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Succession planning is the process of planning towards the transition of leadership positions. This includes recruiting new talent or training internal candidates to successfully move into your position once you leave.

In most organisations, succession planning is handled by the HR department, as they search for internal or external candidates that are right for the position and culture of the organisation.

However, CIOs often have the job of hiring and retaining talent as well. It may also include grooming potential candidates to replace them, well ahead of time.

Read next: Best practices for succession planning

Why it’s important

Succession planning is an important part of the talent management process. It provides a way to identify key roles, people with the right skills and positions that may need filling in a short space of time.

It also provides a way to cut the costs of recruitment, enabling organisations to manage recruitment in-house.

The process is also equally important as organisations prepare for the retirement of staff. According to ERC, research figures show that the number of people in leadership roles that plan to retire in the next few years is higher than the number of people entering the workforce.

Organisations are now required to prepare for such situations. This can include a handover process of employing an interim senior leader that will handle a number of tasks and duties in order to get used to the role that they may have to take over.

It also allows candidates to come forward for open positions. For instance, the position of a CIO will require strong leadership skills with IT and business skills.

Although some candidates may not have the required skills, succession planning also often includes training and mentoring for potential candidates.

The process is designed to help organisations recognise future leaders, there could be employees working in back-office positions that have the potential or skills to take on a higher position, which may not be recognised without executed talent management.

Investing time into succession planning also has a great impact in creating and maintaining good gender diversity in senior roles.

Anna Barsby, CIO and Transformational Director at <confidential> - previously Morrisons - highlighted the importance of succession planning in an interview with CIO UK during her time at Morrisons. She said: "We have a good number of women in our technology team at Morrisons which is lovely to see, however we have to keep role-modelling, keep nurturing, keep encouraging and keep succession-planning because there aren't enough women coming through"

What to consider

There are several things to consider when you construct a succession plan. Who will be the successor, what promotional paths are in place and the training that is required.

It is a good idea to review a structured succession plan so that all areas are monitored periodically. This will enable positions to be instantly available in sudden cases of someone having to retire or leave a job role.

When done efficiently, succession planning will help to recruit for opportunities in a smooth and successful way.