As an HR manager, you know how crucial it is to prepare employees for leadership roles in your company.
According to DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast from 2021, the top challenge for employers is to develop and retain top talent. Around 55% of leaders state this is their main concern, with the global recession and the difficulties of attracting new talent coming second and third on the list.
This is where succession planning comes into play. An effective succession plan will help you identify and develop future leaders who can take over critical positions when other managers retire or otherwise leave their jobs.
Creating a succession plan is a long-term process, which you should start as early as possible.
One good way to identify the potential leaders of your company is to use TestGorilla’s Leadership and People Management test. Although it’s commonly used as part of a pre-employment assessment, you can still use it to identify employees who can delegate tasks, give advice, provide feedback, plan for the future, and support their colleagues.
This article will explore the succession planning best practices we recommend. It will also introduce you to five software tools you can use and discuss why some succession plans might fail.
But first, let’s look at what succession planning actually means.
Table of contents
- What is succession planning?
- What are the best practices in succession planning?
- Top 5 succession planning tools
- Why do succession plans fail?
- If you don’t have a succession plan, you’re missing out on potential leaders
- ✅ Sign up for a TestGorilla free plan
What is succession planning?
Succession planning is the process of identifying employees with key leadership skills and preparing them to take over management roles within your company. Having a succession plan helps ensure that you have capable individuals in place to take on leadership roles when current managers retire, leave, or step away from their positions for any other reason.
Succession planning can also help you develop future leaders who can provide fresh perspectives for your business and help drive innovation.
The benefits of having a succession plan include:
- Improved communication: Having an open dialogue about who might be promoted and where they’ll fit into the organization makes everyone feel more connected with each other. They are less likely to leave their current position without knowing what’s next for them at work.
- Enables employees to plan ahead: A good succession plan will help your employees feel confident about their future at this stage in their careers and plan ahead. This includes those who may not aspire to take on a leadership role themselves but still want some kind of career progression within the company.
- Enables employers to plan for the future: Finding the right employees for leadership roles will provide you with a plan for when current company leaders retire.
While not as complicated as it may sound, succession planning requires careful planning by the HR department.
As the hiring manager, you should know what skills are valued most within your organization and who best suits a leadership position. Once you identify these people, you need to start training them.
The development process can include training programs, mentorships, and shadowing colleagues currently in leadership roles. Your succession plan will enable hiring managers to promote leaders internally, retaining employees who might otherwise find a similar position elsewhere.
The succession planning process involves determining:
- Critical skills and knowledge
- Company practices
- Important roles within the organization
- Social relations and networks of employees
Team members who check all of these boxes are your ideal candidates for leadership roles. You should groom them to become the next company leaders, paying special attention to their development within the organization.
In addition, your succession plan should:
- Include all levels of leadership, from the board down to frontline supervisors
- Be flexible enough that it can be adapted as the company grows and changes over time
- Emphasize mentorship and training
Now you know what succession planning is and what it should include, we can go over some of the best practices for creating your own plan.
What are the best practices in succession planning?
As mentioned, creating a succession program requires careful planning. You need to consider several important factors.
When creating your succession plan, you need to think of both the short and long-term future.
You can start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do any of our current leaders plan to retire or leave the company soon?
- Do you have the right people to take over those leadership positions?
- Who will best fit in those roles and do they possess the right skills and knowledge?
- Do they need additional training?
Answering these questions will give you an idea of what you have to work with. If no one in a leadership position is leaving imminently, you have time to map out your succession plan and start training employees for the future.
If someone is retiring soon and you have no one to replace them, you may have to source a candidate from outside your company or create a crash course for an employee who might fill the position.
That is why understanding what is happening within your company is an essential part of building a solid succession plan.
Identify high-potential employees and mentor them
Your next step is to identify your most qualified employees and the ideal candidates for a leadership position. Such a person will possess leadership qualities, such as:
- Excellent communication
- The ability to delegate tasks
- The ability to listen, offer advice, and give feedback
- Willingness to take on responsibility
- Capacity to work under pressure with tight deadlines
You can test people on these qualities and skills with TestGorilla’s assessment methods.
Once you pinpoint who might be an ideal candidate, you can start mentoring them or put them on a special training course to further develop their skills in preparation for their future leadership role.
Align the development of current employees with future company needs
Creating a plan and identifying potential leaders within your company will enable you to align the development of your employees with the company’s needs.
