Succession Management:

A Model that Helps Recruit and Retain High Performers

Succession management is a forward-thinking process whereby all the succession planning efforts are administered and measured while allowing for adjustments that ensure ongoing alignment with achieving strategic outcomes. When a leader wants to fortify her human capital management initiatives and develop high performers who will ensure goal achievement, she develops a succession plan and then executes and manages this plan for success!

Just as with a good strategy (where strategic planning had to move beyond the planning process to implementation and measurement) succession planning needs to move beyond the planning stages, which is where it remains within most organizations.

After you have embarked on the planning and have a real commitment to fill gaps in development, respond to retirements, engage different generational groups and recruit and retain high performers, you are getting into real succession management.

Succession planning is about getting the right people, with the right competencies, in the right place, at the right time. It is focused on the “people” side of the equation.


Succession management is about creating and ensuring the right positions exist within the organization to advance organizational strategy and accomplish goals. It is focused on the “strategy” side of the equation.

When leaders and managers move from planning to management they are focusing on the “relative value” that each “position” brings to the organization and work to apply processes and allocate resources to determine what specific positions are actually necessary for organizational success. Only after this has been done is there a determination made regarding what people are best to fill those positions.

Differentiated Advantage.Relative Value.ARVis

By applying this succession planning and management model, leaders and managers are focused on advancing and elevating high performers – but only to the extent that  these high performers will elevate and advance short and long-term organizational goals.

Succession is about ensuring organizational success at its core. While employees will benefit from the process, it should not be done to the detriment of organizational success in areas of service, culture, performance, profits, etc.

When following the model (detailed below) the leader is compelled to ask herself the following questions regarding every position she determines to be critical enough to need a succession plan:

  1. What value is expected to be demonstrated by the position and the person who fills it?
  2. What value does the position create for the organization?
  3. How (specifically) does the position generate this value?

Where Value = Sum Total of Benefits – Costs

Now here are the specifics on the Succession Planning & Management Model:

What is it?

Succession planning refers to the process of analyzing and forecasting current and future staffing needs and systematically identifying, assessing, and developing employee talent to meet those needs. It involves proactively planning for and accepting our own limits and considers and accounts for staff transitions and institutional knowledge through retirements, terminations, voluntary resignations, and deaths.

It should be done because a major loss of leadership and institutional knowledge can undermine organizational credibility and sabotage our future. Also, it helps to strengthen operational capacity and close leadership gaps. Workforce planning demonstrates a long-term commitment to the organization and provides for institutional continuity and sustainability long after those who initiate and manage the plan have gone. The organization benefits by ensuring that the right people, with the right competencies are in the right place at the right time. Additionally,

  • it ensures continuity of leadership.
  • it forces the organization to assess its talent pool.
  • it provides for a systematic employee development process.
  • it has been shown to improve organizational performance and employee satisfaction.
  • it is proven to increase employee retention for high-quality employees.
  • it improves overall effectiveness by minimizing turnover and reducing transition issues.
  • it attempts to meet the needs of the organization as well as the individual employees.

Institutions that plan and execute solutions to workforce and succession dilemmas are better prepared and able to respond to the unexpected, retain high-quality employees, fill gaps in development, address foreshadowing retirements, and respond to generational needs.

Here is a proven model of where to put your attention.

Succession Planning Model.ARVis

Components of Workforce and Succession Planning/Management

1.  Organizational Strategy, Support, and Structure

  • Senior management is involved – is it organizational or department wide?
  • Current leaders complete succession planning training (to gain understanding of these components)
  • Linked to the organizational strategy; Determine key positions, skills, and competencies
  • HR Availability Forecasting is an element of the planning process
  • Linked to training and management development programs
  • Linked to performance management and career planning
  • Indirect or direct succession planning accountability via performance appraisals
  • Linked to equal employment opportunity factors
  • Process must be transparent, merit-based, and consistent

2.  Candidate Identification and Selection

  • All of management is responsible to discuss career goals and aspirations with candidates
  • Management is interested in ensuring the best fit with talents and positions
  • The objective is to identify, assess, and develop employee talent and hire externally as needed
  • Candidates are evaluated against established and emerging skills and competencies
  • Candidates are identified and recommended by all levels of management
  • Candidates are identified by his/her performance management data
  • Candidates can self identify as interested in increased responsibility positions
  • Multi-rater instruments and assessment centers are utilized
  • Ability testing, simulations, role plays, or other evaluation tools are used

3.  Employee and Leadership Development

  • Gap analysis is conducted (for skills and competencies); Results are used to determine training and development needs and opportunities
  • Establish employee and leadership development plans for potential successors
  • Potential successors are offered developmental opportunities (stretch assignments, reading materials, job shadowing, etc.)
  • Potential successors are enrolled in training programs that align with learning and development plans
  • Candidates are matched with a mentor or coach for support and guidance
  • Comprehensive development processes will prepare potential successors for emerging new skill requirements

4.  Evaluation

Design processes to evaluate and improve the succession management system

  • Track turnover rates, especially for mission critical positions
  • Track length of time to fill positions (via internal and external pools)
  • Track employee participation rates
  • Mentors and supervisor feedback
  • Participants’ post-program performance
  • Post-program participant promotion rate
by Terina Allen
President & CEO, ARVis Institute
Chair, ARVoices Strategic Leadership Network