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Implementing an Effective Succession Planning Program

15 June 2022 |8:00 am - 5:00 pm BST


Fortune 500 companies and small family businesses alike share a business need – insuring that they have the talent necessary to effectively lead their organizations in the future. One of the most significant contributions a leader can make is insuring his/her business’ continuity and sustainability – by having employees who are willing and capable of filling each key position with a plan for doing so when the need arises.

Succession Planning is a:

  • The deliberate, systematic process of anticipating the need for talent and ensuring that the necessary employee competencies and experience are available when needed in the future
  • A strategic approach for avoiding an undersupply of talent, enhancing the organization’s current talent pool, and meeting its future needs

Not having a Succession Plan can be costly and sometimes disastrous; it’s expensive to recruit, interview, select, onboard and train a new leader and significant opportunity costs are incurred when a key job is not being performed.


The primary objectives for and deliverables from a Succession Planning program are to:

  • Sustain the business through a deliberate and systematic effort to anticipate and ensure
  • leadership continuity in key positions
  • Retain and develop the organization’s high potential [HiPos]

Encourage individual development by:

  • Identifying career paths
  • Conducting formal performance appraisals
  • Providing daily coaching
  • Creating Individualized Development Plans [IDPs]

During Succession Planning Programs:

  • At the macro level the organization is proactively determining:
  • The talent needed in the future
  • The talent it has now
  • Where there are talent gaps
  • The initiatives necessary to close those gaps
  • At the micro-level, the organization is addressing – for each of its key positions – questions such as:
  • What the organization would do if it had to fill the position tomorrow
  • Whether there is, at least, one successor who could immediately perform the duties of the position
  • If there is no successor ready now, what will need to be done to enable the best internal candidate to be ready and when can he/she be ready can the organization afford to wait, or would it be better to recruit a successor, etc

Experience has found the following two processes to be very effective in enabling organizations to have the talent they need, when it’s needed:

#1 Performance Management and/or 360 Feedback Processes – through which the
the organization is able to:

  • Evaluate its employee’s current performance – based on documented, objective performance and achievements
  • Assess its employee’s advancement potential
  • Determine its employee’s current readiness for advancement
  • Obtain from its employees self-appraisals identifying their developmental needs and preferred career plans
  • Meet its bench strength needs by initiating Individual Development Plans and experiences – at least, for its A Players and/or High Potentials – such as:

Special or stretch projects
Assignments in other depts./job rotations
Try-out/popcorn stand slots
Formal training and development initiatives
Fast track programs with exposure to other functions
Intense coaching, etc.

  • Track their A Players and High Potentials performance and advancement potential
  • Against a Performance-Potential Grid

Talent Review Meetings – during which the executive team in a disciplined fashion:

  • Asks each leader to report on the status of the Individual Development Plans for each of their A Players and High Potentials
  • Ensure that each A Player and High Potential is receiving regular coaching and is actively involved in opportunities that will help retain them while accelerating their development
  • Drives the organization past business as usual  by insuring that its future needs for human capital are identified and will be satisfied when the time arrives – as it will

Succession Planning initiatives also increase the levels of engagement and performance of your A-Players and High Potentials – the talent your organization will most need in the future.


Succession Plan Defined

  • A deliberate, systematic process of anticipating the need for talent and ensuring that the necessary employee competencies and experience are available when needed
  • A strategic approach for avoiding an undersupply of talent, enhancing the organization’s current talent pool, and meeting the organization’s future needs

Objectives and  Benefits of Succession Planning

  • Sustain the business through a systematic effort to ensure leadership continuity in key positions
  • Attract, retain & develop high potentials [HiPos]

Encourage HiPos development by:

  • Identifying career paths
  • Conducting performance appraisals
  • Providing daily coaching
  • Creating Individualized Development Plans [IDPs]
  • Holding Talent Review meetings

Tools and Processes Commonly Utilized for Developing and Implementing

  • Self-appraisals and career goals
  • Performance appraisals, 360 feedback, and ratings
  • Assessment instruments
  • GE grid
  • Individual development plans [IDPs]
  • HiPo talent development interventions
  • Talent review meetings

