top of page

Succession Planning as a Path to Retention Success Beyond the C-Suite

Succession Planning

In today's ever-evolving talent landscape, organisations are constantly faced with the challenge of retaining top talent and ensuring long-term organisational success. A prevalent issue that emerges is the lack of career opportunities and development paths This blog explores why a strategic approach to improving career and development opportunities is key to success.

The Career Advancement Conundrum

Recent studies underscore the importance of career development in employee retention: LinkedIn's 2022 report shows that 44% of employees left jobs over the preceding year citing poor career growth, marking it as a priority for talent leaders. The CIPD's 2021 survey highlights an interesting disconnect in the UK, with only 54% of employees satisfied with skill development opportunities, versus 77% of employers who believe they provide enough. This data emphasises the critical need for employers to align better with employee expectations on career and skill development.

Ironically, organisations frequently encounter low engagement with training content platforms and development programs, as employees often cite hectic schedules as a barrier to participation. Similarly, when initiatives like career discussions are introduced into the HR lifecycle, the completion rates tend to be underwhelming. 

"Comparable to the long-term benefits of regular pension contributions and exercise, career planning and development are crucial investments in one's future success. Yet, the demands of daily work can make it tempting to defer these vital activities, much like postponing retirement savings or fitness routines, despite understanding their significance.”

Dealing with Skills Gaps

To add further to this situation, organisations not only need to retain existing employees but also proactively develop the skills and experiences of their employees to meet current and future organisational needs. The World Economic Forum estimates that 40% of workers' core skills are expected to change in the next 5 years. This necessitates significant reskilling efforts.

Skill Gaps, Talent Development

Organisations often resort to external hiring to fill skill gaps, introduce new ideas, and drive growth. While bringing in external talent can offer benefits in specific contexts, such as entering new markets or introducing fresh perspectives, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution and should not be the standard response to a missing skills development strategy.

Problems with External Hiring

External hiring poses several challenges, including higher costs from recruitment fees and salary demands, and longer adjustment periods for new hires to learn company operations and culture. This can risk a cultural misfit, affecting team dynamics and lowering morale among existing employees who may feel undervalued. Additionally, external hires often have higher turnover rates due to weaker company loyalty or a poor fit for the role, and their performance can be unpredictable. Choosing external candidates over internal ones also risks losing institutional knowledge, as it bypasses employees familiar with the company's procedures and culture, potentially weakening organisational expertise and continuity.

Succession Planning as a Strategic Enabler

All of these challenges underscore the importance of internal development. Not only does this approach mitigate the risks associated with disproportionate external hiring, but it also aligns with the strategic advantage of nurturing an internal talent pipeline. By nurturing this internal talent and creating clear pathways for growth, companies can enhance employee retention and build a better-skilled organisation.

Research suggests that companies with a high internal hiring rate (i.e., promotions or lateral moves) tend to retain employees for an average of 5.4 years, nearly twice as long as companies with low internal mobility, at 2.9 years. 

To achieve this, inclusive, organisation-wide succession planning is a must. Extending succession planning beyond senior roles to encompass all levels allows organisations to cultivate a deep bench of capable, future-ready talent, which also helps to address skills challenges more effectively. 

Learn more about organisation-wide succession planning in Talupp’s Succession Planning Handbook

Traditionally viewed as a strategy for ensuring leadership continuity, succession planning must evolve beyond its conventional scope. A process that balances rigour with simplicity and inclusiveness empowers organisations to implement succession planning at every level. This broader talent management approach not only facilitates skill development and career fulfilment but also boosts engagement, retention, and overall organisational health.

Implementing effective succession planning is a powerful strategy for organisations aiming to boost employee retention rates. 

Succession planning at its core is a strategic approach aimed at identifying and developing talent. This process involves gathering career and development information, sharing these insights with senior leadership, and elevating career progression and skills development to a top team priority, bolstered by clear statistics and tracking. This shifts the perception of development and career discussions from being mere HR niceties, often overlooked due to time constraints, to strategic imperatives that capture the top team’s focus.

