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The Secret Sauce of Succession Planning

Recruitment is costly. Being able to fill critical roles in your organisation from talent that you already know, and value makes sense. However, it only works if your people are set up to succeed in those roles.

Effective development for your people must be part of any successful succession planning strategy. It will ensure you can build that all-important long-term talent pipeline. Without effective development, succession planning will never move beyond the planning stage. And when it comes to development, the key component is not workshops or training courses, it’s experience.

We all know that experience matters. We learn from our experiences. We develop new skills, learn from our missteps, and gain the confidence to be able to handle stretching roles. Any good succession planning activity should have experience at its core. Only if a promising employee has worked through a range of organisational challenges, will they be able to deal effectively with the scale and complexity of a new, or significantly different, position.

The benefits of experience extend far beyond learning new skills. Being exposed to different experiences allows us to develop business-wide contacts and a better understanding of an organisation’s operations. This in turn will allow for broader conversations and serve as an important foundation for better decisions.

The breadth of experience also makes high-potential employees more flexible, both in terms of how they tackle job-related challenges as well as how they approach careers. It also gives people the confidence to try new roles. Once an employee has learned that they have the necessary transferable skills to add value in a new business area, they are more likely to take risks to leave their comfort zone and try new roles.

Finally, breadth fosters innovation. Your people are more likely to find creative solutions if they have witnessed different ways of solving problems in other parts of your organisation.

Making experiences part of succession planning

Talupp’s work with organisations and research has given us an incredible perspective into how to make experiences fit into succession planning. Here are our top tips:

  • Focus on experiences rather than career paths. Don’t worry too much about detailed career maps. You can spend lots of time developing them and then, no one uses them! Instead, define the types of experiences that you expect your people to have. A simple list of potential assignments and projects would give you a checklist for talent conversations.

  • Check readiness during development conversations. If you already have yearly or six-monthly development conversations, ensure that assignments or experiences are an agenda item. That way everyone in the organisation is given an opportunity to get exposure to new key experiences. Equally, it ensures that just because someone isn’t ready this year, they can take up an assignment in the future when they are ready.

  • Provide support for experiences. We all want people to be self-starters and able to take on new assignments or experiences with little oversight. It shouldn’t be necessary to handhold your people through every step of a new assignment, however, some thoughtful support is advisable to ensure that an employee can make the most of the experience.

  • Match experiences to career stage. Be sensitive to the career and life stage of your people. Some assignments may be easier to take on early on in a career. Try to be as flexible as you with the experiences open to people, that way you’ll better match the needs of your people with the needs of your organisation.

Getting people ready for the next step through building experiences could be one of the best investments you make in your organisation. It saves you money on recruitment costs, drives retention and supports the work of the organisation at the same time.

Talupp’s Succession Planning Handbook for small and fast-growing organisations has lots more tips for great succession planning and it’s free to download.

What’s made succession planning work in your organisation? Have you managed to make experiences part of the package? We’d love to hear your top tips.


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