What is Succession Planning?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 February 2020
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Succession planning is the process of preparing individuals to eventually take over key roles within the operating structure of an organization. This type of planning can take place in just about any type of organization, including businesses, charities, and religious organizations. Often, succession planning begins with identifying the talents and abilities of individuals who are already part of the organization, and creating ongoing programs that provide the training and experience necessary to groom those individuals for future responsibilities.

The process of succession planning can be employed in organizations of all sizes. For example, a family-owned business may determine that one or more children in the immediate family have demonstrated abilities that would allow them to run the business when the current owners reach retirement age. As the children reach their teenage years, they are brought into the organization in entry level positions, providing them with the opportunity to learn the basics of the business operation. The training progresses through specific courses of study at a university, providing the children with the chance to learn basic business administration processes. After graduation, the children return to the business, and incrementally advance through the organization until they are deemed ready to take over the operation as a whole.


In larger corporations, formal mentoring programs are often the means of grooming existing employees to take over various areas of responsibility at a later date. Hourly employees who demonstrate leadership skills and abilities may be invited to participate in a management training program, with the intent of preparing them to eventually move into key salaried positions within the company. Often, this form of succession planning will be a combination of participating in training programs and also being assigned to managers who continue to school them in the policies and procedures of the business.

One of the key elements that will make succession planning a benefit to the organization is identifying individuals who exhibit the qualities necessary to rise through the ranks of the business. To this end, employees who appear to grasp fundamentals quickly, have the ability to efficiently complete their tasks without a great deal of supervision, and demonstrate a strong work ethic are very likely to be chosen for some type of succession planning program. Employees who may exhibit some skills, but also tend to be somewhat apathetic to the organization and its goals, will likely not be included. For this reason, attitude as well as skill is often very important when selecting individuals for any type of ongoing training program.


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