A Simpler Framework

Employing an inclusive definition of talent, predicated on the belief that ‘everyone possesses the talent, hence it's imperative to maximise it,’ however, necessitates the adoption of a more straightforward talent framework. Complex models, such as the 9 Box Grid, are unsuitable for organisation-wide strategies. Instead, simpler, inclusive, and development-focused frameworks, such as Talupp’s 4-Stage Career Framework, are recommended. Talupp’s 4-Career Stages framework sets out four simple career phases that resonate with most employees and that most have experienced at least once throughout their careers. The stages are 

  • Sustain: Employees at this stage are highly engaged and enjoy their job. They still enjoy stretching themselves, but much of their learning is within the job. They are in their career sweet spot.

  • Support: These employees may be a little frustrated and have lower engagement. There is a mismatch between their aspirations and what the organisation needs. Under-performance could be an issue too.

  • Stretch: Having become adept in their field, these employees are in their comfort zone and performing well. They are busy, but not stretched intellectually. They may not have a clearly defined career progression plan.

  • Shift: These employees are characterised by high performance and have the potential to do more. They have high aspirations and you can see how their skills fit into the organisational goals too.

A simpler framework ensures that dialogues between line managers and employees are not hindered by prolonged debates over where an employee is placed within a complex framework. Rather, both parties can focus on mutually determining the most suitable current career phase, dedicating the majority of the discussion to formulating a definitive development plan. It is crucial that not only the career stages but also the development plans are communicated to senior leadership. This guarantees that employees receive adequate support and development opportunities at every stage of their career journey.

Learn more about the 4-Career Stages Framework in Talupp’s Succession Planning Handbook

Turning Succession Plans into Reality Through Purposeful Development

Turning succession plans into reality requires effective talent development. It is therefore important to support line managers and employees to develop and execute high-quality development plans with SMART development actions that include the right mix of 

  • structured e-learning

  • learning with and from others, and 

  • learning from experience through mini activities, projects, and stretch assignments.

Helping Line Managers and Employees Agree on SMART Development Plans

Some actions that may assist line managers and employees in agreeing on and executing effective development plans include:

  • Coaching training for line managers: Provide training for line managers in key coaching skills to help their team members identify career goals (which not all employees know how to identify themselves), recognise current strengths and explore possible development actions, and then check an employee’s commitment levels to the agreed actions and agree on clear next steps.

  • Training on SMART development planning: Offer workshops or resources to line managers and employees on how to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) development plans.

  • Guidance and examples for different development activities: Most development experts agree that 'learning by doing' is the best method for development, though it is also the most challenging type of development activity to implement. Both employees and line managers can struggle to identify a suitable development project. Providing libraries of example mini-activities or more significant development projects to develop certain skills, competencies, or experiences can be beneficial.

  • Centralised development resources: Consolidate and clearly communicate all development offerings within the organisation, whether online learning via an LMS platform, mentoring, coaching, action learning groups, libraries of mini-projects, volunteering opportunities, or internally available roles.

  • Define career success criteria: By clearly defining criteria for career success that go beyond skills development —guided by resources like the "9 Key Experiences Handbook"—organisations can ensure that employees gain the experiences necessary for their growth and progression. This approach ensures that employees know which experiences to seek out in mini projects, stretch assignments, or new roles to ensure that they are building the broad foundations necessary for more senior roles.

Implementing a Successful Succession Planning Strategy

To successfully implement a succession planning strategy, it’s essential to pay attention to key stakeholders, processes, and systems.

This starts with robust systems to support data capture and track progress, reducing the reliance on manual processes which can make it more difficult to scale succession planning across the entire organisation, thus making it less inclusive.

A successful succession planning approach also involves multiple stakeholders, each with important roles to fulfil. First, line managers are crucial in nurturing a learning culture by leading effective career conversations and helping employees identify high-impact development opportunities. Next, employees must take ownership of their development following the career conversations. While HR’s role is to gather data, calibrate, and generate insights to guide objective talent reviews, senior leaders must champion the process through active engagement in talent reviews.

Since effective career conversations are a key part of an inclusive succession planning approach, training for line managers and employees on how to conduct these effectively is recommended. Career conversations should cover current roles, future aspirations, and actionable development steps.

Implementing a new succession planning approach should start on a small scale and expand gradually, supported by ongoing feedback and technology that allows flexible adjustments and enhancements to practices. Finally, tracking the overall success of succession plans is crucial, and again, technology can help to monitor both individual and organisational progress.

To unveil the secret ingredients of successful succession planning strategies, have a look at this blog.


bottom of page