Free Succession Planning Templates

By Joe Weller | September 24, 2018

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In this article, you’ll find free, downloadable templates for succession planning, including those for emergency succession, career succession, CEO succession, nonprofit succession, board succession, family business succession, and law practice succession.

Emergency Succession Plan Template

Emergency Succession Plan

This template provides an outline for creating an emergency succession plan to help ensure a smooth transition when an unexpected leadership change occurs. Use the template to develop your own strategic plan for how to handle the temporary or unexpected absence of an executive director or similar role. Identify the key responsibilities of the role that need to be maintained, plans for interim or other hiring options, and procedures for implementing the emergency plan.

Download Emergency Succession Plan Template

Excel | Word | PDF | Smartsheet

Career Succession Plan Template

Career Succession Plan Tracking Spreadsheet

This comprehensive succession planning worksheet includes a spreadsheet for tracking multiple roles, retirement status, potential successors, required training, and other information. It also includes two sheets for detailed employee succession planning: One matches the competencies required for a position with those held by a potential successor, and the other focuses on internal and external training plans to help fill any competency gaps. This is an Excel template that you can easily modify to include additional data.

Download Career Succession Plan Template

Excel | Smartsheet

CEO Succession Plan Template

CEO Succession Plan

Create an executive succession planning template to prepare for a planned or unplanned CEO departure. Use this outline to develop a thorough plan, whether for a temporary or permanent leadership change. The template includes sections for detailed procedures and communication planning. It also includes a section to closely examine the role of the CEO and the attendant responsibilities that need to be addressed.

Download CEO Succession Plan Template

Excel | Word | PDF

Nonprofit Succession Plan Template

Non Profit Succession Plan

As with corporate succession planning, nonprofits need clear plans to help ensure continuity of leadership and management needs. Create a nonprofit succession plan to cover short-term, long-term, emergency, or multiple types of leadership change. Define procedures to be followed by staff and board members, clarify responsibilities for the board of directors, plan for communication with stakeholders, and provide a timeline for implementation. This template also allows you to compile key financial, legal, insurance, and other information for easy access.

Download Nonprofit Succession Plan Template

Board Succession Plan Template

Board Succession Plan

Track the length of service for each board member and identify successors. This is a simple succession plan template that you can use to identify committee members and the roles they serve, list term years with start and end dates, and create plans for re-election or succession. Edit the spreadsheet to include any additional board member information that you want to keep track of.

Download Board Succession Plan Template

Family Business Succession Plan Template

Family Business Succession Plan

Family businesses can use this template to create succession plans for retiring owners, for the sale of a business, or for unexpected leadership changes. Determine whether family members will be successors and what skills they need to develop in order to be prepared. Define the organizational structure, personnel changes that will take place in the event of a succession, legal and financial considerations, and risk management plans for potential issues.

Download Family Business Succession Plan Template

Law Practice Succession Planning Template

Law Firm Succession Plan

Whether you’re a sole proprietor or partner in a law firm, this succession planning template provides a basic outline for creating concrete goals related to retiring or transferring ownership, identifying capable successors, making a timeline for implementing the succession plan, and more. Create a sense of security for your law practice by setting a clear plan and reviewing it regularly.

‌ Download Law Practice Succession Planning Template - Word

Talent Pool Development Template

Talent Pool Development Plan

This worksheet is designed to help you identify high-potential employees in order to create a talent pool for future positions. These are employees who, with the right career development, could be successors to important leadership positions. Use the worksheet to find key competencies and create an action plan for employees to gain skills and reach goals. Keep track of training and other activities, along with associated results.

Download Talent Pool Development Template

Excel | PDF

How to Create a Succession Planning Template

Once you have selected a template that works well with your business or organizational needs, you can customize it to create a personalized succession plan. Here are some of the elements commonly included in a succession plan:

  • Position: This may be one or multiple positions, usually leadership positions, that you will need to fill in the case of a planned or unexpected absence. The plan can provide a detailed look at the key functions of and competencies required for this position.
  • Incumbent: This refers to the person currently in the key role.
  • Candidates: This is a list of potential employees or others (such as candidates for board membership) who have the skills to move into key roles.
  • Readiness Rating: Evaluate candidates to determine current competency levels and gaps that need to be filled. A rating is a quick way to indicate how ready a candidate is to move into the role, and may be based on a range of factors, including performance ratings, specific skills, willingness and ability to relocate, and other assessments.
  • Development Needs and Action Plan: Whatever competencies a candidate lacks will need to be developed. A specific plan shows training or other actions that the organization will take to manage this development and track its progress.
  • Organizational Chart: Some succession plans include a visual description of key roles and may include photos of the incumbent and candidates in addition to names and other details.

Other common details include communication planning, retention risk information for the incumbent or candidates, procedural guidelines for an emergency absence or a temporary leave, financial and legal information, and more. In some cases, a simple spreadsheet is adequate for identifying talented candidates, planning action steps, and tracking progress. A more comprehensive plan includes supporting documents and clear guidelines for ensuring that leadership roles and management functions continue without interruption.

The Benefits of Succession Planning

Succession planning can support businesses and employees by increasing staff retention, improving performance, and boosting employee confidence. It assists in identifying the critical positions within an organization and tracking potential vacancies so that you can prepare for future personnel needs. It is also a way of aligning future business objectives with employee development by helping high-potential employees gain the knowledge, experience, and skills they need to take on leadership roles. Employees get the benefit of advancing toward promotion, and businesses can help ensure that they fill current and future positions with the right candidates.

Businesses can save money by investing in internal employees, improving staff retention, and preparing for unexpected leadership losses. Succession planning also helps create smoother transitions, whether they’re related to organizational expansion, the sale of a business, retirement, or an emergency situation. Moreover, it can help fill new positions by providing a talent pool that you can draw from. You need to review and update a succession plan regularly so that planning and employee management become ongoing processes.

