Post Pandemic Transformation of Talent Succession

Apr 18, 2023 6 Min Read
digital art of a mentor coaching an employee

Digital art impression from DALL.E #dalle

The Evolution of Succession Planning: From Neglected Necessity to Engaging Strategy

In the past, Succession Planning was often seen as the dull relative at a family gathering - a critical aspect of business strategy that didn't receive much attention. While top executives talked about it, many employees on the ground went about their daily tasks, hoping they wouldn't be the unlucky ones to lose their jobs. However, today, businesses are recognising the importance of succession planning and actively involving employees in the process.

Succession Planning used to suffer from a couple of common misconceptions, which only served to make it even less appealing. 

  • Firstly, there was the belief that it was nothing more than a fancy term for a ‘replacement plan’. This made employees anxious whenever management brought up the topic, as they would start wondering who was about to be let go. It felt like being on an episode of Survivor, where someone was always getting voted off the island.
  • The second misconception was that Succession Planning was simply a ‘cloning process’, with management trying to find a ‘mini-me’ to take over when they were gone. But let's be honest, no one wants to work for a boss who's so self-absorbed they only want a carbon copy of themselves running the show. Instead, we want leaders who bring their own unique strengths and perspectives to the table, adding their own flavor to the mix.

There are a few reasons why these misconceptions about Succession Planning may have developed:

  1. Lack of understanding: Employees who are unfamiliar with Succession Planning may assume it means simply promoting people based on seniority or tenure, without taking into account their skills or leadership potential 
  2. Negative past experiences: Imagine an organisation where Succession Planning was used to push out older employees or promote family members of executives, rather than those who were truly qualified. This could lead to employees feeling skeptical or resentful towards the process. Moreover, there is the unfortunate reality of bias in the selection process, where leaders tend to favour candidates who resemble them, leading to a lack of diversity in the talent pipeline. It is like a chef choosing only their favorite ingredients without considering the dish's requirements.
  3. Lack of communication: Imagine an organisation that has a Succession Planning process in place but doesn't communicate it clearly to employees. This can create confusion and rumors, with employees assuming that only a few are being considered for leadership positions. 
  4. Fear of change: Imagine a group of managers who are comfortable in their roles and don't want to be replaced. They might resist Succession Planning because they fear losing their positions or being pushed out. It can be similar to a restaurant's reluctance to share a recipe. Leaders may view coaching, mentoring, and knowledge transfer as unnecessary investments of their time and resources because they fear that developing new leaders may threaten their current positions. This fear can result in a rushed handover of knowledge and unwarranted assumptions about the job holder's departure, leading to a lack of proper planning and preparation for the future.

Succession Planning vs Talent Development

Some people may confuse Talent Development and Succession Planning, as both concepts aim to identify and develop talent within an organisation. However, there are distinct differences between them. 

Talent development is like consuming a daily intake of fruits to keep your body healthy and functioning at its best. You need a balanced diet of various fruits to provide the necessary vitamins and nutrients to keep your body going.

In contrast, Succession Planning is similar to the process of cultivating a particular fruit tree to yield the best fruits. This process involves carefully selecting the right seeds, nurturing the plant with the proper soil, water, and sunlight, and pruning and shaping the tree to produce the best fruits. Similarly, Succession Planning entails identifying high-potential employees, providing them with the right learning interventions, and shaping them to be the best leaders for the organisation's future. It's like cultivating a fruit tree to yield the best fruits for a specific purpose. 

Therefore, while talent development is essential for maintaining a healthy workforce, Succession Planning is critical for cultivating the best leaders and achieving organisational success in the long run. A well-developed succession programme can produce the best leaders for your organisation's growth and success.

Read more: 

Safeguard Your Legacy Through Succession Planning

Managing Talent And Succession Planning


How the Pandemic impacted Succession Planning

The pandemic has accelerated the need for Succession Planning in many cases. HR practitioners and company owners have realised that they thought they had more time to develop their next generation of leaders, but the pandemic has thrown a wrench into their plans. With people leaving for various reasons, there is a pressing need to identify and develop new leaders who can guide the organisation through uncertain times.

Organisations need to have their talent succession plans in place before any potential crises or unforeseen changes in the business landscape occur, similar to how a chef needs to have all the ingredients prepared before starting to cook a dish. In the past, many companies only focused on succession planning for a select few executive roles, but now there's growing awareness that planning needs to occur at all levels, including middle managers and junior executives. This is because the job market is constantly evolving, with new roles being created and technology changing the way we work. Staying relevant and adapting to changes is crucial.

Additionally, with the rise of the "YOLO lifestyle," where people are more likely to switch jobs or start their own businesses, tenure is becoming shorter. Picking the right fruit at the market requires being quick and adaptable to changes. The impact of COVID-19 has also caused a backlog of workers who are now ready for a new role.

As someone who has worked on Succession Planning projects pre-pandemic, I can attest to the importance of considering how a crisis like the pandemic can impact Succession Planning. Organisations should have asked, "What will a crisis do to our succession plans?" 

Post-pandemic, organisations have been forced to re-evaluate their succession plans, highlighting the importance of flexibility and adaptability in leadership. The organisations that are most adaptable with their ‘people plans’ during this time will likely find the most success. Even the most well-thought-out plans can quickly become obsolete in times of crisis, so it's crucial for organisations to have a contingency plan in place and be willing to pivot and adjust as needed.

Listen to these podcasts:

Raise Your Game: Succession Planning

Raise Your Game: Post Pandemic Transformation of Talent Succession



It is undeniable that succession planning should be integrated into an organisation’s corporate culture and discussed and communicated more openly. It is important to involve the whole senior leadership team in the process to demonstrate management's commitment to the plan.

“Succession planning is like baking a cake - you need to have all the right ingredients and follow a recipe, but you also need to be flexible and adaptable if something unexpected happens. Just like how a skilled baker can adjust their recipe on the fly if the batter is too thick or the oven temperature is off, successful organisations must be able to pivot and adjust their succession plans in times of crisis.."

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of succession planning and made it clear that organisations need to be prepared for unexpected challenges. We need to start building a pipeline of leaders who can keep up with the times, bring new ideas to the table, and steer our organisations towards success. So let's put on our thinking caps, roll up our sleeves, and get down to the business of building a better tomorrow! is an advertisement free website. Your continuous support and trust in us allows us to curate, deliver and upkeep the maintenance of our website. When you support us, you allow millions to continue reading for free on our website. Will you give today? Click here to support us


Edited by: Kiran Tuljaram

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Jeffrey Tan is the Design & Solutions Director of Leaderonomics Services Malaysia. He has spent more than 13 years working in the area of human capital consulting and talent management, with the privilege of having partnered with many multinationals and government-linked clients to diagnose their human capital needs and design solutions to help them execute talent strategies.


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