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Understanding the Importance of Formal Employee Succession Planning

Human Resources

Career uncertainty can be stressful. In today's business climate, many employees expect to change jobs at some point, but many would still prefer to have some idea of which direction they’re heading. Rather than risk losing top performers to what's often perceived as a more secure opportunity, a formal employee succession planning process can help staff members understand the criteria needed to advance. Having a plan in place can also help set an employee's expectations for their future career track, and can ensure that everyone is working toward achieving the company's overall strategic goals.

Incorporate Criteria Needed for Advancement

A formal succession planning process uses documented criteria to identify the steps required to progress into a higher position. When a succession plan is properly implemented, employees can be rated consistently on metrics that align with the company's goals and business strategies. Managers can compare candidates for promotion based on the criteria identified and determine which employees currently have the skills to progress. During annual performance evaluations, managers can also use the succession plan's advancement criteria to provide feedback to those looking to progress to a higher position. By giving managers a way to communicate which skills are needed to advance, employees can better understand where they should focus their time spent on career development.

Institute a Mentorship Program to Help Employees Grow

Designated mentors can be an important part of the employee succession planning process. Developing a one-on-one relationship with a higher-level staff member gives employees the opportunity to ask specific questions about career advancement. The mentor's higher level of experience allows them to guide staff members with leadership potential and encourage the development of crucial skills needed to progress. In addition to working with a mentor, employees with potential to advance may also wish to shadow someone in a role they’re interested in. Shadowing, even for a short time, can offer insight into the expectations and workflow of a more challenging position.

succession planning

Review Succession Plans as the Business Changes

Setting goals and criteria for succession planning is only the start of a long-term strategic process. Tione Torrens, Paychex HR Consultant, recommends that a succession plan include "a commitment to review it on at least a semi-annual basis, as people's goals, actions, and developmental goals may change." Torrens adds that this review can take place via a phone call, face-to-face, or webinars. Adjustments may also be required as the business environment changes and the company grows.

Without formal succession plans in place, job uncertainty may affect employees' career decisions. By stating that the company knows where they're headed and what's expected of leaders in the organization, employees can focus on developing the necessary skills to achieve their personal career goals. If your company needs assistance drawing up a formalized plan, an experienced HR professional can provide additional guidance and support.


This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.