The Succession Planning Process

Succession planning has at least three stages: identifying future business challenges and key roles, evaluating and selecting employees based on critical competencies, and preparing those employees to fill future positions. Here’s a closer look at some of the steps involved:

  • Strategy: Connecting succession planning to strategic business planning just makes sense. Defining challenges and goals for the future provides information about what roles you will need moving forward. Identifying the negative effects (on an organization) of the absence of key positions helps to clarify what competencies, skills, and knowledge are critical for business continuity. Strategizing is also an opportunity to engage senior leaders in the process and help staff understand their roles. Tracking when key positions are likely to become vacant can also help create a more specific timeline for succession.
  • Candidates: Create a list of possible candidates based on potential for leadership roles. Of course, the selection process needs to be fair, that is, based on a standardized evaluation process and criteria related to critical competencies and the future potential of each employee. Once you’ve created a talent pool, you can make training plans to fit the competencies that each candidate needs to develop. In order for an employee to accommodate development opportunities, you may need to adjust their schedule or workload. It’s possible that, without undergoing further training, education, or certification, a candidate may already be qualified to fill a position that is not yet open. In that case, be sure to keep them engaged — otherwise, you risk losing a potential leader to another organization.
  • Progress: Reviewing and updating plans on a regular basis allows you to track progress and meet milestones. Create a timeline that fits with strategic plans and upcoming vacancies, and include contingencies in case an unexpected transition occurs.

Succession planning may sound like an overwhelming endeavor, but given the potential benefits, it’s worth the investment now to avoid undue challenges later. And, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), succession planning might be easier than you think once you break down the process into steps.

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10 Free Succession Planning Templates for Teams

David Banks

September 30, 2023

Whether in business or life, you must learn how to navigate the turbulent wind of change. 🌬️

Your best bet is to embrace it, be proactive, and do some serious prep. When it comes to workforce changes, succession planning templates are your saving grace.

We’ll discuss 10 of our favorites and show how each succession plan template can help ensure continuity and a smooth leadership transition . They’re free, so why not give them a try?

What Is a Succession Planning Template?

What makes a good succession planning template , 1. clickup succession planning template, 2. clickup corporate succession planning template, 3. clickup staffing plan template, 4. clickup employee development plan template, 5. clickup skills gap analysis template, 6. clickup skills mapping template, 7. clickup training rollout plan template, 8. clickup technical skills matrix template, 9. clickup hiring selection matrix template, 10. clickup employee engagement action plan template, business succession planning templates—an overview.

Succession planning is a strategy businesses use to prepare for leadership changes resulting from resignations, retirements, or promotions. It’s a long-term plan which has to follow office management principles and requires plenty of thinking ahead.

It also needs to be reassessed and updated annually or after each transition. Some of its key steps are:

  • Defining critical roles and key positions
  • Identifying and evaluating potential successors
  • Creating development plans for each potential successor

Succession planning is a framework that helps businesses effectively map out the steps toward a seamless leadership transition. These contingency blueprints serve to streamline key roles and staff changes while reducing the chaos that often accompanies a detailed succession plan. 

To be effective, a succession planning template needs to:

  • Be comprehensive : Cover all crucial aspects of the succession planning process
  • Allow for customization : Be scalable and adaptable to various types of organizations and leadership positions
  • Be user-friendly : Simplify the process and be easy to use for everyone to maintain business continuity
  • Facilitate collaboration : Allow everyone to put in their two cents and participate in the succession planning process
  • Provide analytics : Ensure real-time tracking of the progress and outline all business challenges

10 Succession Planning Templates To Use in 2023

Succession planning is no walk in the park, but with the right tools, it can go smoothly. Use one of these 10 templates for your succession planning process in ClickUp to create a strong pipeline of potential candidates and leaders and bring about stability during trying times. 

ClickUp Succession Planning Template

We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know that you can use the ClickUp Succession Planning Template . This succession plan template helps you manage talent transitions in leadership roles or identify key positions in a new succession plan.

It’s a multi-functional organizational tool that makes planning a breeze . 💨

If this is your first time working with a ClickUp Template , refer to the Getting Started Guide. Although advanced, the template is intuitive to use and set up. It’s a folder containing two lists—Team Members and Professional Development Activities.

The Team Members List contains information about each worker, such as their current position, department, potential candidates, and succession readiness. You can customize these fields to better reflect your needs. 

If you prefer Kanban-style boards over lists, ClickUp has got you covered. In Board view, employees are represented as cards and grouped by potential or critical positions to help with visualization.

Each card displays essential information about the potential hiring aspects of your leadership roles, including fun emoji rating scales for communication, leadership skills, and performance. You can change the cards’ appearance as well as their grouping and sorting methods.

The second list, Professional Development Activities , allows you to track and manage all necessary tasks and subtasks to ensure smooth transitions throughout your succession planning.

ClickUp Corporate Succession Planning Template

In the corporate realm, a rock-solid succession planning framework acts as a shield against instability and disruption. Due to the size of these organizations, it’s also easy to get lost in all the data and let ideal senior positions and senior leaders slip through the cracks. 

With this ClickUp Corporate Succession Planning Template , you can stay on top of the game. It organizes and simplifies the account planning process , regardless of your company’s size.

The succession plan template is a folder containing three lists:

  • Training Activities : Includes training that potential successors have completed or plan to complete in the future
  • Potential Candidates : Contains information about all potential successors and their readiness for higher positions
  • Corporate Succession : Singles out the critical roles within the company, outlines their responsibilities, and proposes a transfer plan for succession candidates

Each list comes with a List and Board view for your convenience. Create tasks, subtasks, and checklists to actualize your plans.

Tailor the template to your corporate needs by changing the sorting method and creating custom categories and fields. Introduce new views, such as Gantt and Workload, for effective time and team management .

ClickUp Staffing Plan Template

Succession planning may not be an everyday task, but HR operations are always ongoing. Luckily, the ClickUp Staffing Plan Template allows you to stay up to date with your workforce, be it today’s operational staff or future leaders.

This succession plan template is beginner-friendly and requires no instructions. But if you need guidance, you can find it in the good-old Start Here document.

The Staffing template is a whiteboard comprising two parts— a staffing plan process flowchart and an organizational chart to identify key roles and senior management hierarchy in your organization.

The staffing process outline allows you to define the exact steps of your succession plan. By default, those steps include:

  • Assessing current capacity
  • Identifying business needs
  • Developing HR management strategies

Below each step, you can find sticky notes, which let you create subtasks and caveats.

The organizational chart represents a hierarchy of people within your organization. Color-coded for better visualization, the chart comes with four seniority levels.

As with other ClickUp Whiteboards , you can customize all the elements. Insert images, add connectors to indicate relationships, and group employees together to form cross-functional teams and departments.

