Last Updated on November 17, 2022
An organization’s advancement typically depends on multiple factors, from the relevance and value of its objectives to the innovativeness of the individuals involved in meeting these objectives. To boost the productive capacity of an organization, you have to take human resources and leadership into account.
Two routes you can use to achieve this are career planning and succession planning. Both processes are at the heart of corporate growth measures and you may need to focus on them at some point.
Thus, to make a reasonable fist of career planning and succession planning, you have to know enough about them. With the explanations provided in this article, you will be able to understand what each entails, how to differentiate them, and how to use them effectively.
What is Career Planning?
Career planning involves assessing individual abilities and strengths, fixing career goals and objectives, and establishing steps to achieve these aspirations. Everything is then put down into a formal career plan which can be periodically updated. The process is systematic, well-thought-out, and specific. The end result is a practical document that can be used by others, with slight modifications. Career planning is to-the-point and very different from fantastical aspirations of building castles in the air and riding on swans.
The process is backed by a strong resolution to meet goals. It also requires a vision for career advancement based on a feasible and practical pathway. Usually, career planning encapsulates expected vertical progression within a profession.
Even if you think of career planning as an offshoot of corporate or organizational management, it is still like a cycle that consists of the individual in question, the goals to be reached, and the strategies that will cause these two factors to meet. In other words, you cannot separate career planning from every process that an organization implements to squeeze out the potential of an employee through the deliberate use of developmental strategies.
So, to sum up, career planning requires the identification of a person’s career goals and the use of strategies to achieve these goals. The process can be carried out by the individual in question or the organization. But, the ultimate goal is to structure an individual’s work life in a progressive and coherent manner.
Therefore, when you analyze your skills and interests and then compare them with your career goals, taking into account the career opportunities in view, what you are doing is career planning. The journey begins when you create a resume for your first application and can take you all the way to upper management.
What is Succession Planning?
Succession planning is a process that is carried out in an organization with the ultimate purpose of meeting company goals. Critical positions within the company must be filled at all times. So the company identifies these roles and plans how to fill them when the time comes. This can be top management roles, leadership roles, logistics roles. These positions are deemed too important to be occupied by any random person. So, based on the outcome of the succession process, the presumed next-in-line can be skipped in favor of a more suitable individual.
Succession planning revolves around how company leadership can be improved and consolidated.
Whether you are the top boss or a middle-level employee, you have a role to play in replacement planning. The process starts with the identification of specific individuals who are considered to have the potential to contribute more to the organization as long as they have better opportunities to do so.
An individual might pique the interest of upper management based on their contribution to company objectives and growth. Such an individual might be selected to a shortlist of possible successors to a higher role. This can happen with or without their knowledge. Special attention will be paid to the employee going forward as management determines if they’ve got what it takes to assume higher responsibilities.
Succession planning ensures that an organization is able to keep up a steady flow of capable leadership hands. But it also means that an organization can strengthen itself with more adaptive leadership in a fast-changing world, thereby thriving smoothly and efficiently.
Just like career planning focuses on the goals of the individual to formulate the path of development and improvement, succession planning fixates on the goals of the organization.
Succession planning yields better results when it starts ahead of time. A responsible company doesn’t wait until a position is vacant before swinging into action. To be most effective, succession planning should be a continuous process of identifying and grooming capable personnel.
Ultimately, succession planning involves all the steps that an organization adopts and implements to upgrade their employees. Once you have successfully completed the process for a role, you will have capable hands taking over vacant positions and keeping the wheels spinning.
Difference Between Career and Succession Planning
Despite being similar processes of corporate management, career and succession planning are different. Here are 7 ways you can differentiate career planning from succession planning.
Focus and Scope
Career planning is often focused on an individual and their goals. This means that the individual identifies and categorizes goals that will further their career. These goals may be short-term or long-term, but they are always within the scope of reason. So, you can mark career planning as successful once the individual begins to meet these goals.
Succession planning is focused on an organization and its goals. Even though select employees appear to be the direct beneficiaries, everything is done for the organization. The people chosen are groomed so they will be able to capably plug a gap and help the company keep chugging along.
Career planning strategies differ from succession planning strategies. For one, career planning strategies are pointedly intended to improve an individual’s skillset and—eventually—take their career to the next level. If you were the individual in question, you would adopt broad measures of self-development, including improving communication skills, the use of industry-specific technology, and more.
