Career Planning vs. Succession Planning: Key Differences and How to Effectively Use Both Strategies
Planning is one of the most important aspects of human life–it guides our decision-making process and brings direction into our lives. In the HR world, planning is just as crucial.
Career planning is personal and individual-centric. It's the 'here and now' of what an employee wants, where they see themselves headed, and the skills they need to cultivate.
Succession planning, on the other hand, is organizational foresight. It's the 'what if' strategy. What if our top manager suddenly leaves? It ensures continuity, prepares the next line of leaders, and safeguards the organization's future.
But here's the real magic – when used together, these strategies ensure an organization's sustainability and foster a culture where employees see a clear roadmap for growth.
Understanding the differences between these two approaches can be a game-changer, helping you use them effectively to achieve both your employees' goals and your organization's overall objectives.
This article will:
- Scrutinize the differences between career planning and succession planning.
- Explore how these strategies can work together to supercharge employee development and retention.
🕵️♀️ Career planning and succession planning defined
Career planning is a systematic process employees use to map their professional path within an organization. It's a crucial part of the career management process in which the employee assesses what they want to pursue. Career planning includes:
- Evaluating employees' interests and abilities.
- Determining alternative opportunities.
- Establishing career goals.
- Working towards achieving the goals.
Career planning can:
- Increase employee motivation and loyalty.
- Develop more skills and knowledge.
- Encourage employee growth and development.
- Reduce turnover.
➡️ Follow these 9 steps to improve career development in the organization.
Succession planning is a process organizations use to identify and nurture an individual to take on leadership roles in case of a vacancy in the future. This ensures the company has a pool of highly skilled talents ready to take over key roles when current employees move on. It also helps organizations make informed decisions when hiring replacements inside and outside the company.
Succession planning aims to:
- Ensure business continuity.
- Decrease attrition.
- Identify critical positions.
- Understand the organization's long-term objectives.
➡️ Build successful leaders with an outline using the 9-box succession planning.
What is the relationship between career development and succession planning?
Both career development and succession planning are integral parts of talent management. Succession planning focuses on the organization's needs, while career development motivates employees to work on organizational needs.
With career development, you equip employees with the skillset and knowledge they need to serve your organization, helping you identify whether succession planning can come into play.
"Career and succession planning are complementary processes united under the broader talent management umbrella. Strong integration creates a win-win where employees feel empowered in their careers, and companies have a robust leadership pipeline." David Bitton, Co-Founder and CMO at DoorLoop
To achieve integration, you must focus on creating learning and development approaches to help employees achieve their desired career growth. You can implement a talent management system to provide them with resources so they can significantly contribute to your organization.
➡️ Planning a seamless transition for a key executive role? Use this succession plan template as a guide.
🆚 What is the difference between career planning and succession planning?
While career planning and succession planning play significant roles in career management, the two have stark differences in their approach. Here's a table to help you better understand their focus:
🧩 How do career and succession planning relate to other HR processes?
Career and succession planning are equally important to incorporate within your processes. They can improve employee performance and engagement and add more career opportunities for employees.
"They align with training and development efforts, performance management systems, leadership development, and even staff retention strategies. Organizational growth and stability are at the heart of these plans." Fawaz Naser, CEO at Softlist.io
Here are ways in which career and succession planning intertwine with other HR processes.
Conducting regular employee appraisals provides data-driven insights for your next succession or career development plan. Employee appraisals can help identify an individual's strengths and areas for improvement and use them when crafting career and succession plans.
Training and development
Career planning identifies skill gaps and learning needs and directly influences training strategies. Succession planning ensures the availability of trained successors by tailoring development programs to their needs.
Motivation and engagement
Identifying which employees are actively engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged will allow you to recognize the qualities of each employee. Determining key drivers of employee engagement helps you strategize how to support their career goals while identifying those with the potential to step into leadership positions.