Whiteboards also give you the freedom to scribble and introduce additional elements, such as mind maps and websites to give succession plans everything they need to—well, succeed!

ClickUp Employee Development Plan Template

Without employee development, succession planning would be complicated at best and chaotic at worst. 😵

That’s why you need a solid training plan for your future leaders . And there’s no better and faster way to make one than with the ClickUp Employee Development Plan Template . It’s a simple tool that anyone can use regardless of skill level.

It’s in list form but has multiple views, including:

  • Getting Started Guide : Instructions on how to use the succession plan template
  • Employee Summary : A master list of all employees and their development plans
  • Department Plan : The same as the previous list, but organized by departments
  • Development Status : Employee plans in the agile board form
  • Employee List : A table outlining basic info about each staff member

By default, the template contains custom fields such as status, plan timeline, development method type tags, assessment outcome, and many others. 

The Board view helps with visualization, displaying only key info about the worker to prevent visual clutter. You can change the sorting and grouping modes, modify the categories, and add new fields.

ClickUp Skills Gap Analysis Template

Once you’ve chosen the replacements for essential leadership positions, you want to help them excel. If you’re unsure how to go about it, use ClickUp Skills Gap Analysis Template ! 

The tool is your one-stop shop for skill development planning . While you assess, analyze, and hone your future leaders’ skills, the template acts as a bridge that holds it all together. 🌉

It contains multiple List views and a Board view, displaying employees’ details and information about their skills, grouped by different factors—department, skill type, and priority. Besides the basic employee info, such as the position, these lists have dedicated fields for skill importance scores, skill ratings, and action recommendation notes.

Once you assess employees, input the scores in the list and use formulas to calculate total or average scores. The template comes with a preset formula for the Gap score , representing the difference between Target and Total scores. Feel free to introduce custom formulas as well.

ClickUp Skills Mapping Template

Although an essential ingredient of succession planning, skills assessment is a satiating meal on its own. To develop your employees’ skills and enable them and the company to grow, you have to know where they stand.

ClickUp’s Skills Mapping Template allows you to do that effortlessly. It’s a platform for self-assessment and score documentation and visualization with multiple views, including an assessment form and lists that show the results using different sorting criteria.

The first step is to forward the form to your employees. After they complete it, refer to one of the List views to see the results. You can also create other forms and collect different types of info, such as 360-degree feedback.

Keep in mind that you must subscribe to the Unlimited plan or up to share forms.

In the List view, scores are represented with fun emojis, adding a playful touch to the often dreaded skills assessment process. You can personalize emojis, categories, and fields to make the form more relatable and less intimidating. 

Training Rollout Plan Template by ClickUp

Once succession training gets underway, you need a solid system to manage programs and track progress . With the ClickUp Training Rollout Plan Template , you can stay on top of all information and plan the next steps with clarity and confidence. 💪

Although packed with features, this template is easy to use. It’s a list with many views covering various aspects of training management. 

The main view offers a complete list of training programs grouped by type. The columns include trainers, assignees, start and due dates, resources, and modalities, but you can customize them if needed. 

The Schedule view displays the timeline of events to help you manage time and coordinate training programs to ensure efficient implementation. The Modality board view shows courses as cards, enabling a visually engaging and intuitive way to organize tasks.

ClickUp Technical Skills Matrix Template

While the previous template allows for efficient training scheduling, this one lets you track assessment results. You can review scores, add ratings, calculate averages, and compare results to choose the best successor for any position .

The ClickUp Technical Skills Matrix Template is a handy tool for understanding the potential of each employee. With color-coded categories, it’s easy to identify strengths, areas for improvement, and skill gaps within your team. Although designed for technical skills, this template can be modified for other purposes, such as soft skill assessments and 360-degree feedback.

The template contains several views, including:

  • Technical skills : A list of all employees and how they score on various hard skills, such as software development and debugging
  • Core competencies : A list of all employees and how they score on core competencies, such as project management and analytics skills
  • Gap analysis : A table that singles out employees with skill gaps that should be addressed in their key positions

To quickly identify top performers, calculate average or total scores using formulas. Specify the overall development needs by selecting a category from the drop-down menu. You can add supporting documents in the References field to track everything in your future or past succession plans.

ClickUp Hiring Selection Matrix Template

Finding new people is sometimes more convenient than relying on internal resources and trying to fit square pegs into round holes. In such cases, you should screen numerous candidates to find the perfect match. With the ClickUp Hiring Selection Matrix Template , that process becomes more manageable.

It’s a document with multiple views designed to help you track candidates and their progress . In the Candidate Database list, you can find all the necessary info, including CVs, contact details, and assessors’ ratings. 

The Call Log board view shows candidates as cards, grouped by the hiring stage they’re in. The cards represent simplified candidate profiles, but you can reveal more information by clicking on them. To manage meetings , refer to the Interview Schedules Calendar view in ClickUp .

ClickUp Employee Engagement Action Plan Template

The ClickUp Employee Engagement Action Plan Template is a simple document that assists in your efforts to increase employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity . 📚

It begins with a space for your company name, logo, department name, and date. In the next section, Key Areas of Focus, you can state your:

  • Business Strategy : Your values and the problem your business or department aims to solve
  • People Strategy : Your goals when it comes to talent engagement within your company and how you plan on achieving them
  • Strategic Priorities : Summary of the essential points from the previous two sections, organized in a table

The following section focuses on measuring success. You can input your expectations for each objective in the table, then compare them to actual results to evaluate progress. Finally, create a communication plan, specifying preferred channels, audience, and frequency of updates for each goal. 

Compared to other succession plan examples in this list, this template lets you jazz up the document by inserting cool graphics or images, playing around with fonts, and customizing the color scheme to match your branding.

Check out a brief rundown of all the templates and their benefits:

Use These Succession Planning Templates To Stay Ahead of the Game

In the words of the great Miguel de Cervantes, ‘To be prepared is half the victory.’ This timeless wisdom holds true in the realm of succession planning as well.

With the right approach and tools, you can facilitate a successful transition of leadership within your business . Use these templates for succession planning and allow your organization to triumph no matter the circumstance. 👑

Business succession planning doesn’t have to be a challenge. Get ClickUp today and see why so many businesses rely on the platform for documenting and planning.