What an Organization, its Leaders, and the Program Participants Need to Do To Achieve an Effective Plan
What an organization needs to do:

  • Supply funding/budget
  • Establish a clear vision and guidance for the program
  • Develop a formal, written program
  • Announce the objectives of the program to all employees
  • Ensure that all leaders and managers support the program

What the leaders need to do:

  • Have job descriptions developed for their teams
  • Conduct effective, formal performance appraisals
  • Identify employee developmental areas
  • Share their knowledge and experience
  • Involve employees in more of the leader’s responsibilities
  • Facilitate the completion of IDPs for all Hi Pos

What the program participants need to do:

  • Conduct self-appraisals
  • Identify their desired career paths
  • Learn as much as they can about potential future assignments
  • Perform to their capabilities
  • Complete their IDPs
  • Develop the employees reporting to them – so they have successors

Potential Measures of the Program’s Success

  • Whether there is, at least, one successor for each key position
  • Having developmental goals and IDPs established for each successor
  • Determining how much of their manager’s job the successors can perform
  • Determining whether successors can perform their manager’s jobs when they are
  • unavailable and evaluating their performance during those time


  • HR Professionals New to the Field – seeking a comprehensive view of the subject with multiple application initiatives
  • Experienced HR Professionals – seeking a refresher
  • Leaders and Managers – interested in understanding both how a Succession Plan benefits an organization and how to implement one



Pete Tosh is the Founder of The Focus Group, a management consulting and training firm that assists organizations in sustaining profitable growth through four core disciplines:

  • Implementing Strategic HR Initiatives: Executive Search, Conducting HR Department Audits, Enhancing Recruiting, Interviewing & Selection Processes, Installing Performance Management Programs, Conducting Training Needs Assessments, Installing HR Metrics, etc
  • Maximizing Leadership Effectiveness: Facilitating Team Building Initiatives, Designing and Facilitating 360 Performance Assessments, Executive Coaching, Measuring and Enhancing Employee Engagement and Performance, etc
  • Strategic Planning: Facilitating Strategic Planning Events, Establishing Succession Plans, Installing Business Performance Metrics, etc
  • Enhancing Customer Loyalty: Conducting Customer Satisfaction Surveys, Facilitating Customer Advisory Councils, Developing Standards of Performance and Scripts for Key Customer TouchPoints, etc.

The Focus Group has provided these consulting and training services to manufacturing and service organizations across the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the Middle East. Pete has worked closely with the leadership teams of organizations such as Exxon, Brinks, EMC, State Farm, Marriott, N.C.I. YKK and Freddie Mac to:

  • Align corporate organizational structures with their strategic initiatives — while ensuring value creation for their customer bases
  • Ascertain customers’ primary needs and perceptions of organizations’ performance relative to that of their competitors
  • Develop and implement customer loyalty enhancement processes — based on specific customer feedback — that delivered sustainable advantages in the marketplace
  • Implement performance management programs, executive coaching, compensation systems, and other HR processes to strategically direct and reward desired employee behavior

Prior to founding his own firm 25 years ago, Pete had 15 years of experience — at the plant, divisional and corporate levels — in Human Resource and Quality functions. Pete held leadership positions — including the V.P. of Human Resources and Quality — with Allied Signal, Imperial Chemical Industries, Reynolds Metals, Charter Medical, and Access Integrated Networks.

Pete also frequently develops and facilitates a variety of leadership development programs including Strategic Planning, Moving from an Operational Manager to a Strategic Leader, Strategic HR Management, The Fundamentals of Human Resource Management, Recruiting, Interviewing & Selection, and Employment Law, and Utilizing HR Metrics. Employees from over 3,000 organizations have benefited from Pete’s experience and perspective. Pete is a co-author of Leading Your Organization to the Next Level: The Core Disciplines of Sustained Profitable Growth.

Pete holds a B.A. degree in Psychology from Emory and Henry College and Masters’s degree in both Business Administration and Industrial Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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15 June 2022
8:00 am - 5:00 pm BST
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