How To Create A Succession Plan

Updated March 2020
4 Minute Read

We have a critical question for you: Do you have someone to replace key employees if they suddenly left? Many companies have good intentions of developing people for key roles, but aren’t ready if a key employee left tomorrow. That creates a big problem. When we have discussions with our partners, we’re often asked that magical question: How do we create a succession plan? And how do we do it effectively?
Finding the right person to fill key roles is one of the greatest challenges of leaders. Firstly, it’s important to note: a replacement plan is not the same as a succession plan. It takes time to create individual plans, to develop people, and to give them the experience and mentoring they need to be successful.

…a replacement plan is not the same as a succession plan…



Succession planning is the act of identifying and developing candidates for key positions within your company. And it’s a vitally important responsibility of every manager, leader, and board member. The crazy truth is this: Leaders know it’s important, and it may even keep them up at night, but very few do much about it. Is it for lack of time? Is it because you have higher priorities? Or is it because you don’t really know how to create a succession plan? With the future of your organization at stake, you must make this a priority. And you must also ensure that every manager and leader knows two things:
  • Succession planning is a part of management responsibilities.
  • How to create a succession plan – how to actually do it.


Here are a few steps to help you get started…
If you want to create a solid succession plan, it starts with looking to the future.
Think about what the company (or your department) will need in the future to remain competitive and accomplish the strategic goals. If your company does not have a strategic plan, think about what’s going on in your industry and the growth trend of your company.
Decide what factors will be critical moving forward.
This is the time to update existing job descriptions and create new ones for new roles. Dive deep and identify the critical skills, knowledge, and experiences that are necessary to move the company forward. Create or update job descriptions to reflect this information. We don’t mean that you need to just replace who you have. You need to look at what skills might be needed for those positions to be successful in the future.
Get organized and start your plan.
Draw your current organization chart including the names of the individuals who currently fill each position. Begin by drawing it the way it makes sense to you. After that, draw your organization chart how you imagine it will look two years from now. Identify who is ready to fill positions if key employees were to leave. Make sure you’ve got a couple of options for each key role in the event someone you’re considering leaves the company.
Talk to your employees about their future.
This is one of the most important steps if you want to create a succession plan. Be sure to meet with every employee. Find out if employees are interested in advancing into different roles, and assess them to determine if they have the skills necessary to be successful. Discuss their strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. And don’t just look in your own department. It’s important to work with leaders across the company to find out the capabilities and interest levels of others.
Now it’s time to create career paths.
For each employee, you’ll need an Individual Development Plan. This plan identifies what skills, knowledge, and experiences the person needs, how the person will obtain them, and target dates to prepare for their next role. Focus on the next potential position options; those within the next couple of years. Meet with each individual once more to discuss the plan. Talk about how employees can take ownership of the future. When people ask us how to create a succession plan, one of the most important things we discuss is that it’s not a plan if it’s only in your head. In order to create a succession plan that will move the company forward, others in your organization need to know about it. If something were to happen to you, you want to make sure that the plan continues. In addition, as opportunities arise in other parts of the company, other leaders may have information that will help your employees gain experiences and obtain knowledge that you’re not aware of.

When people ask us how to create a succession plan, one of the most important things we discuss is that it’s not a plan if it’s only in your head.



Succession planning takes time, but don’t put it off. Set a goal that includes target dates and work through each step. Soon enough, you’ll have a plan created and your employees will feel better because they can see that you are planning for their future. Helping employees see their future is just one way to retain your top talent.



For more in-depth information to create a succession plan, download our Step-by-Step Guide for Succession Planning. Get My Free Guide



A replacement plan is not the same as a succession plan. Click To Tweet When people ask us how to create a succession plan, one of the most important things we discuss is that it’s not a plan if it’s only in your head. Click To Tweet