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Workforce planning

Business succession planning examples.

Succession planning examples

Succession planning and the Peter principle

Have you ever come across a manager or a key position employee and wondered how they reached that position? Yet, when speaking to them, you realize they’re just not the right fit for the job. If you’re nodding your head vigorously in agreement, then you’ve just been introduced to the Peter Principle.

Succession planning examples

The Peter principle, a concept by Laurence J Peter, states that “People in a hierarchy tend to rise to their “level of incompetence.”

The further explanation of the principle is that an organization often promotes or prepares people for higher or key positions based on their past performance. This goes on until the employee is no longer competent in their position. Are you wondering how the Peter principle is connected to examples of succession planning? Well, it is one of the most critical factors.

Let’s take an example to make it clearer.

A sales manager at Company X has suddenly resigned due to health issues. The company needs to fill this key position immediately so as not to disrupt the operations. They promote the salesperson within the team that has the best sales track record. That’s only fair, right? However, it so happens that although this newly promoted employee has an outstanding sales record, they might find it extremely difficult to execute their role as a manager. A good sales manager needs a different set of skills and competencies than a salesperson. They could lack necessary skills, like being able to motivate their colleagues, distributing tasks and responsibilities, communicating with different management levels, conflict management skills, etc.

This may lead to underperformance and feelings of demotivation, frustration, and anxiety. On the other hand, the succession planning model involves building core strategies so that you do not fall prey to the Peter Principle and can fill in a key position with the right employees at the right time. It includes:

  •  Identifying the requirements for key roles

Developing a succession planning model with correct assessment and training tools

  • Investing in the talent management processes

The three points above can help prevent organizations from falling prey to mediocre succession planning management and assist them in taking effective leadership decisions based on the value they will bring in the future.

Succession planning model with examples

Succession planning means an organization is prepare d to replace key employees who leave their positions , suddenly or otherwise . Each step in this process is critically important to ensure that your successors will add to the company’s future success. Below are examples for each step to help you better understand the sample succession plan document . 

Identifying requirements for key roles

It’s often only after someone leaves an organization that a gap in knowledge and expertise is felt. This gap can take a while to fill and could complicate business operations. Therefore, succession planning examples emphasize identifying the key roles, skills, and competencies needed for the organization to constantly be operating at peak efficiency. There are generally two levels of management that need to be a part of identifying the requirements of key roles and positions. Below are the examples of responsibilities of each department in succession planning.

The managers of each department should actively recognize the key areas and positions that could disrupt operations if left vacant. They must identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for key positions. If they notice any critical gaps, they should tailor the learning and development plans accordingly. Below are some responsibilities that managers must perform to implement a successful succession planning model.

  • Discuss career development with members of their teams
  • Create opportunities for employee development
  • Organize performance review meetings to understand if there is a need for further development.

Human resources department

The HR department plays a crucial role in succession planning. They advise managers to identify vulnerable positions that may soon fall vacant. For example, the employee in question could be retiring, moving to another city, or taking up a job in another company. This oversight allows managers to be alert and provide ample time to prepare a successor for a key position on time. Their responsibilities include:

  • Engaging in ongoing discussions with new/old prospects
  • Organizing performance management exercises and talent review meetings
  • Consulting with different departments to understand the current and future human resources
  • Evaluating succession planning initiatives
  • Helping to communicate key areas and positions to employees.

Once the people who are part of the succession planning process are recognized, the next step is to equip them with the right tools. These tools can help to match the right employees that will fit the future needs of the organization and help it achieve greater and consistent success. Below are some succession planning tools that can help walk you through the process.

Outlining the succession plan

Start with ensuring that you have a clear outline of the aim of the succession plan. A successful succession plan must include the below criteria:

  • A focus on progression and movement as well as on promotions for development purposes.
  • Guides for individual development
  • The ability to empower employees to self-nominate.
  • Ensuring that people on the plan are very well-versed with how it works.
  • Providing rewards and recognizing employees that support the plan.
  • An element to “retain” and improve individual performers.
  • External candidates to spur competition

Establish a board of key decision-makers

All the key decision-makers must be on the same page so that the plan is effective and can be enacted when the need arises. These key decision-makers constitute a board composed of managers, HR, stakeholders, C-suite, and the owner or stockholders.  Together they can plan to grow and develop internal prospective candidates; note down the succession timetable, and create a contingency plan in case of emergency.

Selecting potential candidates

Selecting and analyzing suitable candidates can ensure that the employees do not feel forced into a position they may not wish to obtain or that is appropriate for them. It’s possible that, when introducing a range of evaluation methods for prospective candidates in your succession planning model, a sense of favoritism may seem to come into play. However, it’s necessary to make clear that decisions are based on quantitative and objective measurements that reduce bias, and the influence of organizational politics. A good way to achieve this is to practice transparency in the evaluation process.

Recording technical skills

Listing down the technical skills, educational background, and work experience required for the key position can help select candidates that have the right capabilities to perform the job. These include requirements like:

  • Education and certifications
  • Work experience
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Promotion readiness
  • Reference checks

Psychological profiling

Psychological profiling has become a top-rated tool to select suitable candidates. This is done through psychometric assessments and interviewing, to identify any blind spots or characteristics that can derail the prospective candidate.

Selecting a training plan and activities

Now that the prospective candidates are identified, it’s time to develop a training program to support their growth. There are numerous succession planning models designed to develop the current employee into future leaders as the elected successors within the organization.

Stretch assignments

This method provides an opportunity for the selected candidate to demonstrate additional capabilities. Examples of stretch assignments include developing a new market entry plan, leading a new technology platform, or any tasks that are currently beyond their level of knowledge or skill and that will challenge them to learn and grow.

Formal training

This includes investment in academic programs such as higher education or enrolling them in any formal programs that can help them to upskill. Take a look at the most sought-after skills of 2022 here.

Motivate your employees to take charge of their career

The success of succession planning depends on fostering and promoting the continual development of employees. When you encourage a learning culture within your organization, your employees will be prepared and motivated to tackle bigger challenges. In our guide, you can understand the concept of upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling that can be detrimental to future-proof your workforce. 

