Succession planning

Skill level: Advanced


Succession planning is a process used to prepare for future staffing needs through identification of critical roles and the focused development of employees who can potentially fill those roles. While it is not recommended that you make promises to individuals regarding promotions or future positions, the information from your succession plan should be used as part of talent management so that you provide appropriate development opportunities for targeted individuals.


  • Your organization is better prepared and can move more quickly should a key role become open, either through attrition or internal job moves
  • You can begin to develop needed skills in the identified individuals so they are better prepared for future opportunities
  • Any gaps are identified early so that you can take action to address them (for example, through more strategic hiring decisions or development programs)

How to Use

  • Step 1.  Determine the key roles that require a succession plan. Start with your organization’s goals and objectives. Are there critical roles or skill sets that will be required to achieve your objectives? Don’t limit yourself to management positions but also consider individual contributor roles that are key to delivering on your customer service objectives. For example, if the role of patient care coordinator is critical to your operation, but you only have one person with that skill set, then this role requires a succession plan.
  • Step 2.  Identify the competencies required for each role and potential succession candidates in your organization. Where possible, try to identify pools of candidates rather than only one or two individuals. However, it is useful to do an analysis of the required competencies for each individual in your organization. A training/competency matrix can be a useful tool for doing this and will help you identify potential candidates as well as where you have gaps.
  • Step 3.  Using your analysis from step two, identify: 1) individuals who already have the skills to step into the targeted positions, 2) individuals who need targeted development to take on the roles, and 3) roles where you have no viable potential candidates.
  • Step 4.  Use the information from step 3 in performance and development planning. For example, individuals who already have the skills could be given assignments that demonstrate their abilities for the targeted positions. Individuals who need development could be given training and stretch assignments to better prepare them for the possibility of a future role. For roles where you found no viable candidates, start developing them now or consider the needed skills when you make hiring decisions.
  • Step 5.  Monitor your progress on an ongoing basis and adjust your plans as needed.

Relevant Definitions

Training/competency matrix: A tool used for determining development needs by listing roles, the required competencies for the roles, and the current skill level of each individual.




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