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10 Tips for Implementing a Successful Succession Plan

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A well-executed succession plan is crucial for any organization’s long-term success. It ensures the smooth transition of leadership positions and minimizes disruption during periods of change. A successful succession plan requires careful planning, strategic thinking, and proactive measures. 

What is Succession Planning?

Succession planning is a strategic process designed to identify and develop individuals within an organization who have the potential to fill key leadership positions in the future. It involves identifying critical roles, assessing current and potential talent, and implementing strategies to ensure a smooth transition when a key leader departs or retires. Succession planning aims to mitigate the risks associated with leadership gaps, maintain organizational stability, and sustain long-term success.

This blog post will discuss ten tips to help you implement an effective succession plan that prepares your organization for the future.

1. Start Early and Be Proactive

Implementing a successful succession plan starts with being proactive and starting early. Waiting until a key leader announces their retirement or departure may leave you scrambling to find a suitable replacement. Identify potential successors and begin grooming them for leadership roles well in advance. This allows sufficient time for training, mentorship, and skill development.

Consider creating a talent pool or leadership development program to identify and nurture high-potential employees. Encourage ongoing learning and provide opportunities for aspiring leaders to gain experience and broaden their skill sets. By taking a proactive approach, you’ll have a pool of capable individuals ready to step into key roles when needed.

2. Identify Key Positions and Succession Candidates

Identifying key positions within your organization is crucial for effective succession planning. These positions often significantly impact the organization’s strategic goals and day-to-day operations. Evaluate each role and determine which ones are critical to maintaining business continuity and achieving long-term objectives.

Once you’ve identified key positions, assess potential successors for each role. Look for individuals with the necessary skills, experience, and alignment with your organization’s values. Consider their track record, performance reviews, and leadership potential. Engage in open and transparent discussions with potential successors to gauge their interests and aspirations.

3. Develop a Leadership Competency Framework

A leadership competency framework outlines the skills, knowledge, and attributes required to succeed in your organization’s leadership roles. Developing such a framework helps you define the qualities you seek in potential successors and establish a consistent benchmark for evaluating candidates.

Collaborate with key stakeholders, including current leaders, to identify the core competencies necessary for different leadership positions. These may include skills such as strategic thinking, communication, decision-making, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. Use the competency framework to guide your recruitment, training, and development efforts to ensure alignment with your succession plan.

4. Foster a Culture of Learning and Development

A culture of learning and development is essential for nurturing future leaders within your organization. Create opportunities for continuous growth by offering training programs, coaching, and mentoring initiatives. Encourage employees to pursue professional development and provide resources to support their learning journeys.

Establish cross-functional projects or job rotations that expose potential successors to different areas of your organization. This helps broaden their perspectives, expand their skill sets, and develop a holistic understanding of the business. Encourage feedback and create a safe environment for learning from successes and failures.

5. Succession Planning Should Be Part of Performance Management

Integrate succession planning into your organization’s performance management process. Performance evaluations should assess current job performance and consider an employee’s potential for future roles. Identify high-performing individuals with leadership potential and align their development plans with the organization’s succession goals.

Regularly review and update individual development plans to ensure they align with evolving business needs and the industry’s changing landscape. Provide constructive feedback and mentorship to help employees overcome skill gaps and prepare them for future leadership roles.

6. Establish Mentoring and Coaching Programs

Mentoring and coaching programs are invaluable for grooming potential successors and developing their leadership capabilities. Pair up emerging leaders with experienced mentors who can provide guidance, share their wisdom, and help navigate the challenges of leadership roles.

Mentoring relationships should be built on trust, open communication, and a commitment to professional growth. Encourage mentors to provide feedback, challenge their mentees, and share their experiences. Additionally, consider offering coaching programs focusing on specific leadership skills or competencies to enhance your potential successors’ development further.

7. Communicate the Importance of Succession Planning

Successfully implementing a succession plan requires the support and buy-in of key stakeholders, including executives, managers, and employees. Communicate the importance of succession planning and how it aligns with the organization’s long-term goals and sustainability.

Regularly communicate updates on the succession planning process, key milestones, and success stories to create awareness and generate enthusiasm. Emphasize that succession planning is about filling vacancies and building a strong leadership pipeline and ensuring organizational stability.

8. Conduct Regular Talent Reviews

Talent reviews are a critical component of a successful succession planning strategy. Regularly assess employees’ performance, potential, and readiness throughout the organization. Talent reviews provide valuable insights into potential successors’ strengths, development areas, and aspirations.

During talent reviews, engage in objective discussions to evaluate individuals against the leadership competency framework. Identify any skill gaps and develop targeted development plans to address them. Talent reviews also enable you to identify high-potential employees who may be suitable for future leadership roles, even if they are not currently in the succession pipeline.

9. Test Succession Plans through Simulations and Succession Drills

To ensure the effectiveness of your succession plans, it’s essential to test them through simulations and succession drills. These exercises simulate scenarios where key leaders unexpectedly leave the organization, allowing you to assess the readiness of potential successors and identify any gaps in the plan.

Conduct succession drills that require potential successors to step into leadership roles temporarily. This provides them with hands-on experience and helps identify areas where additional training or support may be needed. Regularly review and refine your succession plans based on the insights gained from these simulations and drills.

10. Monitor and Adjust the Succession Plan

Implementing a succession plan is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and adjustment. Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your succession plan by measuring key metrics such as the number of successful transitions, employee satisfaction, and the retention of top talent.

Pay attention to feedback from key stakeholders and make adjustments as needed. As your organization evolves, the leadership needs may change, requiring you to revise your succession plan accordingly. Stay agile and adaptable to ensure your succession plan remains relevant and effective in a dynamic business environment.


By implementing these tips, you create a culture that values leadership development, nurtures talent, and prepares the organization for a seamless transition when key leaders step down. A successful succession plan not only safeguards the continuity of operations but also fosters a sense of stability and confidence among employees, stakeholders, and customers. As you implement your succession plan, remember that it’s a long-term process that requires commitment, adaptability, and continuous improvement. Remember that each organization is unique, and you may need to tailor these tips to suit your specific context and needs.


Partner With Burchard & Associates for Your Succession Planning

If you need top talent who you can mentor and prepare for leadership roles at your organization, partner with the recruiting experts at Burchard & Associates. We help employers in the St. Louis area find high-quality accounting and finance professionals for their open positions. Contact us today to learn how we can help with your recruiting and succession planning efforts.

Burchard & Associates provides a personal approach to accounting and tax recruitment for St. Louis and beyond. We are ready to listen to YOU.

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