People collaboration

Leadership coaching

In this method, an experienced senior employee coaches and prepares the selected candidate for the demands of a more leadership-based role. The importance of this type of coaching is evident through leadership development statistics that show that 71% of companies do not feel their current leaders can carry their organization into the future.

Measure and evaluate the progress

To ensure that the succession plan is working, you should review and evaluate the model and its effectiveness.

Here are some useful metrics to measure and evaluate the success or failure of the succession planning model.

  • The percentage of positions filled internally as compared to external hires: as external hires are more expensive; a high rate of internal placement indicates that the plan has been successful.
  • The percentage of employee promotions without taking tenure into account: while generally, promotions often go to candidates with the longest tenure, an effective succession plan selects the candidates most aligned with the key position.
  • The percentage of promoted employees that are promoted again within 3 years: this is a clear indication that the first succession strategy was successful as the employee has been able to exceed their job requirements.
  • The percentage of quick fill-in when a sudden job opening occurs wherein preselected employees can immediately fill a sudden “unplanned” opening without a loss in productivity.

Investing in the talent management processes 

Effective succession planning includes making judgments and predictions to identify high performers who can succeed in meaningfully more significant or more challenging roles. Thus, the question arises, “What certainty do you have that you are investing in the right people? What if you are a victim of the Peter principle?”

Take a look at statistics that show how catastrophic things can be when businesses fail to invest appropriately in future employees.

  • 24% of employees worldwide are “actively disengaged.”
  • 75% of companies agreed that it was more time-consuming this year than last year to find the right talent to fill positions.
  • The cost increased to replace employees have increased to 30% of an annual salary .

These numbers can affect both employee happiness and your company’s overall productivity. The solution to this nerve-wracking dilemma lies in investing in a talent management process that relies on scientifically proven processes to help organizations tackle the challenges of succession planning.

To understand how HRForecast can help you prepare for key people leaving or any questions that aren’t covered here, get in touch with one of our experts.

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Easy-to-use succession planning template for any business

business succession plan sample

A succession planning template is a great asset for future-proofing your organization. Even if the tides are in your favor right now, a sudden shift in leadership can create chaos within your company. Without a contingency plan for when managers leave their roles, replacing them with the right succession candidates can be a long and costly process.

But with a succession planning strategy, you can set your company up for future success. Foresight is key to a profitable business in the long term; knowing who can fill in when vacancies open in your company is an important asset.

In this article, you’ll learn how to use our simple succession planning template to line up potential candidates months or even years before the need arises. Let’s dive in.

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What is a succession planning template?

A succession planning template helps define key roles within your company and identify suitable replacements should they become vacant. Typically, the template will include any information that will help you find the ideal candidate to fill these positions.

Succession planning is the process of finding backups for key positions in case a manager or executive leaves. It’s about ensuring that if option A doesn’t pan out, there’s a backup plan in place. Any good template includes these core aspects of the succession planning process:

  •  A list of current business partners and potential replacements
  •  Key skills that each senior role requires
  •  Level of training and/or experience of the candidates
  •  Short-term and long-term cover for senior roles
  •  The amount of time it’d take to onboard a candidate for an existing position

The information you record within the succession plan will determine who is the right fit for each critical role in your company.

Why use a succession planning template?

Now more than ever, workers are resigning at alarming rates. A record number of Americans, around 4.53 million , stepped down from their jobs in 2021, leaving companies to pick up the pieces.

A succession planning template provides assurance that when roles in senior management open up in your company, you have a suitable replacement on hand. It’s a way to future-proof your company against everything from sudden dismissals or resignations to retirement and unforeseen events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

When you line up potential candidates to fill a vacant role in the future, you protect your company and can build towards longevity. Businesses with a revolving door dynamic — those suffering from high employee turnover — can experience disastrous consequences. It takes a significant amount of time and resources to train recruits for entry-level positions, let alone for senior roles.

What’s more, you aren’t guaranteed better results when you look to external hires to bail you out of a tight spot.

Using a template and filling out a plan helps you fill any unforeseen vacancies with the perfect in-house candidates. You can save money on hiring costs and decrease the time you spend without a senior manager. It costs on average $4,425 and takes 36-42 days to fill a vacancy when you can’t source someone in-house.

Succession planning can also help boost worker engagement. The clear possibility of promotion incentivizes employees to stay on with the company and gives them something to look forward to.

Now that you understand the “why” behind succession planning templates, let’s explore how you can use them in your company.

What are some examples of succession planning templates?

While all succession planning has the same goal — replacing a vacant role — it doesn’t always follow the same timelines or methods. Let’s take a look at 3 different use cases and templates.

1. Succession planning for soon-to-be-vacant roles

You can use a succession plan template to identify suitable replacements for soon-to-be-retired employees in key positions. With a table like the one below, you can not only plan for the moment the employee retires but also for the immediate future.

screenshot of succession plan for retirees

( Image Source )

While a long-term plan is necessary, you also have to think on your feet in case something goes wrong in the short term. With this template, you can determine whether you have someone in-house that can step into the role right now, 6-12 months on, or in a year or more. That way, it won’t be an issue if your ideal candidate for the position eludes you, as you’ll have temporary cover lined up.

2. Succession planning worksheet to identify critical roles

You can use a critical role identification questionnaire to figure out which roles are pivotal to your business’ success. Using a simple rating system, you can assign a level of priority to each role, letting you know which gaps you would need to plug first to keep the company running smoothly.

screenshot of questionnaire detailing skills for critical roles

3. Succession planning for identifying strong candidates

Use a candidate profile table to determine key skills needed for the critical roles in your company, as well as preferred experience level.

You can draw upon this information when you create your succession plan for each senior role. It’s a lot easier to find suitable in-house candidates that can take the reigns from those currently occupying critical roles when you already have a list of potential candidates and their strengths.

Candidate profile template screenshot

Want the best of all 3 worlds? We have a solution for you:’s succession planning template

The succession planning template includes critical role analysis, top candidate tables, and an overview of soon-to-be-vacant roles. Plus, you can take advantage of a fully customizable Work OS , not just dry spreadsheet software. A Work OS is a platform that houses all the tools you need to get work done — task boards, automated workflows, conditional notifications, high-level project planning, real-time dashboards for your management, and more's succession planning chart view screenshot

You can easily create reports to help convince executives that a specific candidate is the right match. You can even use the automation tools and resources to set reminders to discuss your succession planning strategy with your peers.

