Organizational Wellness

Simple 12-Step Succession Management Plan

Feb 27, 2024
Last Updated May 13, 2024

Imagine your organization as a relay race team. In this sport, success hinges not just on the speed of the current runners but on the seamless handoff of the baton to the next set of runners. 

This is the essence of succession management – a strategic process crucial for any organization aiming to maintain its pace and direction, regardless of the inevitable changes in its leadership lineup.

Succession management ensures that when the time comes for a leadership change, your organization isn't left scrambling to find someone to take the baton. Instead this proactive approach prepares future leaders today for the critical roles they'll assume tomorrow. It's about creating a roadmap for continuity that translates into sustained success and resilience. 

Let's dive into the multifaceted benefits of succession management — from fortifying your workforce to bolstering your business's strategic edge— and explore how to implement a robust succession management program that aligns with your organization's vision for the future.


What is Succession Management?

Succession management is the  strategic process of identifying and preparing future leaders to take on important roles within an organization. 

This is crucial for ensuring the continuity of leadership and maintaining the organization's ability to meet its goals and objectives. It helps ensure you stay on-track with current and future organizational goals by transferring knowledge between generations of employees. 

The Benefits of Succession Management

Everyone at an organization benefits from proper succession planning. Here’s why. 

Benefits for the Workforce

By planning for leadership changes, companies can proactively identify areas where they need to enhance employee skills and knowledge or develop new areas of expertise. This creates new opportunities for current and new employees interested in expanding their skillset or trying new leadership projects.

Planning head also provides employees with more career paths and a better understanding of their organizational potential. It encourages them to take ownership of their career development and provides the training they need to succeed in leadership roles.

Benefits for Human Resources

Succession management empowers People teams to anticipate future workforce needs and identify high-potential individuals who can be trained for leadership positions. It also provides a framework for career planning and employee development.

There are advantages for the department’s operational efficiency, too. By developing a talent pool of potential successors, HR teams are better equipped to fill vacancies quickly, minimize recruitment costs, and prevent potential leadership skill gaps. 

Benefits for the Business

Leadership is critical for an organization’s success, and succession management helps ensure a smooth leadership transition when key personnel leave or retire. By looking long-term, succession planning gives your company a road map to follow that will let them prepare future leaders. Then, when the time comes, an organization can fill critical positions quickly and seamlessly. This minimizes disruption to operations and preserves business continuity. 

How to Run a Succession Management Program

Step 1: Define Your Goals and Objectives

Defining your goals and objectives is the foundation of an effective succession management program. It involves establishing clear, strategic aims that guide the entire process. This helps the process align with both the organization's long-term vision and its immediate needs.

How to Activate This Step: 

  • Conduct workshops with senior leaders to align on objectives, ensuring that the succession management program supports broader organizational goals and addresses critical leadership needs.
  • Document and communicate these goals across the organization to ensure buy-in from all levels. Clear communication helps in building a cohesive approach to succession planning, engaging stakeholders, and setting clear expectations for the program's outcomes.

Step 2: Identify Key Positions and Skills

Determine which positions are critical to the organization's success and identify the skills and competencies required for these roles. This helps ensure the program focuses on areas of greatest impact for the company.

How to Activate This Step: 

  • Use job analysis techniques to pinpoint essential roles and the skills they require. 
  • Engage with current role holders and department heads to understand the nuances of each critical position.

Step 3: Identify Potential Successors

Before assuming you will have to hire somebody external to fulfill your leadership needs, you can look internally. You can use a variety of tools like performance assessments to identify employees with the potential to assume key roles in the future. If no future leaders emerge, you can use that information to shape future hiring decisions, prioritizing positions with skill sets that are well-suited to bringing a future leader onboard.

How to Activate This Step: 

  • Review a combination of performance assessments, potential evaluations, and career planning discussions, or implement these if your company does not already have such processes in place. 
  • Use 360-degree feedback to gather comprehensive insights into each candidate’s capabilities and development areas.

Step 4: Develop Individualized Development Plans

Crafting personalized development plans helps prepare your future leaders with precision and purpose. This step transforms succession planning from a conceptual strategy into actionable paths tailored to each potential leader's unique strengths.

How to Activate This Step: 

  • Identify what each future leader needs to grow that the company can provide, such as mentoring, cross-functional projects, and targeted training. 
  • Schedule regular check-ins to discuss progress and adjust the plan as needed. These discussions provide an opportunity to reflect on the successor's growth and tackle any challenges head-on.

Step 5: Implement Talent Development Initiatives

This phase is where the rubber meets the road. By now, potential leaders have been identified, and it's time to kickstart their growth journey. Talent development initiatives are the building blocks for preparing them, equipping them with the necessary skills and experiences to thrive in their prospective roles.

How to Activate This Step: 

  • Enroll employees in leadership development programs tailored to enhance their strategic thinking, decision-making, and leadership skills. 
  • Assign them to lead high-impact projects that align with their development goals and the organization's strategic objectives. 
  • Facilitate mentoring relationships with senior leaders within the organization. These relationships can offer guidance, advice, and support as potential successors navigate their leadership journey, fostering a culture of learning and growth.