However, in the case of succession planning, it would be more accurate to say that an individual is being fine-tuned in a way that fits the requirements of the organization. So, the training and seminars that make up the grooming are usually geared towards adjusting you to the organization’s preferences. Thus, while the individual will be improved, the main direction of the improvement is in terms of leadership abilities.
Career planning is usually carried out by an individual. Unless this person requests a third-party entity to help them, they will have to play the role of strategist, decision-maker, executor, and feedback evaluator. As a result, career planning is usually difficult to put into effect. Furthermore, unless you are a genius intending to reach particular goals by all means, there’s a chance you will veer slightly here or there. For example, you might become a product development officer instead of the brand executive job you planned for.
Succession planning, by comparison, is more straightforward to execute. This is because the process is backed by the strategic might of an organization. With so many individuals involved in the process, some formulating plans, some testing scenarios, the process is usually easier.
Effectiveness of Methods
There are no specific methods used for career planning. If you are the typical employee of an organization and you’re hoping to make a top position in the next 36 months, career planning is the way forward. However, you will find that there are many things you could do to reach your objective. You might find that your best bet is to keep your options open for as long as possible before fully committing to a specific method.
By contrast, succession planning methods are often narrow, industry-specific, reproducible, and time-tested. Once again, because of the resources available to an organization, not to mention the high priority that organizations give to leadership, succession planning is more focused, therefore its methods are typically effective.
Level of Participation and Organizational Involvement
For career planning, a single individual is often involved. For example, imagine that you want to become a better graphic designer and plan to gain complete mastery of how to use Adobe Photoshop. Most likely, you would rely on your smarts, YouTube videos, MOOC platforms, and more. However, you will still be the only true driving force for the career planning process.
Imagine a different scenario where an organization is grooming you for a lead graphic designer position. Naturally, you would already have mastered things like Adobe Photoshop or they wouldn’t even bother. The company might place you under the current occupant of the role so you can learn the intricacies of leading a whole team of graphic artists. They will monitor your aptitude and even create situations that require you to take charge so they can measure your competence and suitability. All this involves more people, more planning and more resources.
Duration of Anticipated Transformation
More than the difficulty and cost of the process, career planning and succession planning differ on the level of expectation and anticipated transformation. As an individual, using career planning means that you likely have a short-term expectation. In short, it is very likely that the further the goal is from actualization, the lesser the level of anticipation for transformation.
In the case of succession planning, however, your bosses would not let you off but expect exactly what they are training you for. And if you were the top person in the organization, you would not expect anything less than what you are paying for. If you initiate succession planning for your employees, you will only be satisfied when they reach the level of leadership capacity you demand and expect.
Returns on Planning Success
Similar to the last point, there is almost always an element of uncertainty involved in career planning. Even if you have someone else assisting you, the confidence with which you expect to reach your goals might wane depending on the projected duration of the plan. This also means that the returns (rewards) for career planning are usually few and fixed.
In the case of succession planning, the returns are usually big and measured in layers. As in the case of our graphic designer, you could master the whole Adobe Suite and still need to hunt for opportunities. But if you were a beneficiary of succession planning, the rewards are reinforced and will continue to come your way so long as you hold up your end of the bargain.
Steps for Effective Career and Succession Planning
Succession planning is significantly smoother than career planning and produces multiple leaders in an organization. However, it is very similar with career planning in that the steps that make it up are broadly similar. You can categorize these broad steps of career and succession planning into four:
- Identification: The identification process entails pinpointing the goal(s) to be reached. For career planning, this is typically the point at which you will consider yourself accomplished or satisfied. For succession planning, it is all about marking out the position(s) or role(s) to be filled.
- Assessment and analysis: Assessment and analysis is the review of the requirements for the goal and target. It is also the appraisal of the individual(s) to be developed, including their strengths and weaknesses.
- Formulation of plan: The formulation of plan phase requires a matching of stages 1 and 2. In other words, it requires you to find and adapt or create strategies that allow the individual(s) to become qualified to easily meet the predetermined goal. As the graphic designer, this is the point where you pick out online classes you would learn from or prepare for seminars put together by your organization.
- Implementation and evaluation: The implementation and evaluation phase is the final stage. Here, you put all you have planned to the test and measure its effectiveness for meeting your goals. For succession planning, this is where the bosses give the go-ahead and training begins. After this, the performance of the employees are evaluated and the decision to promote or demote is made.
Choosing whether to use career planning or succession planning depends on whether you work alone or for an organization. Each of the planning types has its strengths and weaknesses. So, if you decide on using any of them, first make sure that the situation fits it.