Succession planning: How small to medium-sized organizations can sustain leadership continuity

Succession planning for many small to medium-sized organizations (SMBs) may be one of the items near the bottom of a very long to-do list. Often, organizations get caught off-guard when key employees unexpectedly leave. Inevitably, the replacement charts are not up-to-date when the time comes. Succession planning can exist in SMBs as a dynamic, effective process. Here are some ways SMBs can use succession planning to sustain leadership continuity:

Succession planning works best in SMB when it deals with specifics. You know your organization best, so determine which roles provide the foundation for your day-to-day operations. Focus on the ones that will take the longest to replace, either due to knowledge, seniority, contacts and their specialized skills sets.

Match the key positions with employees already in place

Once you have your key roles defined, seek to leverage the talent you already have in place who can be promoted into those positions. This step is crucial; it not only fills any potential gaps and ensures that the organization can transition smoothly from the loss of a key employee, it also creates an abundant supply of qualified, motivated employees without the added cost of external recruitment. These individuals can be identified using your HRIS – how eligible they are, how much training and mentoring is required, as well as how long this process may take.  When your staff sees promotion from within, they will continue to be encouraged to grow, hence more engaged.

Ask for input from the appropriate stakeholders

Succession planning in SMBs affects multiple stakeholders so it’s vital to seek their input on any plans before putting them into action. Generate buy-in not only from your board of directors and senior management but also from the employees who will be directly affected by the plan.

When succession planning within the context of an SMB, remember that the plan needs to remain dynamic to be effective. Run a few different scenarios before settling on a plan, and ideally have a plan B and C in case your replacement employees also leave the organization.

Use the right tools

After applying these recommendations, it is always helpful to have a second opinion. This is where it is advantageous to use an HRIS with a strong Succession Planning module, which helps you find the best-suited replacement. Through its developed analysis, it can create an algorithm based on the competencies entered for an employee, as well as for the skills required for the role. It creates a point system defined by several factors such as the location of the employees, their performance reviews, their work history as well as their potential. Then it dresses a point list, in which the employee with the highest score is the most suitable successor.

HRWize’s succession module goes even further: after having identified the successor, the system creates a visual spider web with the required competencies for the future role and the employee’s current competencies so that you can have an accurate perception of which skills the employee should improve on to be the best in their role, and which skills they already possess.

Looking for more information on succession planning? Reach out to our in-house HR experts to find out how we can help you at or visit

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