Succession Planning FAQs

Welcome to our succession planning FAQs! Here, SIGMA’s succession planning consultants draw on decades of experience to guide you through the succession planning process. These are some of the most commonly asked questions we hear in regard to succession planning. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Give us a call! We’d be happy to answer your question.

Every organization has different needs when it comes to succession planning. Our succession planning process is supported by data-driven assessments that help your organization make the appropriate decision about who is next in line.

  1. Identify critical roles: Prioritize roles that might be urgent due to upcoming exits or retirements or are critical to business success.
  2. Understand critical roles: Determine what is required to perform the role now as well as in the future, due to potential changes in the industry, or other determining factors.
  3. Nominate potential successors: Identify potential candidates for succession and determine current ability to address succession in critical roles.
  4. Assess potential successors: Determine the degree of readiness of potential successors to take over critical roles.
  5. Develop potential successors: Foster development of potential successors by leveraging coaching and training opportunities.
  6. Measure progress: Use objective and subjective measures to track the progress of candidates and readiness for transitioning potential successors into critical roles.

For more information on SIGMA’s succession planning process check out our succession planning template and the succession planning webinar.

The steps to developing a succession plan are outlined above in the simple succession planning process. In addition to the 6-step succession planning process, the following are important to keep in mind when creating a succession plan.

  1. Succession planning should be a company-wide initiative involving senior management and employees, not just HR.
  2. Focus on finding the best candidate for each role, not just seeking adequate replacements.
  3. Transparent and frequent communication with all involved is an important way to maintain enthusiasm and commitment to the initiative.

Measure the maturity of your succession plan with SIGMA’s succession planning success checklist.

When done properly, succession planning can:

  1. Protect your organization from unforeseen exits and retirements and help the organization remain flexible in the face of staffing challenges.
  2. Retain top talent within your organization and identify meaningful development opportunities by starting a dialogue about employee interests and ambitions.
  3. Attract candidates by hiring with your succession plan in mind. Clearly identify the applicants interested in future development opportunities and help them visualize their potential career trajectory within your organization.
  4. Identify potential succession opportunities for qualified candidates to help improve the diversity among senior positions.

Consider the following criteria when identifying critical roles for succession planning:

  1. Impact of the role on business operations
  2. Availability of external succession candidates
  3. Availability of internal succession candidates
  4. Uniqueness of skills or knowledge required for position

Download SIGMA’s critical role identification questionnaire to determine the key positions within your organization.

Succession Planning Replacement Hiring 
A long-term approach to talent management Reactionary and occurs only when there is an immediate need
Integrates with broader company policies Driven by operational needs
Allows for effective decision-making because candidates can be developed
to meet role requirements and carefully compared
Defaults to a single candidate without comparing a broad range of candidates

Avoid replacement hiring with the succession planning vs replacement hiring checklist.

For your succession plan to be successful it is important to dedicate the time and resources needed for the initiative. Begin by outlining a systematic process to develop and implement your plan, or leverage an already proven process. Make sure you build in accountability and track the progress of your succession plan and include objective and subjective measures to evaluate your success.

There is no better place to start than our Succession Planning Launch.

It is important to be transparent when communicating with your employees about succession. This includes successes, setbacks, and challenges. Maintaining regular communication with your staff can help you gain employee buy-in and enthusiasm about the process. By obtaining buy-in from senior management you can leverage them as credible channels to communicate succession planning information within your organization.

Having a proper succession plan can save your organization a lot of money. According to a recent study by Harvard Business Review (HBR), the S&P 1500 forgoes close to $1 trillion in market value each year due to poorly managed CEO and C-suite transitions. HBR estimates that better succession planning alone could help increase annual company valuations and investor returns by 20-25%. The absence of a strong leadership bench can be detrimental to both employee, shareholder, and public relations. Read our blog to learn more about how a good succession plan saves money, and contact us regarding pricing information for SIGMA’s Succession Planning Launch.


To begin succession planning, start by considering the core values of your organization and how they might be achieved through succession. This will help you determine the goals you want to achieve with succession planning. Identify any industry trends and challenges that might be faced by the organization in the future to proactively address these situations in your plan. Remember to take into account organization-specific statistics on turnover, retirement, and promotion to target important outcomes for the organization.

Take the first step towards developing a detailed implementation plan by scheduling your Succession Planning Launch.

The best time to start a succession plan is now. As a strategic initiative, succession planning can take time before you begin to see positive results. The earlier you begin your succession plan, the more prepared you will be for unexpected vacancies in critical roles in the future.

In order to know whether or not your succession plan is working it is important to measure the progress of your plan. Your formal succession plan should be evaluated on a regular basis with both objective and subjective measures.

Examples of objective measures include the percentage of position you are able to fill internally or the number of years it takes for the average candidate to be ready for a new role. Subjective measures such as employee engagement or job satisfaction are also important.

Whichever metrics you choose, be sure that they are related to your succession planning goals and that they are things you can measure regularly.


Talk to an expert.


Glen Harrison is an organizational transformation consultant and succession planning expert. Over the course of his career, Glen has worked with one-third of the Fortune 500 list and with every level of government in Canada and the United States. Having worked with numerous clients to build robust succession plans from the ground up, Glen has extensive experience in the application of SIGMA’s products and services to help organizations realize their people potential. If you are interested in learning more about SIGMA’s succession planning services, send Glen an email or give him a call. He’d be pleased to chat with you.