Personal data security is a priority for, and sensitive information is only accessible to those who are granted access. As a result, only those involved in the business succession plan will know which candidates are in consideration and for what roles.

Looking for more ways to track, store, and organize your employee growth information? We have a couple of additional templates that may help.

More related templates from

Individual development plan template.

Individual development plans are often coupled with action plans and inspire employee productivity and professional growth.

With this plan, you can get your employees up to speed on best practices within your company, so you don’t have to address common issues as they arise.

This template can also help you streamline onboarding and performance management processes and provide employees with actionable advice they can use to raise their stock and potentially work towards promotion.

The individual development plan can include the following elements:

  •  Professional goals
  •  Development opportunities
  •  Skills and experience competency assessment

Action plan template

An action plan template is self-explanatory: it details any actions you should take to accomplish a goal or complete a work-related project.

With an action plan, you can break a large project down into bite-size tasks for employees. Then, all you have to do is delegate the tasks to the relevant teams. That simplifies the process and ensures every employee knows what they need to do next, reducing dead time.

Here’s what you’ll need to include in your action plan template:

  •  A clear goal or objective
  •  Tasks to make progress towards the goal
  •  Individuals responsible for each task
  •  A timeline for completion of each task and the overall project
  •  Key metrics to assess performance
  •  A list of any resources that are necessary to get the job done

FAQs about succession planning templates

How do you write a succession plan.

The first step to creating a succession plan is outlining roles that contribute to the company’s ongoing success. Once you’ve done that, you can draw up a list of potential in-house replacements according to whether they meet your criteria for what will make them successful.

Then you’ll want to evaluate each candidate, comparing their skills and experience level to what you expect in the senior roles. Finally, you can identify training that can fill gaps in a candidate’s knowledge and skill levels if necessary to get them up to speed with the role.

Draw from the leadership team’s experience to find out which roles are pivotal to the company’s progress, as this will help you build a clear picture of what the perfect successor looks like.

Which model is most commonly used in succession planning?

The nine box grid succession planning model is very common in succession planning. Nine box succession planning is based on the idea that you can assess a candidate’s potential for various roles using a grid.

The grid, which has nine boxes, categorizes candidates according to their suitability for a role. You divide up information into the following brackets:

  • High potential
  • Medium potential
  • Low potential's succession planning timeline view screenshot

You then identify what mediocre to outstanding performance looks like in each of those cases, so you have a complete picture of what a candidate needs to slide into the role and perform the duties well.

What are the steps in succession planning?

Usually, you’ll come across 3 stages of succession planning: assessment, evaluation, and development.

Each stage represents a different part of the process of finding a suitable replacement for a senior management role in your company. Your plan should reflect what key skills a candidate would need to take on the position and perform well in it.

  • Assessment: Draw up a list of potential candidates to replace current senior roles in the company, and identify their key skills and experience levels. Determine what your candidates need to be able to do to fill the shoes of these roles.
  • Evaluation: Shortlist your candidates according to the criteria you’ve outlined for success in each critical role.
  • Development: What development activities are necessary to get any prospective candidates up to speed and ready to fulfill the duties of the role you’ve identified?

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7 Examples Of Succession Planning To Maintain Growth And Stability

Understanding succession planning, importance of succession planning, 5 examples of succession planning, real-life examples of succession planning at apple and ibm.

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  • Leadership Continuity:  Succession planning helps organizations prepare for inevitable leadership changes, such as retirements, promotions, or unexpected departures. Organizations can ensure a seamless transition by identifying and developing potential successors in advance, minimizing disruptions, and maintaining stability.
  • Talent Development:  Succession planning catalyzes talent development and employee growth. By identifying high-potential individuals within the organization, organizations can provide them with targeted training, mentoring, and leadership development opportunities. This prepares them for future leadership roles and enhances their skills, engagement, and job satisfaction.
  • Knowledge Transfer:  Effective succession planning facilitates the transfer of critical knowledge, skills, and expertise from experienced leaders to potential successors. This ensures the preservation of institutional knowledge, promotes learning and reduces the impact of knowledge gaps during leadership transitions.
  • Organizational Agility:  Succession planning enables organizations to adapt to changing business landscapes. Organizations can adapt quickly, make informed decisions, and capitalize on emerging opportunities by cultivating a pipeline of talented individuals. It also promotes diversity in leadership, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative thinking to the organization.
  • Retention and Engagement:  Implementing succession planning demonstrates a commitment to employee development and growth. It signals employees that their contributions are recognized and valued, increasing job satisfaction and fostering loyalty. Engaged employees are more likely to stay with the organization, reducing turnover and retaining institutional knowledge.
  • Mitigating Risks:  Succession planning helps organizations mitigate risks associated with leadership gaps. Organizations can ensure business continuity, maintain stakeholder confidence, and minimize the negative impact of sudden leadership vacancies by identifying and preparing successors in advance.
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  • Identifying high-potential employees and grooming them through leadership development programs, mentorship, and exposure to senior leadership.
  • Providing opportunities for potential successors to gain experience in different departments and functions to develop a well-rounded skill set.
  • Conducting regular performance assessments and assessments of leadership potential to track the progress of potential successors.
  • Implementing a mentoring program where experienced managers guide and coach potential successors, sharing knowledge and insights.
  • Offering managerial training programs to enhance the skills and capabilities of individuals with potential for future leadership positions.
  • Rotating employees through different managerial roles or projects to broaden their experience and prepare them for higher-level responsibilities.
  • Identifying employees with exceptional technical skills and providing specialized training and development opportunities.
  • Creating a knowledge-sharing culture where experienced technical experts mentor and transfer their expertise to potential successors.
  • Encouraging continuous learning and professional development in technical fields through certifications, workshops, and conferences.
  • Implementing a structured sales training program to develop potential successors’ sales skills and business acumen.
  • Assigning potential successors to work closely with experienced sales professionals to learn from their strategies and techniques.
  • Offering opportunities for potential successors to take on increasing sales responsibilities, such as managing key accounts or leading new market initiatives.
  • Identifying HR professionals who exhibit leadership potential and providing them with opportunities to work on strategic HR projects or initiatives.
  • Offering specialized training in HR management, such as employee relations, talent acquisition, and performance management.
  • Developing a talent pipeline within the HR department , nurturing high-performing HR professionals for future HR leadership roles.

