Business Succession Planning

5 Steps to Start Your Business Succession Planning Process

While continued learning and development are critical to an organization’s success, it’s important to have a succession planning process in place to keep talent in your pipeline and ensure seamless movement of talent within your organization. Many companies focus on teaching their employees how to be the best versions of themselves at work, but they are unprepared for the unexpected loss of these employees. Succession planning is what helps your business continue to run smoothly when you have unexpected departures.

If you’re sold on the benefits of business succession planning, but you’re unsure of where to start, go through these 5 steps first to ensure your efforts are successful:

#1 – Document key processes and procedures

Your employees are not fixed assets—yourself included!

Create manuals for all positions in addition to the training manuals that you should already have. Proper documentation of the processes and procedures for every role ensures a smooth transition when someone new takes over the position. It is critical that companies do this not only for executives but for all employees, as every role will eventually need backfilling.

Process documentation ensures operational consistency and efficiency when employees change roles and allows new hires to more easily begin the tasks required by their new positions. It also helps to preserve key knowledge should a crucial employee have to leave or change roles.

#2 – Assess your professional development programs

If you do not have any professional development programs in place, now is the time to develop and/or improve upon them. Give access to your employees to cross-train and gain additional knowledge, skills, and experience. Provide them with mentors to assist them with further developing their skillsets.

By spending time improving on your employees and their professional development, you are giving your employees a reason to stay engaged and continue investing in your organization, thus increasing retention. This helps them to identify strengths they might not have known they had, thus lighting an interest in other positions that may open up in the future. Strengthening your talent pipeline will make your succession planning efforts more simple and effect. You will be able to retain your employees and easily move them around your organization to best fit their goals and career paths in the long-run.

#3 – Determine technology needs for business succession planning

Spreadsheets and sticky notes can get messy and easily misplaced. A digitized succession planning process enables you to keep all pertinent information about your talent in one place. In addition to streamlining the process, technology enables you to retain a history of each employee’s productivity levels, career history, competencies, and capabilities. With this, it is easier to determine who your potential successors will be. A digitized process also makes it easier to share the succession planning process between other members of your HR and leadership team.

#4 – Evaluate your existing talent

Determine which employees are high-performers, which have skill gaps, and which are happy staying in their positions. While the next person in line on the organizational chart may be the obvious successor, do not disregard other potential employees. Regardless of an employee’s position, it is imperative that you focus on searching for the employee who displays both the necessary skills and the desire to excel in a higher position. While some might appear to be the perfect candidate for a higher position, they may not even be interested in the idea. That said, it is important that you have discussions with your employees regarding their career goals and interest in progression within the company. After you have identified and grouped these individuals, you will be prepared to create a succession plan that aligns with these individuals’ goals.

#5 – Get your leadership team on board

To motivate your leadership team to implement succession planning efforts, it is important to hold them accountable for playing an active role in developing the successors. Human connection will always be vital to an organization’s success, so it is imperative that leaders facilitate the succession process by establishing a connection with potential successors.

To retain your employees, leaders must be open, honest, and truly care about their employees’ goals and successes. They need to be willing to mentor employees and understand that they are also responsible for the future success of the organization.


It’s difficult to sustain a long-term competitive advantage without an effective succession plan.  Fortunately, you can avoid most of the challenges associated with succession planning if you keep these steps in mind before you begin finding and developing your next generation of leaders.