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Succession Planning to Prepare for the Future

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Education entities faced with changing demographics and talent scarcity can benefit from engaging in succession planning.

Succession planning is defined by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) as the future-focused practice of identifying the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform certain functions and then developing a plan to prepare multiple individuals to potentially perform those functions. This planning is essential to ensure continuity in key positions that might become vacant due to a variety of reasons such as resignations, retirements, or a sudden medical emergency.

When combined with replacement planning — a shorter-termed practice of identifying replacements for personnel in key operating functions — organizations can create an environment that promotes employee engagement and retention.

SHRM’s Engaging in Succession Planning toolkit (SHRM login required) identifies additional business reasons to engage in succession planning, including:

  • Identifying skill gaps and training needs
  • Retaining institutional knowledge
  • Replacing unique or highly specialized competencies

District Practices

Some school districts have long-standing academies focused on developing teachers and other professionals for instructional leadership positions. These are generally more common in larger districts. However, districts of any size can benefit from engaging in development of workers to assume increasing levels of responsibility and transition into other roles.

A recent K-12 Dive article, 5 Best Practices for School District Succession Planning, points out that districts typically address succession planning for superintendents and recommends it should also be done for all levels of staffing. The article outlines five strategies to keep in mind when developing succession plans:

  1. Consider district needs and plan accordingly.
  2. Know current employees’ skills and interests.
  3. Ensure smooth leadership transitions.
  4. Include incoming supervisors in other hiring decisions.
  5. Embrace succession planning as ongoing work.

Equal Employment Opportunity

Succession planning needs to promote diversity and equal employment opportunity. This can be accomplished by defining the competencies required for a position and then developing promising employees. Any time positions are filled from within, an organization needs to include a variety of individuals and feeder positions to ensure diversity and inclusion. Diversity shouldn’t be limited to demographics or personal characteristics but include varied backgrounds and leadership styles.

Investing in Employees

Investing in employee development can be a major step to promote engagement and retention of employees. HR should work with other leaders to establish and implement succession planning. Working as a team will ensure instructional and employee needs are met. As programs are implemented, it’s important for employees to understand that the process involves preparing employees for the possibility of moving into future roles and should not be seen as preselection. This key is developing higher level skills which can enhance an individual’s performance in their current position, a lateral position, or a position with increasing responsibility.


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April Mabry
April Mabry
TASB HR Services Assistant Director

April Mabry oversees HR Services training services, member library products, and the HRX newsletter. She has provided HR training and guidance to Texas public schools  since 1991. Mabry was a classroom teacher for 11 years in Texas and Michigan.

Mabry has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan and certification as a professional in human resources (PHR) and is a SHRM-CP.

HR Services

TASB HR Services supports HR leadership in Texas schools through membership offerings in specialized training, consulting, and other services.
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