➡️ Increase your employees' engagement to the next level. Check out the best employee engagement software for you.
According to studies, succession planning processes enhance job satisfaction, bolstering employee retention rates. This is because providing structured pathways for growth and advancement demonstrates an organization's commitment to invest in its employees' development.
Building performance management systems
An employee performance management system is a set of processes used to improve and evaluate team and individual performance and align the company's goals and objectives with the individual's career objectives.
For succession planning, you can build on this system to establish tailored training and development programs for prospective leaders within your organization. As for career planning, you can help employees who have yet to discover how they want to grow by offering guidance and identifying developmental avenues.
➡️ Develop your employees' skills with ease. Check out these performance management tools to guide you.
🖥️ What tools or software can assist in both career and succession planning?
There are plenty of tools and software that can assist in both career and succession planning. These software management tools can help you with essential HR processes such as talent profiling, career pathing, competency mapping, leadership assessment, and talent management.
Here are the top tools and software that can help you in your career and succession planning:
Zavvy is an all-in-one solution for employee growth featuring a comprehensive 360-degree growth system powered by artificial intelligence.
It offers skills matrix analysis and people analytics, a training library with over 10,000 courses, learning management tools, and various integrations to help with HR processes.
With Zavvy, you can establish comprehensive career progression paths, conduct competency analysis, construct career leveling frameworks, and ensure employee engagement with various features tailored to address numerous career and succession planning aspects.
SAP SuccessFactors is a cloud-based HCM software application that features core HR and payroll services, talent management, HR analytics, workforce planning, and employee experience management. SAP SuccessFactors helps companies cultivate their next generation of talent through features like org charts for quick visibility into talent gaps, company-wide searches to uncover hidden talents, and strategic talent review conversations with managers.
Workday is an HR and financial management system that guides companies to manage their staff better and provide insightful data through real-time reporting, analytics, integrated workforce scheduling, and a centralized HR database. Workday is also helpful for organizations looking to create a comprehensive framework for career management.
➡️ Find the best tools for your team! Check out this list of career management software.
TalentGuard is a workforce skills management solution that creates talent frameworks and competencies, offers AI-driven Intelligent Role Studio to quickly improve job role data with skills and proficiencies, and focuses on succession and development planning to help improve talent management systems.
➡️ Find out how you can recruit and retain high-quality talents! Read on to find the best talent management system for your team.
➡️ Motivate your people with career and succession planning with Zavvy
Effective career and succession planning sets the foundation for a thriving company and workforce. Whether allowing employees to grow in their careers or equipping future leaders to take on bigger roles in your organization, having the right tools can help achieve these goals —a win-win for you and your employees.
Zavvy offers career pathing software that creates development opportunities for your employees using AI-powered solutions:
- Stuck on a black page? Create career frameworks, define competencies, and create training materials in just a few clicks.
- Buried leadership talent? Uncover it with 360 competency evaluations.
- Done collecting feedback but clueless about the next steps? Link feedback to concrete growth actions and generate results.
- Unsure about how your people could advance in their careers? The AI will generate growth recommendations based on the feedback received by the employee, their current role level, and the next level on the career ladder.
- Overwhelmed trying to create training materials for developing every single competency? Use the extensive training library with over 10,000 learning resources from top-class providers.
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❓Frequently asked questions
What is the key difference between succession and career planning?
Succession planning is an organizational-focused approach to identifying and developing individuals with the potential to fill key leadership roles. On the other hand, career planning is an employee-centered approach that identifies an individual's career goals and develops a plan to achieve them.
What is the key difference between career planning and career development?
Career planning is the process of an employee identifying one's career goals and aspirations. In contrast, career development is the company's way of providing related activities and opportunities to help individuals achieve their long-term career aspirations.
How often should an organization revisit its succession plan?
Companies should revisit succession planning after 12 to 36 months. Your team and leaders in the organization must see the big picture and the long-term mission and vision of the company during the program development.