Succession Planning Guide & FREE Template Download

Succession Planning Guide & FREE Template Download

As a business, planning for the future takes many different forms. You plan for the financial year ahead and put together 5-year plans for meeting your goals. However, one area that is often overlooked is succession planning.

There can be a variety of reasons for people leaving your business. Some are easier to predict. For example, you know in advance when employees are reaching retirement age. However, some circumstances cannot be foreseen. Employees may find other roles and leave with little warning, or need to take extended absences for parental or familial leave.

As a business, you need to have a plan to manage both predictable and unpredictable departures from your company. Succession planning is an essential part of the process.

What Is Succession Planning?

Succession planning is a talent management process that ensures leadership development in your existing workforce. It involves analysing skills within your business and identifying individuals with the potential to take over important roles. From there, the succession planning process sees you providing your teams with the training they need to develop the right skills.

Putting an effective succession planning strategy in place ensures that your business always has potential candidates to fill crucial positions. It also helps businesses transfer critical knowledge to the right people at the right time. This type of strategic workforce planning can see you managing, minimising and mitigating risk within your operations.

older man teaches younger woman how machinery works as part of succession planning

How Does Succession Planning Work?

What makes succession planning an effective strategy for businesses is the ability to plan ahead. While companies may not be able to predict every scenario where people leave their business, with the right tools at their disposal, they can ensure that high-performance individuals with great potential are ready to step into critical roles when the time comes.

There are two essential areas that make succession planning work effectively: recognising potential and training your teams.

One tool that can easily help businesses recognise the potential in their existing workforce is the 9-box talent grid. This is a matrix where employees are evaluated according to their performance and potential for advancement. Those who are identified as high performance and high potential are often referred to in the grid as ‘future leaders’ and are ideal candidates for succession.

The next step in the succession planning process is identifying skill gaps for relevant management or leadership roles, and ensuring that you develop those skills through training. This will ensure minimum downtime and maximum efficiency if these individuals need to take on the roles with short notice.

Downloadable Example Of A Succession Planning Template

The best approach to succession planning is a strategic one. And we’ve got just the tool to help you strategically plan succession throughout your business. Our downloadable template helps you track your succession planning alongside relevant training, ensuring that your teams are well-prepared to take on business-critical roles. This customisable template provides insight into existing positions, risk of loss, candidates for succession, and their readiness timeframe. All of this makes the template an invaluable tool in your succession planning process.

Download the free template today.

Simplify the Succession Planning Process.

Use our customisable template to strategically plan succession.

What Are The Risks Of Ignoring Succession Planning?

Before we look at the benefits of succession planning, it’s important to understand the risks that businesses face when it comes to ineffective talent management. When people in essential roles leave your company with little or no notice, your operations become exposed to a number of risks. A thorough risk assessment can help you to identify the unique challenges that the departure of trusted employees will introduce to your business. However, three common risks include: 

Loss Of Expertise

The senior leaders in your business are those who have the most experience. Leaders will often stay with a company for many years. Even those who joined your business in leadership roles will often have years or decades of experience behind them in management positions. When these individuals leave, they take that experience with them. 

Without succession planning, new leaders will require significant training to get up to speed. Even if you hire a manager with years of experience, it will take them time to adapt to your company culture and processes. It’ll also take time to get to know the teams that they’ll be working with and where each team member’s strengths lie.

Loss Of Visibility

Critical team members are often trusted to manage their teams and processes in the ways that suit them best. This can lead to a loss of visibility or transparency in the way that they work. There is a risk that when these key employees leave your company, they will take their knowledge and insight with them. This will make the process of training a replacement significantly longer and more difficult.

Employee Burnout

Having too much responsibility sitting on one pair of shoulders significantly increases the risk of employee burnout. Leadership positions already come with a good deal of stress and responsibility, and this is only increased when a person is the only one capable of fulfilling their role. The added pressure and increased demands on their time can easily result in frustration, mental fatigue, and ultimately an inability to continue working effectively.

Want to identify risks that face your business?

We’ve got just the tool you need. Download the risk assessment matrix template.

What Are The Benefits Of Succession Planning?


There are few things more motivational than hearing you’re not only performing well in your current role but are a great candidate for advancement within a business. When you discuss succession planning openly with your teams, you have an opportunity to show them that you appreciate the work they do.

You can also highlight areas where further employee training programs will help your team members to become better leaders in future. This can see team members growing within and outside of their roles, working more productively, and feeling like an integral part of your business. If you’re looking for other ways to boost productivity, our free team motivation course is just what you need.

Improved Knowledge Transfer

A challenge that businesses often face when an employee holding a key position leaves is finding themselves with a lack of understanding about what the role involved. When someone plays a critical role within your business and performs well, there often isn’t a need for an in-depth understanding of their processes. However, as soon as they leave and you find yourself needing to fill key positions, you suddenly realise how little you know about the tools and information their replacement will need.

By prioritising succession planning, you can ensure that key employees are able to train their potential successors. This will improve transparency within your organisation, and enhance the knowledge transfer process, ensuring that both management and future employees can gain a thorough understanding of what skills are needed, and what key roles involve.


Succession planning plays an important role in ensuring business continuity. Developing a leadership pipeline and training team members to take on critical positions minimises the time it takes to adapt to new responsibilities. This ensures organisational stability, since there won’t be a steep learning curve, and your workforce will be perfectly primed to adapt to changing circumstances without it negatively impacting their productivity. Future-proofing your business in this way will allow for better change management, and reduce the lag that usually comes with hiring people to fill roles within your organisation.

Want to ensure better change management throughout your organisation?

This template is the perfect starting point.

Employee Retention

Employees who feel that their efforts aren’t being recognised, or that there is no space to grow within a business, will look for other opportunities. No one wants to feel like they’re stagnating, or that they have reached the limit of their potential. With effective succession planning and communication, you can show that you recognise employees’ potential, and reduce the risk of future leaders leaving.

Risk Management

We’ve already looked at the risks involved in not implementing succession planning. By putting a strategy in place, you can significantly reduce, and even mitigate those risks.

  • Invest in expertise through continuous assessment and training. This ensures structured and regular development, rather than urgently training an employee when a role needs to be filled.
  • Improve transparency and visibility into existing processes and tools. This way you can ensure they’re incorporated into employee development plans.
  • Train high performers early on to help existing leaders delegate responsibilities. This will reduce the risk of burnout and improve overall employee satisfaction. Existing leaders will experience less stress and team members will feel more valued and trusted.

older man and younger man discuss building details as part of succession planning

8 Steps To An Effective Succession Plan

Every company will differ in their approach to succession planning. This will be dependent on your organisational structure, your company’s needs and goals, and multiple other factors. However, there are 8 steps that every business can take to create an effective succession plan.

1. Identifying Key Positions

The first step is recognising the key roles within your business. These will often be leadership positions. However, there may be other critical roles that would leave a significant gap in your operations if they were vacated. These may require specific skill sets or specialised knowledge or consist of roles that only one person within your business can fill.

For example, a receptionist may not be a leader or require specialist knowledge. However, they might be the only person in your business who understands how sign-ins for the property work and how to transfer calls between departments. If this were the case, your receptionist resigning would significantly strain your bu