Step 6: Monitor Progress and Update Plans

This helps you ensure all the work you’ve done is having an impact. Monitoring progress involves tracking the development of potential successors against their individualized development plans, ensuring they acquire the necessary skills and experiences. Updating plans is about making necessary adjustments to keep the succession process aligned with evolving organizational goals and individual growth needs.

How to Activate This Step: 

  • Use performance management systems to track activity against your pre-established goals. 
  • Hold semi-annual reviews to assess development and make adjustments to the plan where necessary.

Step 7: Foster a Culture of Talent Development

Cultivating a culture that prioritizes talent development is essential for nurturing the future leaders of your organization. This environment encourages continuous learning, growth, and prepares your workforce for the challenges ahead. By valuing development, you create a pipeline of talent ready to step into leadership roles as they arise, feeding your future succession needs.

How to Activate This Step: 

  • Establish a recognition system that celebrates both small and significant learning and development milestones. 
  • Share inspirational success stories of internal career progression during company-wide meetings, on internal communication platforms, or through company newsletters. 

Step 8: Communicate Transparently

Transparent communication keeps employees informed about the succession planning process, its benefits, and how it impacts them. This openness helps your succession management be seen as a positive and inclusive initiative, fostering a supportive environment for future leaders to emerge and develop.

How to Activate This Step: 

  • Develop a comprehensive communication plan that clearly outlines how and when information related to succession planning will be disseminated. It  can include regular updates and opportunities for feedback.
  • Prepare and distribute FAQs to address common questions and concerns about the succession management process. Making these FAQs available on the company intranet or via internal newsletters can help demystify the process. This helps reassure employees about the organization's commitment to their development and the company's future stability.

Step 9: Plan for Transition

A well-executed transition plan is essential for ensuring the smooth transfer of leadership roles within an organization. Creating a written, detailed roadmap for transitioning identified successors into their new roles can give everyone clarity during an otherwise uncertain time.

How to Activate This Step: 

  • Develop transition plans for each critical role that include comprehensive timelines and milestones for the transition period. This should outline all the necessary steps from the initial announcement to the full assumption of responsibilities.
  • Organize knowledge transfer sessions where outgoing leaders can share critical insights, experiences, and advice with their successors. These sessions can range from formal meetings to informal discussions, aiming to pass on invaluable organizational knowledge and wisdom.
  • Establish support mechanisms for new role incumbents, such as assigning a transition mentor or advisor who can provide guidance during the initial months. This support is crucial for addressing any challenges that arise and ensuring the successor feels fully integrated into their new position.

Step 10: Oversee the Leadership Transition

Ensuring a smooth handover from one leader to another is critical for maintaining momentum and avoiding disruptions. This stage focuses on the practical aspects of transitioning, making sure that the successor is fully prepared to take on their new role with confidence and support.

How to Activate This Step: 

  • Design a transition timeline that outlines key milestones from announcement to full role assumption.
  • Organize transition meetings where the outgoing leader can share insights and advice with their successor.
  • Set up a formal mentorship or advisory period where the predecessor is available to guide the successor through the initial phase.

Step 11: Review Your Process

You did it! You oversaw the transition from one leader to another. Now is a great time to take a hard look at how the process went, identifying what went well and what can be smoother next time. 

How to Activate This Step: 

  • Gather feedback from the new leader, their team, and other employees affected by the transition. Use surveys or one-on-one interviews to collect a range of perspectives.
  • Analyze the data collected to understand the effectiveness of the transition plan, communication strategies, and development initiatives. Look for patterns or specific feedback that indicates where changes are needed.
  • Document the lessons learned and incorporate these insights into the succession planning process for future use. This could involve updating protocols, introducing new development tools, or refining communication plans.

Step 12: Optimize Over Time

Continuously refining your succession management program allows you to improve performance over time. This lets you build a robust leadership pipeline that’s responsive to changing organizational dynamics.

How to Activate This Step: 

  • Integrate lessons learned from each succession into the planning process, systematically documenting changes and their impacts for future reference. This iterative learning approach allows you to fine-tune your strategies based on real-world outcomes and feedback.
  • Regularly update the skills and competencies matrix for key roles to reflect evolving organizational needs and industry trends. This ensures that your succession plans are always aligned with current requirements and future directions, maintaining the relevance and effectiveness of your leadership development efforts.

Future-Proof Your Leadership Team with Wellness

Retention is the secret sauce of a seamless succession management plan — pulling from your internal talent pool helps smooth the transition and shows employees there’s room to grow at your company. 

Employee wellness is a critical part of keeping the talent that powers your succession plan! An eye-opening 87% of workers are ready to walk away from an organization that doesn’t care about employee wellbeing. But offering a wellbeing program can increase retention — Wellhub clients see turnover rates up to 40% lower than non-clients.

Speak with a Wellbeing Specialist today for help launching a wellbeing program can stabilize your talent pool!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!


Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


Our weekly newsletter is your source of education and inspiration to help you create a corporate wellness program that actually matters.

By subscribing you agree Wellhub may use the information to contact you regarding relevant products and services. Questions? See our Privacy Policy.