Themes in Succession Planning in 2023

Talent development is a rapidly evolving industry and succession planning lies at its centre. Succession planning has important implications for senior managers and organizational leaders who must stay up-to-date on industry trends in order to provide their team with the most effective and relevant opportunities for growth. This might sound like a daunting task — especially while balancing the day-to-day responsibilities of upper management. To provide organizational leaders with a snapshot of the current state of succession planning, SIGMA has put together a report on the State of Succession Planning in 2023. Based on SIGMA’s most recent client data, the report revealed four emerging succession planning trends within the North American succession planning space:[1]

  1. Most organizations are focused on recruiting and retaining staff.
  2. Many organizations recognize that they must keep up with industry innovation.
  3. Many leaders are committed to improving customer experience.
  4. A significant number or organizations want to transform their brand and culture.

This data is based on interviews with senior leaders at for- and not-for-profit organizations across North America. Our consultants begin every interview with executive teams and human resources (HR) professionals by discussing the future directions of the organization and the industry they are in. The four themes outlined above were deduced by coding trends that were mentioned in conversation, then quantifying the frequency with which each trend was listed as relevant to the organization. The report is based on data collected on or before September 21, 2022.

Recruiting and Retaining Staff

It’s no surprise that today’s leaders are focused on recruiting and retaining staff. In 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 4 million workers quit their job each month.[ii] Consequently, a record breaking 10.9 million jobs were vacant at the end of July. Among career experts, this massive exodus from the workforce has been labelled The Great Resignation.[iii] In the aftermath of The Great Resignation, 36% of leaders confirmed that attracting, retaining, and developing staff had become one of their highest priorities.[iv] Of those leaders, 21% were focused on attracting staff, 38% were focused on retaining staff, and 41% were focused on providing training and education for existing staff.[v]

Graph showing the percentage of leaders interested in attracting, retaining, and developing staff

Keeping Up With Innovation

Close behind the focus to recruit and retain staff is the effort to keep up with innovation. In our conversations with leaders, SIGMA has noticed a growing awareness among organizations that industries and markets are changing drastically, largely due to the influence of emerging and developing technologies. Nearly 1 in 10 leaders tell us that their priority is to stay current with industry knowledge, and more than 1 in 4 highlight a desire to keep up with innovation. For those leaders, there are some commonalities in how they intend to approach innovation:[vi]

  • 35% want to improve operating efficiency.
  • 23% want to maintain best practices in sustainability.
  • 19% want to pursue new market opportunities.
  • 15% want to invest in new technologies.
  • 4% want to become early adopters of new technology.
  • 4% want to use data to gain customer insights.
Graph showing the percentage distribution of leaders interested in keeping up with innovation

Improving Customer Experience

Nearly a quarter of all leaders tell us that the future of their organization depends on the satisfaction of their customers. In order to improve customer satisfaction, leaders told us that they are focusing on improving the client experience, building strong customer relationships, keeping customers engaged in an effort to improve retention, adapting to changing client values and needs, and creating effective methods of communication.[vii]

Graph showing the percentage distribution of leaders focused on improving customer satisfaction

Transforming Brand and Culture

In our conversations with clients, leaders often mentioned using their corporate culture to market their organization as an attractive employer, thus improving recruitment and retention. They also indicated a desire to use their brand to position themselves as a leader in the adoption of emerging technologies. Finally, leaders mentioned using their brand and culture to communicate their commitment to clients. Overall, leaders expressed the need to create a brand and culture that emphasizes customer service, is diverse, open, and accepting, improves employee morale, and keeps the brand competitive and modern.[viii]

Graph showing the percentage distribution of leaders focused on building their organization's brand and culture.

What This Means for Succession Planning in 2023

At a high level, these trends can be used to direct organizations’ succession planning efforts. Succession plans must be integrated with strategic plans, such that talent development is aligned with the organization’s goals for future years. Leaders must be selected and developed according to these goals so that they will be equipped to mobilize their teams towards accomplishing the mission and vision. According to the trends outlined above, organizations can expect succession planning efforts to have a greater focus on leaders’ ability to attract and retain staff, as well as motivate their teams. Talent development will also focus on technical competencies and innovative thinking, as well as leaders’ commitment to their clients and their drive to ensure quality customer experiences.

SIGMA’s Report on the State of Succession in 2023

This blog is an excerpt from SIGMA’s Report on the State of Succession in 2023. The report explores trends, challenges, and future directions in the succession planning space, based on SIGMA’s latest client data. Download the full report below:

Looking for More?

If you’re ready to start your succession planning process, explore SIGMA’s Succession Planning Launch workshop. Our consultants can help you get six months of work done in only six hours! By the end of the session, you will know how to launch a robust succession planning process and have a customized 12-month succession plan for each member of your leadership team. Contact us for more information or reach out to our consulting team below. We’re always happy to chat!

Talk to an Expert


Glen oversees SIGMA’s sales and marketing activities. As a skilled presenter and trainer, he has designed and delivered engaging workshops and webinars for senior managers and HR professionals. Glen knows our material inside and out, and can tell you first-hand stories of the work SIGMA has done with its clients. If you are interested in learning more about SIGMA’s succession planning services, send him an email or give him a call! He’d love to chat with you.

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[1] SIGMA Succession. Succession Planning Launch. [Aggregate data from Session 1 across clients].

[ii] Mearian, L. (January 6, 2022). No end in sight for the Great Resignation; workers keep quitting for better pay, benefits. Computerworld. Retrieved from

[iii] Fox, M. (November 1, 2021). The ‘Great Resignation’ is altering the workforce dynamic — maybe for good. CNBC. Retrieved from

[iv] SIGMA Succession. Succession Planning Launch. [Aggregate data from Session 1 across clients]

[v] SIGMA Succession. Succession Planning Launch. [Aggregate data from Session 1 across clients]

[vi] SIGMA Succession. Succession Planning Launch. [Aggregate data from Session 1 across clients]

[vii] SIGMA Succession. Succession Planning Launch. [Aggregate data from Session 1 across clients]

[viii] SIGMA Succession. Succession Planning Launch. [Aggregate data from Session 1 across clients]

About the Author

Helen Schroeder

Marketing Coordinator

Helen completed a dual degree with Ivey Business School’s HBA program and Western University’s Honours Specialization in Psychology. As a Marketing Coordinator and Consultant she creates and manages content for SIGMA’s webpages, blogs, and coaching resources. Helen also assists in new product development, go-to-market strategy, and client consultation.