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Part 2 - Succession and Career Planning – the why and how!

Part 2 - Succession and Career Planning  –  the why and how!

By Valerie Mercer SPHR, Director of HR/Career Services Click here to listen...The purpose of a succession and career planning system is to match future needs of the organization (anticipated and unanticipated openings) with the aspirations and competencies of top performing and high potential employees.


A succession and career planning system requires investment. The economic downturn has resulted in limited funds available to staff “bench” positions, which are often developmental positions for the “up and comers”.

A working system results in having (ideally) more than one suitable person “ready” for a key job opening. In order to have choices, an organization needs to identify who is ready now and who may be ready in the future (and what the development path should be).


Key roles filled internally have a higher success rate, culturally, than those filled externally. A favored method is to recruit into the organization at a lower level and groom from there.

A well-developed career planning process increases the retention of superior employees since they recognize that time, attention and skill development are being focused on them for the purpose of their career development. When companies continue to challenge and reward talented employees, they reduce their drive to seek opportunities elsewhere.


Establish a system for your organization.

Keep the process simple, otherwise managers will not use it, and establish organizational metrics. Some key steps include:

  • Identify Current Top Performers and High Potential Leaders
  • Identify Future Leadership Gaps
  • Develop Individual Career Goals
  • Develop a Leadership Skills Roadmap – Competencies That Must be Achieved
  • Develop Succession Plans – Lateral Moves & Developmental Opportunities
  • Develop Leader/Top Performer Retention Programs With Metrics

Career advancement should be a substantive and meaningful part of performance reviews. Managers and employees should discuss and document the desired career path, ultimate career goal and “stepping stone” jobs within the organization. With the generational move to shorter term tenures with organizations, employees have to feel that there is something in it for them, in order to stay with the same organization.

The metrics that a company establishes for Succession and Career Planning might include goals such as the percent of executive level vacancies that are actually filled with an internal promotion vs. an external hire, or the percent of promotions that actually come from the high-potential pool.  These are lagging indicators, which need to be accompanied by leading indicators such as the percent of divisions/managers that have completed succession plans in place.

CMA can assist organizations in developing or refining their succession and career planning systems.

Valerie Mercer is the Director of HR/Career Services  at Career Management Associates , an HR consulting firm that specializes in Professional and Executive Search, HR Consulting and Services, Outplacement and Career Transition, Executive Coaching, and Contract Employment. Please contact her at or 207.780.1125.