Two-fifths of employers have never used succession planning

Two employers in five have never operated a succession planning process, according to research published by XpertHR.

The 2011 XpertHR survey on succession planning also found that fewer than one organisation in four (23.3%) currently runs a formal process for succession planning and less than one in three (31.5%) uses an informal system.

According to the research, the main reasons that employers did not operate succession planning were: it was not a business priority; their organisation lacked the resources or HR expertise needed to run this process; staff turnover was low; and the size or nature of the workforce made it irrelevant.

Large employers were more likely to have a formal process in place, with 44% of organisations employing more than 1,000 members of staff doing so, compared with 22% of employers with between 250 and 999 workers and 13% of businesses with fewer than 250 employees.

Perhaps unsuprisingly, the most common roles covered by formal succession planning systems were managerial, professional and skilled positions.

However, the findings suggest that succession planning remains secretive, with fewer than half of those surveyed considering their planning process to be sufficiently transparent and more than a quarter (27%) saying that their succession system was effective in terms of diversity.

Rachel Suff, author of the report, said: “Some employers have reservations about succession planning inhibiting diversity, although this concern is more understandable in the context of more traditional and elitist succession plans.

“The modern plans around today tend to be more open, fair and inclusive, and based on meritocracy, with many employers taking steps to encourage diversity among successors.”

The research surveyed 146 employers about their succession planning practices.

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