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5 Best Practices for Effective Succession Planning

Succession planning is increasingly becoming a critical need in organisations. Effective succession means putting a strategic talent plan in place that mitigates future risk and ensures business continuity. 

However, in order to get succession planning going, it’s important to implement clear processes and tool sets, alongside buy-in from all stakeholders involved. The role of HR is to direct the strategic elements of succession planning and put a structured methodology in place. But where to start?

Defining Succession Planning in your Company

Succession planning is an integrated and systematic process where high potential employees are identified, developed and retained in order to progress the current and future goals of the organisation.

Effective succession planning creates both stability and sustainability in the business. We’ve identified five best practices that can help you get started on your succession strategy.  

1. Draft a Succession Plan in Advance

Establishing succession planning is not an easy task, especially when it comes to entrenching a new process within an organisation. Having an initial plan in place should essentially be the first task. The plan should outline the following: 

  1. The goals and objectives of the organisation.

  2. The goals for implementing succession planning.

  3. The scope of the project (it’s best to start small and build up from there).

  4. Guidelines as to how high potential employees will be identified.

  5. Guidelines to ensure a fair process.

  6. Timelines against which the process should start and end.

The succession plan should be shared and signed off by all potential stakeholders to ensure that everyone involved understands and follows the same process. Of course, this plan is not set in stone and can be updated over time as the scope of the project expands. 

2. Identify Succession Roles that are Required

Once you understand your succession goals, the next step is to identify the critical roles in your organisation that will be the focus of succession planning. For example, in an Accounting firm, a Chartered Accountant role may be critical to the businesses stability and ability to execute on projects. In another company, the critical roles may be senior leadership positions. 

Questions that can Help Identify Critical Roles:

  • What is the day-to-day impact of role X on our company or department? Consider short, medium and long-term.

  • If the person currently in role X left, how would that affect our operations?

  • Are there some big risks if this position became vacant? What are they?

  • Does this role require scarce experience, skills or knowledge?

Once you’ve identified the critical roles you’d like to focus on first, these can be added to your succession plan. 

3. Identify Possible Successors in your Organisation

The next step is to identify high potential employees who could potentially fulfil these critical roles in future. There are numerous ways to do this. At Lumenii, we follow a comprehensive approach that includes both objective insights (e.g., psychometric measures) and qualitative perspectives (e.g., management feedback). Our step-by-step process includes:

  • Understanding performance in the current role

  • Objectively measuring potential and Agility against the requirements of the critical roles

  • Gathering qualitative insights within a structured framework

360-degree feedback is one of the most effective and scientific methods of understanding performance. 360-degree results provide the organisation with an overview of an employee’s competency-based performance from multiple perspectives. Integrating a measurement of competency potential builds on 360 performance to provide insight into any future roles that are geared towards the progression of the business.

Assessing Learning Agility is equally important to identify employees for succession planning. Employees’ ability to adapt behaviour to new experiences is an important aspect to determining who is best equipped to excel in any future positions within the company. Learning Agility can be viewed as the foundation to succession planning; research shows it is the strongest predictor of leadership success and is increasingly becoming a leadership requirement.

Various HR managers and recruiters attending an HR seminar in South Africa

4. Gather and Integrate Insights from all Involved

Lumenii's Develop report combines the results from 360-degree competency performance reviews with competency potential and Learning Agility to provide an overall view of employee performance and potential, as well as their future fit within the organisation. 

As succession planning usually pertains to more than one individual the data used should be compatible and consistent. Stakeholders are able to identify high performers and employees with the potential to perform.  The data from these reports can then be used to place employees in a 9-box matrix, easily identifying the current and future stars of the organisation.

Once possible successors have been identified, their development gaps should be reviewed and integrated into their personal development plan.

5: Continued Commitment to your Employees

In order for succession planning to be successful within the organisation, there needs to be commitment from leadership, HR and employees to ensure that the process is followed through.

  • Buy-in from employees requires them to commit to developing gaps in their performance and potential by creating, tracking and following through with development plans, together with their line manager.

  • The team that runs the process need to commit to ensuring that the succession plan is adhered to and updated over time, in order to enforce the seriousness of the goals and objectives that the organisation is attempting to achieve. They are the driving force behind the process and maintaining a fair, structured methodology.

  • Commitment from line managers and leadership is also important in ensuring that succession planning is championed, entrenched and followed through.

Identifying high potentials in the organisation is the key to effective succession planning. Having the right people in the right roles, with an ongoing future perspective, not only increases employee performance and engagement, but also helps to meet the objectives and goals of the organisation.


Jaintheran Naidoo

Jaintheran Naidoo is a registered industrial/ organisational psychologist with over 15 years of experience within the IO space.


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