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It Takes a Village: Succession Planning Roles & Responsibilities

In the world of Talent Management, Succession Planning can be daunting, and gaining traction can be difficult. Further, in nearly every annual survey conducted by talent management researchers and vendors, we learn that the C-Suite and CHROs report that they do not think “we” are doing Talent Management very well.

  • A 2018 study by SHRM found that only 29% of organizations felt they were effectively managing talent, while only 22% felt they were effectively doing succession planning.
  • A 2020 report by Gartner found that only 37% of organizations have a formal process for identifying and developing high-potential employees.
  • A 2020 Deloitte study found that only 24% of HR leaders felt they were effectively managing talent, while only 18% felt they were effectively addressing succession planning.
  • A 2021 study by PwC found that only 42% of board members felt that their organization’s HR function was effectively managing talent.

These survey results have remained relatively constant over many years of polling.

While this article may start out on a sour note, we can be confident that there is substantial science, best practices, and proven processes to improve succession planning efforts–taking one step at a time.

A potential driver of these poor survey results may lie in the fact that many HR functions carry too much of the weight for succession planning. This is not to say that HR is not accountable and responsible for the process. Rather, it is to highlight that others must also fulfill their roles and responsibilities to drive positive Succession Planning outcomes.

The Succession Planning Village

The Roles and Responsibilities in Succession Planning

Let’s meet the village their Roles and Responsibilities in Succession Planning.


The Chief Human Resources Officer must oversee all aspects of talent management. They are ultimately accountable for backing a strong talent bench and the succession planning process. This includes collaborating and influencing other executives to align the talent strategy to broader objectives.

C-Suite, Top Job Holders

C-Suite and Top Job Holders have a dual responsibility in succession planning. They must manage the day-to-day operations that include immediate talent demands. Simultaneously, they must have an eye on the necessary knowledge, skills, and attributes that are needed to create a strong bench for the future.


The CEO must be committed to building a strong talent bench. This ensures the continuity of the organization’s success, mitigates risk, prepares the organization for the future, and strengthens relationships with outside stakeholders.

The Board

The Board has a vested interest in ensuring that a strong bench is built and at times may be tasked with oversight of the process.

Outside Stakeholders

Shareholders, investors, and even government agencies have a vested interest in the success of building a strong talent bench as it signifies the health and continuity that they can depend upon.

High Potentials and High Professionals

The care and feeding of these vital team members must be considered as targeted investments that must be made. This starts with using science to verify who falls in these categories and demonstrating the unique opportunity they have to make contributions and advance in the organization. Their success is ultimately intertwined with the success of the organization.

Other Organization Leaders

Other leaders and bosses must 1) identify and use talent to accomplish today’s work, 2) lead in the development of talent to increase their capabilities, and 3) demonstrate a commitment to the greater long-term good of the organization through engagement in succession processes.

Talent Management Professionals

The responsibility of keeping the succession planning “train” moving lies in the hands of Talent Management professionals. They must build a strong bench, execute on succession planning initiatives, identify high potentials and high professionals, leverage effective talent tools in the process, and ultimately ensure long-term success of the organization.

Participation across the entire village is vital and each stakeholder must fulfill their roles and responsibility in succession planning processes. Engage, educate, and influence the village within research-based best practices and you will be well on your way to ensuring that you dramatically outperform the statistics above.

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