Examples of succession planning

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Key takeaways

  • Succession planning is the process of making sure a business’s critical roles are always filled by qualified employees.
  • An effective succession plan process takes time to identify and prepare high-potential candidates to backfill roles that could become vacant.
  • Formalized training and leadership development support diverse succession planning that draws on a wider range of talent in the organization.

Since employees can leave an organization at any time, companies typically have two weeks to come up with a plan to fill that role, unless they’ve already done some succession planning. Succession planning prepares companies to backfill critical roles to maintain regular business operations. It therefore makes the difference between scrambling to fill an urgent vacancy or tapping into next-in-line talent.

In this article...

What is succession planning?

Succession planning is the process of ensuring that all critical positions in the organization are always staffed by preparing employees to take on those roles in case they become vacant. Succession planning, therefore, involves identifying necessary skills for key positions and training employees in those skills.

The succession planning process is also becoming increasingly predictive and proactive, moving beyond current roles to plan for future roles a company will need to add to its ranks.

Succession planning examples

Among examples of effective succession planning, IBM, Apple, Barneys New York, and others share the ingredients of time, intentionality, and varying degrees of structure.

Yet, they fall into one or both types of succession plans: long-term and formalized. These two succession plan approaches aren’t mutually exclusive. Rather, they should be combined to maximize the effectiveness of a company’s unique succession planning process.

Long-term succession planning

Long-term succession planning entails identifying and preparing someone for a role long before they officially take on that role.

This requires recognizing and nurturing high performers over time to set them and the organization up for success. That way, when the opportunity arises to take on a key role, that individual is well prepared to assume those responsibilities.

As an employee moves up the ranks and acquires a more complex understanding of how all the pieces of the business fit together, they’ll be ready to take on a leadership role when the time is right. 

With regard to timing, a long-term succession plan can lead up to a known point in the future when a replacement will be necessary, for example, when a CEO knows they’ll retire in five years. The transition can also happen earlier than expected if, for instance, the CEO resigns.

An example of long-term succession planning: IBM

A building with the IBM logo.

IBM created a long-term succession plan when promoting Virginia Rometty to CEO to replace Samuel Palmisano in 2011. Rometty had started working in an entry-level position at the company 30 years prior to her promotion and had worked her way up over time before attaining the CEO position. 

Rometty was key in this role until her retirement in 2020, and IBM’s succession plan enabled the smooth transition of power to Rometty’s successor, Arvind Krishna. In each situation, the company was able to maintain continuity by:

  • Establishing professional development pathways.
  • Cultivating a positive company culture.
  • Allowing candidates to compete at the same level.

Three decades is an extreme case of long-term succession planning, since employees change jobs an average of 12 times over the course of their career and the median number of years a private-sector employee stays with one company is only 3.7 years . 

Perhaps a more realistic example is Barneys New York’s five-year succession plan to prepare Daniella Vitale to become its CEO. The former CEO had already worked with her for many years and intentionally gave her opportunities to grow at Barneys before officially appointing her as successor.

Requirements for long-term succession planning

Recognizing that this strategy takes time—but not necessarily 30 years—companies can recognize and nurture high-performing employees early on and implement career pathways. Long-term succession planning requires a number of ingredients that maximize employee retention :

  • A supportive company culture with competitive benefits.
  • Performance and talent management tools that help managers identify top internal talent early on.
  • Robust learning and development programs that are personalized to employees’ goals and strengths.

Though requiring sustained effort, long-term succession planning is more effective than getting caught off guard with someone leaving and scrambling to train an employee to take their place.

Formalized, educational succession planning

A company’s learning and development or HR team can develop an internal educational academy, complete with a curriculum that trains and develops employees as future leaders in the company. Going through formalized training accelerates employees in their progress toward professional goals. It could even directly get them to their next position once they complete the training. 

An example of educational succession planning: Apple

A building with the Apple logo.

Former Apple CEO Steven Jobs took this type of succession planning upon himself and founded Apple University. Its digital curriculum drew from Jobs’s experiences to teach employees “how to think like Steve Jobs and make decisions that he would make.” 

Jobs still wound up choosing a successor who didn’t ultimately attend Apple University, but academy-like training isn’t only meant to train employees to become CEOs. It trains cohorts of employees on how to be effective leaders in order to fill talent pipelines for other management and executive positions at Apple.

To foster creativity and innovation in a succession plan, a company should draw from a range of leadership examples in its training. These can be from within the company or in the industry rather than focusing solely on the lessons from the company’s current leader. This more flexible succession planning strategy inspires employees to find their unique leadership style and voice rather than becoming a replica of the current CEO. 

How formalized succession planning supports corporate commitment to DEI

Formalized, training-based succession planning supports a company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Leaving a succession plan entirely up to interpersonal dynamics in the workplace without formal structure opens up the door for promotions based on relationships rather than skill set. Managers might favor and recommend those in their team and/or those they’ve worked with for a long time whether they’re qualified to take on the new role or not.

Also read: How Performance Bonuses Help Avoid Bias and Increase Productivity

Training employees across teams and tenure provides more employees with a chance to progress in their career trajectory—not just those employees who work most closely with the C-suite.

In addition, forward-thinking succession planning is smart, but as companies strategically train employees for future roles, managers need to ensure that the training maintains work-life balance, lest they fall victim to employee burnout .

Why is succession planning important?

Companies need to take inevitable turnover into account and have a succession plan in place to keep critical roles filled. A succession plan can help maintain growth and stability as well as encourage retention and internal development.

Succession planning prepares the company for the loss of key personnel. The benefits of this preparation include:

  • Business resilience no matter the economic climate.
  • Continued operations with minimal downtime.
  • Equitable workloads, so other employees aren’t overburdened with taking over tasks as a result of a vacancy.
  • Potentially mitigated unconscious bias.
  • More diverse workforce and leadership.
  • Higher employee retention and engagement.

The most important ingredient for any succession plan is time and investment in top talent. Browse our list of top corporate human capital management (HCM) software to start your succession planning process today.

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Succession Planning Tools & Templates

Free succession planning templates library.

To complement our  Succession Planning Services , we have developed a library of free succession planning templates and tools that will support your organization’s initiatives. For a complete printable version of all of our succession planning templates and to learn more about our  succession planning process , download SIGMA’s Succession Planning Guide below.

