Gaining Employee Buy-In for Succession

How to Earn Buy-In for Succession Planning

Employees are essential to succession planning. They make up your candidate pool for positions and the members of your succession bench. Previously, we discussed both how succession benefits employees, as well as how having involved employees can benefit your succession process. Now, we consider how to gain that employee buy-in for succession planning, with practical tips and strategies to build into your succession plan.

Fostering Employee Buy-In for Succession

Leadership Buy-In

Before you can expect your staff to support succession planning, they need to know their leaders are also on board. This is true for all levels of leadership – an employee will not try new development opportunities if they think executive leadership is unaccepting of failure and the growth process. They will not have open and honest conversations around their career plans if they don’t trust their direct managers and leaders. All levels of leadership must demonstrate and communicate a commitment to succession planning before they can expect their employees to trust and invest in the process. For more on gaining leadership buy-in, check out our workbook here.


If you expect employees to change their habits or begin developing their skills, they need to know what they are working towards. Clearly outline how you intend to prioritize training opportunities and how they can access these resources. Consider providing regular updates from HR or your executive team to the entire company regarding the progress of your succession plan, including any improvements that have been made, milestones hit, or setbacks encountered. This serves to keep everyone informed about your progress but also demonstrates your company’s continued commitment to long-term succession planning.

Regular Communication

A large part of succession planning comes down to frequent interactions between the leader and employee. Leaders should be regularly communicating to direct reports regarding development opportunities and progress using detailed feedback and formalized templates. Make sure to build time in your succession process to understand the goals and ambitions of your employees, and include their aspirations in your plans. Further, leaders need to be prepared to discuss the readiness of each candidate, and may sometimes need to tell staff members that they are not being considered for a role, or that they would need serious training and experience to become a candidate.

Finally, leaders should not shy away from these difficult conversations. If employees feel their leaders are being dishonest about their chances of promotion, they may lose interest or trust in the program. Leaders can use our tips for overcoming resistance to keep communication open and productive.

How SIGMA Can Help

At SIGMA, we want to help you create a succession plan your staff can get behind. Check out our Succession Template Guide and downloadable templates for tips to get you started. To make the process easy and painless, read about our Launch Series, which delivers a personalized Succession Plan to your company in just 30 days. Contact us to learn more about our succession offerings and how we can help your company plan for the future.

About the Author

Brittney Anderson, Ph.D.

Senior Consultant & Executive Coach

Brittney is a member of our coaching and consulting team. She brings her expertise in evidence-based practice to provide companies with leadership solutions that meet their needs. Primarily, Brittney helps her clients prepare for their future with succession planning and comprehensive leadership development programs. As an executive coach, she helps leaders hone their skills using a process-based approach to development.