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Succession Planning: What is your bench strength?

  • February 28, 2022
Two Professionals Greeting


Usually, succession planning is something a business realises they should have done in the past. However, when a key employee resigns or retires, they take a massive amount of knowledge and experience out of your business which can’t be replaced quickly. This article will help provide some insight into what you should be considering when looking at your succession plan and what you can do now to protect your business from future problems.

What is succession planning in a business?

Succession planning is a strategy to identify and prepare people to take over the responsibilities of key employees who leave, particularly those with knowledge and experience. This can be done up to 2-3 years before they leave the business, thus creating a smooth transition between incumbents.

What are the consequences of not having a succession plan?

Without succession planning, your business is at risk of losing critical knowledge and experience which can take a long time to replace. It can also mean key roles aren't filled and projects and tasks are left undone. This will eventually lead to the effect of reduced productivity, poor morale and unhappy staff members. Succession planning helps mitigate these risks by ensuring that the necessary skills are present in the business to replace any staff member that leaves.

What are succession plans good for?

One benefit succession plans bring to a business is continuity, allowing for easier succession when a key employee leaves. This means there’s no need to try and recruit someone new who has just as much knowledge and experience. The succession plan will also be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of different individuals in your succession pool, meaning you’re not putting someone into a role they can’t handle.

How do succession plans work?

There are three main succession plan models which are commonly used by businesses today:

Management succession planning 

The most common type of succession plan focuses on finding future leaders within the management team. These are usually people who have had many years of experience working in different roles in the company. Management succession plans are commonly used by businesses with 1-300 employees but can be helpful for larger companies where managers may move around within the business.

Function succession planning 

This type of succession plan is less common than management succession planning and focuses on finding high potential employees who will become future leaders in their own function. Succession plans of this nature are usually only found in large businesses, with a larger succession pool than just the management team.

Customer succession planning 

This rarest and most niche succession plan focuses on replacing key customer managers who leave. This type of succession plan provides a lot of value because the succession process is focused on making sure the customer service that the business offers doesn’t change when a manager leaves, which can help retain your customers.

What to consider in succession planning

As with all types of succession plans, you need to focus on some critical areas when thinking about succession planning for your business. These are:

Identifying key roles and deciding if succession is needed 

Before you can even begin succession planning, you need to ensure that succession is the right thing for your business. For example, if you have an employee who has been with your company for a long time and they’re showing no signs of wanting to leave, succession may not be necessary. However, if one of your key employees resigns or retires, then it’s something you should be considering.

Assessment of individuals in the succession pool 

In succession planning, you need to assess the potential of those in your succession pool. If they have been put there as a “just in case” measure, then you probably won’t be able to assess them properly. However, if succession is needed and you have identified critical roles which could potentially become vacant, now’s a good time to evaluate who is in your succession pool.

Assessing leadership skills and experience within succession candidates 

Once you have evaluated the potential of succession candidates, you need to gauge their leadership skills and experience. This will allow you to determine if they are ready to take on the responsibility of a senior position within your company or if succession is needed for them to get there.

Determining your succession plan approach (management, function or customer)

Simple planning and discussion can decide which succession plan model is right for your business. For example, if you have a succession pool that focuses on managers or customer service, succession planning will work best with one of the management succession models. However, if succession is needed because someone in the function team is leaving and you want to continue their work in that area, then succession planning should be done using the function succession model.

How to ensure your succession planning works

Preparing for succession

Once you have your succession plan in place, succession is much more likely to happen smoothly when it needs to. You will need to ensure all staff know what succession means and how it works within your business, which can be achieved through succession planning workshops. This will also help ensure your plans work when they need to happen, as everyone will be ready for it and know what to do.

Assessing training needs for succession candidates

If succession candidates are missing essential training, this could be a problem. To make sure your succession plan is working for you, take the time to assess and provide additional training as and when it’s needed.

Setting succession deadlines 

Without setting succession deadlines, you won’t be able to see how prepared your succession candidates are, hence making it very difficult to assess their readiness for succession should it be needed. Setting succession deadlines ensures your succession planning is working for you.

Making sure succession doesn’t happen too soon 

Although succession needs to be prepared for, it doesn’t automatically mean that this succession should happen immediately if the right candidate hasn’t been found or is not yet ready to step up. Instead, succession should only occur when the time is right.

Ensuring succession plans are flexible 

One of the biggest reasons succession plans fail is because they’re inflexible. Succession planning needs to change with the times, avoiding being too rigid or prescriptive when identifying talent pools or potential successors. Having a succession plan that essentially locks in your future leaders until they reach a certain point can mean your succession planning is not working for you.

Planning, planning and more planning 

It’s rare that succession planning happens overnight, but succession plans are something you need to be thinking about well in advance of when an employee leaves. For example, suppose someone has been identified as a potentially crucial person. In that case, succession planning should begin at least 2-3 years before they leave, giving succession committees time to put succession plans in place.

Providing succession candidates with developmental experiences 

In succession planning, it’s usually the case that succession isn’t needed straight away. This means you need to provide succession candidates with resources and opportunities to develop their leadership skills and experience. You can do this by putting succession candidates into temporary roles where they can learn from the succession pool.


Although succession planning isn’t always a subject people think about in a business, it plays a crucial role in ensuring your business can function smoothly even after losing key employees. So if succession is needed, make sure planning is in place to protect your business from the damage caused by the loss of key knowledge and experience. At Martin Veasey Talent Solutions, we can help you create a full succession plan for your business.

Please call us on 00 44 (0)1905 381320 or get in contact today to discuss carrying out a succession planning audit and protect your business for the future.