Succession Planning in the War for Talent

Feb 24, 2016

Succession Planning in the War for Talent

Think a moment about your favorite sports team. It most likely has star performers who make the sports news headlines. It has a starting roster to which every player aspires. Then, there are the players on the bench who are there to step in when a starter is injured or needs a break.

Now, imagine the rules changed so the coach could only bring the starters to the game.

...That situation describes your business if you don’t have a well-managed succession plan.

In the strictest sense, a succession plan is nothing more than a replacement plan that guards against the loss of key people. Succession management is a term that embodies all the activities of developing future leaders. In today’s lexicon, the terms are used interchangeably, and software vendors rarely use “succession management” to describe their platforms.

Benefits of Succession Management

Succession management can do much more than mitigate business continuity risk. It can improve retention, performance, and organizational agility.

  • People with high career aspirations want to work in an organization that will invest in their development. If they don’t find it in your organization, they will move on. Employees do not often aspire to CEO, but they do want to grow to their full potential.
  • A succession program can help change the practice of promoting able individual contributors into leadership positions for which they have little aptitude.
  • Succession management is a force multiplier in your development program. Most development plans are nothing more than a list of learning activities, but a good succession plan considers the whole person. It will include assessments, multiple experience opportunities, and mentoring.
  • Finally, leaders promoted from within have a higher success rate than external candidates – up to 50% higher

Succession Planning Software

A small company can create a succession plan on a cocktail napkin, but once it grows to the point that senior leaders don’t have a personal relationship with everyone in the business, a structured succession management program becomes imperative.

Commercial Succession planning software has been around for over fifteen years, but adoption has been slow because of the complexity and high cost. Solutions are improving as more vendors enter the market; there is now a wide variety of capabilities and price points.

However, many software platforms for succession planning are nothing more than an enhanced organization chart. They still lack the most-desired features.


Many enterprises use a mix of manual processes and homegrown applications, but in a 2015 Bersin report, 28% of companies were using third party software and 25% used the applications in their HRIS.

War for Talent

No matter what the size of your business, the answer to whether you need succession management is an emphatic yes. As Josh Bersin said in his predictions for 2014, “The war for talent is over and talent has won.”

In response to the need to grow and nurture talent, companies are extending their succession management from the executive level down through the enterprise. We believe this an essential part of becoming a high performing organization. It will pay off as you retain valued employees and prepare for the near and distant future.


Choosing the right platform will depend on your organization, resources, and budget, but let us share with you some of the features our ideal platform would have.


Tight integration with performance management and employee development. Performance management, development plans, and your LMS should automatically populate the employee profile, and moving between
the applications should take one click.

Configurable profile. Your business is unique, and you need to be able to adapt your platform to your talent strategy.

Data integration. One of the reasons some succession planning applications don’t get used is that there is too much data entry. External applications like assessments should have a data feed whenever another platform contains the information you need. For example, job applicants provide job history and education in their profiles. That information should transfer to the employee profile.

Flexible sharing. Managers should be able to view successors under their control who were nominated by other managers. You also need the ability to share successor profiles with other managers and HR to support movement across the organization.

Flexible workflow, including the ability to configure multiple talent review cycles and launch reviews for any segment of the company at any time.

Talent acquisition and succession planning should be well integrated. If you don’t have strong internal successors for a position, you need an external talent pool. Talent acquisition should have social media capability so you can manage your talent communities.

An analytics dashboard with the ability to drill into details, with indicators for readiness, positions with no successors, employees at risk of leaving, and performance and potential ratings.

Uncluttered display. A succession profile contains a lot of information – more than can be displayed on a single web page. Avoid platforms that cram it all into one display. Do your succession team a big favor and consider solutions that have easy to navigate tabs or similar technology.

Mobile design is a must. Executives use their smartphones.

Ninety-four percent of employers say succession plans improve employee engagement. We encourage you to join them.


Jones, Katherine. "The Guide to Succession Management Technology 2015 Managing Succession with Software." April 8, 2015.

Turnage, Kim. "Can You Afford Succession Planning?" Accessed July 29, 2015.

Bersin, Josh. “Predictions for 2014: Building a Strong Talent Pipeline for the Global Economic Recovery.

Osterhaus, Erin. "Leveraging Software to Improve Succession Planning." Leveraging Software to Improve Succession Planning. February 4, 2015

Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.

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