Succession Planning Guide

SIGMA’s Succession Planning Guide includes all of our templates in chronological order, as well as instructions and examples to guide you through SIGMA’s six-step succession planning process.

Succession Planning Template

What is a Succession Planning Template?

A succession planning template is a tool that can be used to help move a business along each stage of the succession planning process. Each of our templates provides checklist items, forms, and development plans to propel your business’s succession planning efforts further.  Browse our library of templates below to get started.

Succession Planning Templates

Critical Roles Identification Questionnaire

business succession plan sample

The Critical Roles Identification Questionnaire is a succession planning template that will help you to identify those key roles that your organization should target in your succession program.

Success Profile Template

business succession plan sample

The Success Profile Template is a succession planning worksheet designed to describe the talent needed for success in a key role.

Succession Nomination Survey Template

business succession plan sample

The Succession Nomination Survey is a simple succession planning tool that can be used to identify which candidates to consider for the critical roles you identified in phase one.

Succession Bench Template

business succession plan sample

The Succession Bench Template is used to evaluate the overall readiness of your succession candidates for a role.

Candidate Succession Profile Template

business succession plan sample

The Candidate Succession Profile Template is designed to identify gaps between the requirements for a role and the potential candidate being developed for that key leadership position.

Individual Development Plan Template

business succession plan sample

The Individual Development Plan is a two-part worksheet that outlines a succession candidate’s goals, action plans, and milestones for their growth and development.

Talent Progress Scorecard Template

business succession plan sample

The Talent Progress Scorecard Template allows you to review the outcomes of your business succession plan across several important indicators.

business succession plan sample

Our succession planning guide will walk you through what is required at each stage of the succession process along with some helpful tips to get you started.

Succession Planning Checklist

business succession plan sample

The succession planning checklist is a quick measure of the maturity level of your succession plan and what areas need to be improved.

Succession Planning vs Replacement Hiring Checklist

business succession plan sample

The succession planning vs replacement hiring checklist will help you identify if your organization is engaging in strategic long-term planning or settling for a quick fix.

Developing a Succession Plan that Supports Diversity

In this guide, we discuss the importance of diversity, how building diversity can benefit your team, and how you can use succession planning to create a leadership development program that supports diversity.

Download All Succession Planning Templates

If you would like a copy of all of our succession planning templates, download SIGMA’s comprehensive Succession Planning Guide. This free guide includes each of our templates in chronological order, as well as instructions and examples to guide you through SIGMA’s six-step succession planning process . 

Video Transcription

Our succession planning template available in this free download will walk you through what is required at each stage of the succession process, along with some really helpful tips to get you started. Inside you’ll find functional templates and tools to help you along every stage of your succession planning process, including measuring the maturity of your current process, determining where to focus limited resources, defining what is required for success at each role, identifying those succession candidates, building and measuring your talent bench, documenting development needs, tracking progress and identifying those really important development opportunities, and finally, measuring and communicating the success of your process which we think is really the most important part of the processes, is closing that loop. Hopefully this template helps you develop and get started on your succession planning process. If you need help getting started, take a moment to check out our “Succession Planning Launch Series” which offers a simple and cost-effective way to build a robust process and ensure your organization’s leadership is positioned for success and prepared for the unknown. Contact us to learn more about our Succession Planning Launch Series that delivers a custom succession plan in just 30 days, while requiring less than eight hours, essentially two half-day sessions, from your leadership team.

Browse Templates by Process

Identifying critical roles.

Determine which roles your organization should target through its succession program.

Identify critical roles for succession planning


Describe the talent composition required for each critical role today and in the future.

Build success profiles for talent development


Choose candidates for each critical role through a nomination survey.

Nominate succession candidates


Summarize each candidate’s talent profile and identify gaps to target through development.

Assessing succession planning needs


Prepare development plans for candidates and track their development activities.

Measure Progress


Measure the impact of your succession plan.

Measuring Progress

Need Help Getting Started?

SIGMA’s  Succession Planning Launch  is an efficient and affordable solution designed to establish a strong succession planning process and fortify leadership for optimal performance, even in unpredictable circumstances. Contact our team today to learn how we can deliver a full-year, custom succession plan in just two half-day workshops.

Succession Planning Template FAQs

What is a succession planning template.

A succession planning template can be a process or a tool. As a process, a succession planning template outlines the steps an organization can follow to build a strong succession plan. SIGMA uses a six-step process, which is unique because it not only helps leaders create a plan, but it also helps organizations establish an ongoing talent development program. This ensures that the succession plan will be sustainable over time, and replicable as new employees join the talent pool.     As a tool, succession planning templates may consist of checklists, forms, development plans, etc. SIGMA’s templates are built to correspond to a particular step in the succession planning process. For access to all of our templates in chronological order, d ownload SIGMA’s free Succession Planning Guide. The guide walks you through our six-step succession planning process AND includes all the templates you’ll need along the way .

Why use a succession planning template?

SIGMA’s succession planning templates provide a structured approach to identifying and developing future leaders, ensuring a smooth transition during leadership changes. They can also help organizations save time, provide consistency, and help align  talent development with strategic goals.

Can these succession templates be used for any industry?

Yes, SIGMA’s succession planning templates can be adapted for use in various industries. While the specific terminology and requirements may vary, the underlying principles of identifying and developing talent for leadership roles remain relevant across different sectors.

Are these succession planning templates suitable for organizations of all sizes?

Yes, SIGMA’s succession planning templates can be beneficial for organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to large corporations. The templates can be scaled and adapted to meet the specific needs and resources of your organization.

Do these succession planning templates address both internal and external succession planning?

Yes, our succession planning templates address both internal succession (promoting from within) and external succession (bringing in talent from outside). The templates can be tailored to suit your organization’s specific needs in either scenario.

Glen Harrison, Succession Planning Consultant

Want to Learn More About our Succession Planning Methods?

Glen Harrison is a senior consultant who specializes in organization transformation and succession planning. He has worked with many Fortune 500 companies and government organizations in Canada and the United States. Glen has helped numerous clients build strong succession plans using SIGMA’s products and services to unlock their people potential. Contact Glen today and learn about how SIGMA can help you develop your leaders. We would love to hear from you!

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