Preparing for the Future: Succession Planning Guide in Times of Change

In today’s dynamic business landscape, where change is the only constant, organisations must be equipped not only to weather the storm but also to thrive in uncertainty. Succession planning, a cornerstone of effective talent management, has emerged as a strategic imperative to ensure the seamless transition of leadership and critical roles.

Let’s delve into the intricacies of this vital practice.

What Is Succession Planning?

Succession planning is the deliberate and systematic process of identifying, nurturing, and developing internal talent to fill essential leadership and critical positions within an organisation.

It goes beyond mere replacement planning and is geared towards building a pool of capable individuals who can step into pivotal roles, whether due to planned departures or unexpected circumstances.

4 Objectives of Succession Planning

The objectives of succession planning are multi-faceted, extending beyond just filling vacancies. They include: 

  • Mitigating Risk: By having a pool of well-prepared successors, organisations can minimise disruption during leadership changes, reducing the potential negative impact on performance and productivity. 
  • Developing Talent: Succession planning fosters a culture of continuous learning and development, motivating employees to enhance their skills and competencies, thereby boosting organisational capability. 
  • Driving Growth: By proactively identifying and nurturing high-potential employees, succession planning ensures a pipeline of skilled leaders who can drive innovation and business growth. 
  • Enhancing Engagement: The knowledge that opportunities for advancement exist within the organisation enhances employee engagement and commitment, leading to increased retention rates. 

Benefits of Succession Planning in Times of Change

In times of change, the relevance of succession planning becomes even more pronounced as it serves as a beacon of stability and resilience for organisations navigating uncertainty.

Let’s delve into the specific benefits and advantages that organisations can derive from having an effective succession plan in place during times of change:

1. Seamless Transition Amidst Disruption

Change often brings business disruption, whether due to market shifts, technological advancements, or unexpected events. Effective succession planning ensures that leadership changes do not exacerbate this disruption. When key leaders depart, successors who have been groomed and prepared can step in seamlessly, maintaining operational continuity and minimizing the turbulence associated with change. 

2. Agility in Responding to Challenges

Change can be sudden and unpredictable. An agile organisation can swiftly respond to new challenges and opportunities. A well-structured succession plan ensures that the organisation has a cadre of individuals equipped with the skills and knowledge to tackle these challenges head-on. This agility enables the organisation to pivot, adapt, and thrive in dynamic environments.

3. Nurturing Innovation and Adaptability

During times of change, innovation becomes a strategic necessity. Succession planning fosters a culture of innovation by cultivating leaders who are not only capable of managing change but also driving it. Individuals identified and developed through succession planning possess the qualities needed to introduce novel ideas, explore uncharted territories, and guide the organisation through transformative phases.

4. Preservation of Organisational Knowledge

Change can sometimes result in the loss of institutional knowledge, particularly if key personnel depart unexpectedly. Succession planning safeguards against this knowledge drain by ensuring that successors are mentored by outgoing leaders and equipped with the insights needed to continue the organisation’s trajectory.

5. Reduction of Disruption Costs

Change can lead to temporary dips in performance and productivity. Having a strong succession plan in place reduces these disruption costs. Instead of scrambling to find replacements or relying heavily on interim measures, organisations with effective succession planning can maintain stability and productivity levels during times of change.

6. Retention of Top Talent

In times of uncertainty, employees may consider exploring other opportunities. A robust succession plan demonstrates that the organisation is invested in its employees’ growth and advancement. This reassurance enhances employee loyalty and reduces the likelihood of top talent seeking opportunities elsewhere, providing stability during periods of change.

7. Enhanced Employee Morale and Engagement

Change can create anxiety among employees. A well-communicated succession plan alleviates these concerns by showcasing the organisation’s commitment to employees’ development and future growth. This enhanced transparency fosters higher levels of employee morale and engagement, promoting a sense of belonging even in times of change. 

8. Mitigation of Leadership Gaps

Change can lead to sudden leadership gaps, especially if key individuals depart unexpectedly. Effective succession planning ensures that these gaps are minimised. The organisation is equipped with a pool of potential leaders who can step up and fill these roles, preventing a leadership vacuum that can negatively impact decision-making and organisational direction.

9. Facilitation of Cultural Alignment

Change often brings shifts in organisational culture or values. Succession planning allows organisations to maintain cultural alignment by developing successors who embody and understand the existing culture. This continuity of culture amidst change ensures that the organisation remains true to its core identity.

10. Long-Term Organisational Sustainability

Change is constant, and organisations that can adapt thrive in dynamic environments. Succession planning isn’t just about navigating current changes; it’s about preparing the organisation for long-term sustainability. By consistently identifying, developing, and promoting talent from within, organisations build a resilient foundation that can weather numerous waves of change. 

Incorporating these benefits into your succession planning strategy transforms it from a reactive measure into a proactive driver of organisational success. A robust talent succession programme positions the organisation for sustained growth, resilience, and excellence in an ever-evolving business environment.

Why It Is Important to Get Succession Planning Right

Why It Is Important to Get Succession Planning Right

The significance of getting succession planning right cannot be overstated. It’s not merely a formality but a strategic imperative that can profoundly impact an organisation’s present and future. Here’s why nailing succession planning is crucial:

Smooth Transition

Leadership changes are inevitable. Effective succession planning ensures that these transitions are seamless, minimising disruptions that can occur during periods of uncertainty. When the right people are in place at the right time, the organisation can maintain its momentum without missing a beat.

Preserving Institutional Knowledge

Key individuals often hold invaluable institutional knowledge that can’t easily be transferred. Succession planning ensures that this knowledge is passed on to successors, preventing critical information from being lost in the transition.

