes when choosing successors. broadbeantwitter-01 

  • 88% of organizations use objective assessment data regarding current performance and readiness/potential to create successor pipelines. broadbeantwitter-01

  • 37% of organizations rely on a computerized system to plan and track progress of the succession management system to identify potential successors. broadbeantwitter-01


With so many possible variables at work in this process, it is best practice to keep your eye out for more than one potential successor for each key business position. Sometimes you’ll have a bounty of potential successors, and sometimes you will find that there isn’t a soul on board who can fill the shoes. That is equally, if not more, important to discover as early as possible so you can create a talent pool for such roles.


Foster Candidates

You’ve got your living profiles and current performance data on all possible successors, now connect the dots or figure out where they don’t connect. If there are gaps in skills, experience or training, these are exactly why it’s called succession planning. Having a strategy grants you the time to fill in all those gaps, and ensure a seamless succession. 

As each role evolves, so should your strategy. Succession planning isn’t going to be an annual review of key roles; it is a living and evolving process. Sound like a lot of work? Like any HR process, if visited regularly and given structure, it becomes a smooth and natural part of the HR machine.

The beauty of this process is that exec buy-in is built in. They have already approved the roles and profiles, and you have the data to support a perfect match every time. Succession planning doesn’t have to be the beast of a process that some shove to the bottom of their HR to-do list. These four simple steps ensure buy-in and a seamless passing of the torch. Plan, don’t panic.

The first part of building a successful succession pipeline is building a successful talent pipeline. Broadbean gives your recruitment team the tools they need to effectively plan your workforce. Tell us what your processes are, and we will provide you with a solution that enables your recruitment team to be more efficient. Register for a demo to see how Broadbean can help you take the next step.

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Topics: Succession Planning , Workforce Planning