For example, your company may be opening a new office in the next 12 months, which will require a new manager. In that case, you can choose who will be taking on that role and prepare them by starting their training early on.
Finally, when building your succession planning program, you should opt for internal succession ahead of finding people from outside the organization.
This approach will help significantly with employee retention. But more importantly, since those who succeed internally already know your company, they are better equipped to lead than someone who will have to familiarize themselves with company values and learn new procedures.
In addition, it’s generally cheaper to train internal employees than to source new leaders that you need to recruit and onboard. And if you’ve invested in preparing high-valued employees for a leadership position for some time, you don’t need to worry about adding another task to your to-do list.
Top 5 succession planning tools
Now you understand what succession planning is and know some of its best practices, we can explore the recommended tools to make your plan easier to manage.
Succession planning software tools will help you to focus on developing skills and knowledge, tracking progress, and using data to understand more about your employees.
The five planning tools we have compiled have been chosen based on their:
- User interface: These tools have easy-to-understand visuals that enable you to see how different employees score on their skills and development targets.
- Usability: We have prioritized user-friendly tools to avoid you wasting time and resources getting to grips with the software.
- Integrations: These tools can integrate flawlessly with other HR software, streamlining the whole process.
- ROI: The pricing on most of these tools is flexible, depending on what modules you use – and there are no fixed costs, boosting your return on investment (ROI).
While not strictly a succession planning tool, TestGorilla can help you manage succession planning by enabling you to:
- Objectively assess employees’ skills. You can identify employees with the potential to become your company’s next generation of leaders. TestGorilla’s assessments will objectively evaluate employees’ skills, and you can use this data to create a succession plan.
- Follow employees’ progression in terms of skills. Continuously testing and evaluating employees will show you how their skills and knowledge develop. With this information, you can assess who is most suited for a future leadership role.
- Gain a clear overview of talent gaps and opportunities at the company level. You can assess any skills that may be lacking and create training programs that help your employees develop those abilities. You may also want to do a more detailed skills-gap analysis for a better overview of your current talent pool.
SAP SuccessFactors will help you identify, develop, and retain your high-value employees. This software includes tools such as:
- Organizational charts: You can quickly see key indicators, such as the risk of loss and talent gaps.
- Coaching and mentoring: This helps you plan and provide ongoing career development.
- Talent search: You can identify hidden talent with a company-wide search for critical skills and talents.
In addition, the analytics tools will help you make objective decisions based on accurate data.
Cornerstone’s Learning and Development (LMS) tool enables you to create personalized virtual or in-person training that is flexible depending on your needs. Their analytics tools will give you real-time insights into employees’ performances.
The platform has a unified interface where you can assign tasks, track progress, and identify skills gaps. In addition, the app facilitates learning anywhere, anytime – even on your phone.
PerformYard is a performance management software that is ideal for annual reviews, quarterly goals, and providing continuous feedback.
This platform can support succession planning by identifying high-valued employees and streamlining their learning process. The software is customizable and is useful for 360-degree reviews, which can facilitate conversations between you and your employees.
This tool will help you understand your employees’ needs when it comes to learning and development. You can create a personalized program for their individual needs that is aligned with your company goals and your succession plan.
PeopleFluent’s succession planning software can help you find new leaders or upskill current employees to fill in those roles in the future. This platform is used by small and large enterprises, aiding in identifying and developing talent.
You can use the tool to create a fact-driven succession plan using data and analytics to understand your internal candidate pipeline.
Why do succession plans fail?
On a final note, succession plans don’t always work out. Despite your efforts, you might not have the right people to fill in critical leadership positions. The failure of a succession plan might be down to:
- Not starting early enough
- Not paying attention to your employees and their possibilities
- Not creating a plan as a reference guide
In order to avoid such a scenario, you should follow the steps outlined in this article. With the help of succession planning tools, this should enable you to create a solid succession plan that is built to last.
If you don’t have a succession plan, you’re missing out on potential leaders
You need to be prepared for the future by preparing employees to step up into new roles or take over leadership positions as soon as they become available. This will ensure that no matter what happens in life (or business), there’s always someone ready with experience under their belt who can lead others through it all.
Succession planning tools will help you better organize this process and prepare you for the future.
- 1. DDI. “Global Leadership Forecast 2021”. Retrieved February 6, 2023: https://www.ddiworld.com/global-leadership-forecast-2021