Mitigating Risk

Without a proper succession plan, the organisation is exposed to significant risks. If a crucial role is suddenly vacant, it can lead to decreased productivity, weakened morale, and even financial setbacks. Having successors ready mitigates these risks and fortifies the organisation’s resilience.

Strategic Alignment

Change can sometimes result in the loss of institutional knowledge, particularly if key personnel depart unexpectedly. Succession planning safeguards against this knowledge drain by ensuring that successors are mentored by outgoing leaders and equipped with the insights needed to continue the organisation’s trajectory.

Talent Retention

A well-designed succession plan enhances employee retention. When employees perceive growth opportunities, they are more likely to stay with the organisation, reducing turnover and preserving intellectual capital.

Competitive Edge

In a competitive market, having a robust succession plan enhances an organisation’s attractiveness to top talent. Potential recruits are drawn to organisations that offer clear career paths and development opportunities.

Adapting to Change

Succession planning builds agility into an organisation’s DNA. It prepares the organisation to navigate unexpected changes, be it technological disruptions, market shifts, or regulatory modifications.

Common Errors Organisations Can Make When Implementing Succession Planning

While the benefits of effective succession planning are substantial, there are common pitfalls that organisations can stumble into during its implementation:

Short-Term Focus

Succession planning requires a long-term view. Organisations sometimes focus too narrowly on immediate replacements, failing to build a comprehensive pipeline of future leaders. This myopic approach can leave the organisation vulnerable in the face of larger shifts.

Lack of Data-Driven Insights

Relying on assumptions rather than data can lead to ineffective succession planning. Organisations should leverage analytics and assessments to identify high-potential individuals objectively and align their development with the organisation’s needs. 

Neglecting Development

Identifying successors is just the beginning. Organisations must also invest in the development of these individuals. Neglecting their growth can lead to unprepared leaders, resulting in suboptimal performance.

Ignoring Diversity and Inclusion

A common error is overlooking the importance of diversity and inclusion in succession planning. Failing to create a diverse pipeline of leaders limits the organisation’s perspective and can hinder innovation and adaptability. 

Lack of Communication

Succession planning should be transparent. Failing to communicate the plan and opportunities to potential successors can lead to frustration, reduced engagement, and even the departure of valuable talent.


A rigid succession plan may not accommodate unforeseen changes. Organisations must be flexible and adjust plans as circumstances evolve.

Excessive Reliance on External Hires

While external hires can bring fresh perspectives, excessive reliance on them can undermine the benefits of internal talent development. Organisations should strike a balance between internal promotions and external hires.

Inadequate Succession Reviews

Organisations should regularly review and update their succession plans. Failing to do so can result in outdated plans that don’t align with evolving business needs.

Lack of Senior Leadership Engagement

If senior leaders aren’t actively engaged in succession planning, it can undermine its effectiveness. Leadership buy-in is essential to allocate resources, set the tone, and emphasise its strategic importance.

Avoiding these errors requires a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to succession planning. It’s not just about having a plan; it’s about having the right plan that aligns with the organisation’s vision and culture.

The Roadmap to Organizational Succession Planning

Achieving the objectives of succession planning involves a strategic approach. Part of the essential steps in achieving the objectives include; 

  • Identifying Critical Roles: Start by identifying the roles that are pivotal for the organisation’s success. These are not limited to top leadership but also encompass roles that are operationally crucial. 
  • Identifying Critical Competencies: After identifying the pivotal roles, you need to map out the critical competencies (Behaviour, Technical and Cognitive) that will be assessed in the candidates. 
  • Assessing Potential: Evaluate employees’ potential and performance to determine their readiness for higher responsibilities. This assessment should be based on factors such as skills, competencies, and leadership qualities. 
  • Creating Development Plans: Tailor development plans for identified successors. This could include training, mentoring, stretch assignments, and exposure to different facets of the business. 
  • Monitoring Progress: Regularly review and adjust succession plans based on changing organisational needs and the development progress of potential successors.

Key Criteria for Effective Succession Planning

For succession planning to be effective, certain criteria must be met: 

  • Alignment with Business Strategy: Succession plans should align with the organisation’s strategic goals and future vision, ensuring that the right talent is developed for the right roles. 
  • Inclusivity: A diverse pool of successors is crucial to promote innovation and fresh perspectives within the leadership team. 
  • Transparency and Communication: Openly communicate succession plans to potential successors, ensuring they understand the expectations and are motivated to develop themselves. 
  • Flexibility: Succession plans should remain flexible to accommodate unexpected changes and new opportunities. 

Case Study

Our client is a full-service national commercial bank in Nigeria that has evolved from the nation’s pre-eminent investment banking institution to a full-fledged commercial bank. Its business lines and operations are structured around these segments: Retail and Consumer market, Commercial and Institutional market and Corporate and Investment market.  

They needed a talent succession planning expert who understood their organisational context, business reasons and ability to conduct a seamless succession planning exercise that would help them identify the readiness level of their talent to take up leadership roles. They also needed us to create success profiles for the key roles, develop relevant assessment tools to measure the identified leadership competencies and create a report that includes recommendations for each of the candidates that undergoes the assessment. 

Click here to see how we helped them achieve this.  


In conclusion, succession planning is a strategic imperative that empowers organisations to proactively manage talent, minimise disruptions, and position themselves for growth. By adhering to the key criteria, stages, and advantages of this practice, organisations can confidently navigate uncertain times and build a robust leadership pipeline. Embracing succession planning today ensures that organisations are well-prepared for the challenges and opportunities that the future holds.

Ready to begin the journey towards maximising organisational growth through succession planning? Workforce Group can help. We have over 19 years of experience helping organisations to identify future talent to fill their critical roles.

Send an email to, or schedule a free consultation here.

Akindele Afolabi

Akindele Afolabi

Director, Workforce Resourcing

Related Article