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Succession Planning Best Practices

By Bonnie Snyder, M.Ed.

In our May/June Lighthouse Report, we defined Succession Planning as an ongoing system to prepare high potential candidates through:

-    mentoring

-    training, and

-    job rotation

to ensure continuity of critical positions. When succession planning is successful, you have the right people in the right place at the right time.

As an organizational leader, you know that talent continuity helps you become and remain more competitive in the marketplace. To facilitate your success with this important initiative, we have summarized six key succession planning best practices.

  1. The President/CEO has to own and lead the process and be accountable for the results. Without involvement at this level, succession planning will become just another HR initiative that may or may not get done.

  2. Succession planning must also be a core business activity that is linked to the business strategy and updated if/when the strategy changes.

  3. Succession planning must be based on ongoing position, competency, and talent assessment.

  4. A broad set of experiences and assignments is the best classroom and is more effective than training alone. Although job/position experiences create the best developmental opportunities, you must balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the organization.

  5. In a multi-level approach to succession planning, all critical positions, whether management or technical are considered viable for succession planning. Consider including key positions that would be most vulnerable should the incumbent leave the business; positions that require scarce skills and/or knowledge, and leadership of mission critical initiatives.

  6. When high potential candidates are informed they are being developed for a critical position, engagement and retention is maximized.

Remember: It’s a journey, not a destination. Proceed slowly, keep the scope small to start, assess the process frequently, and tweak it as needed. Your reward will be a seamless transition when candidates who have been mentored and developed are chosen to fill critical positions. Your organization will be able to continue marching down the field towards your strategic goals without missing a beat!

Resource: Conley, Terence; Harkins, Phil; and Socol, Mark R., Best Practices for Succession Planning, Lexington, MA, Pfeiffer, 2007.

Bonnie Snyder


Bonnie Snyder is a Senior Consultant with Strategic Workplace Solutions, LLC. She helps larger organizations successfully plan and implement organizational change initiatives.


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