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Easy-to-use succession planning template for any business 9 min read
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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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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