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ATD Blog

Succession Planning During a Pandemic

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Gone are the days where employees stay with the same organization for decades. Instead, employees move from company to company while chasing new opportunities and higher pay. It is important, therefore, for organizations to be aware of their employees’ needs and provide solutions to foster increased job satisfaction.

To add fuel to the fire, the pandemic has created additional challenges for organizations—from pivoting business operations to a remote environment to keeping the company afloat during a shaky economy.

Employees are being stretched thin as they balance their work and home lives. Many employees are working remotely while assisting their children with virtual learning.

It is unsurprising, then, that this new normal has placed a major strain on working adults. As a result, millions of individuals left the workforce last year. According to the National Women’s Law Center, nearly 2.2 million women left the workforce between February and October 2020.

Succession planning should be a top priority for every organization. Although the future is unpredictable, it is imperative that systems are in place to ensure that business operations continue when key employees leave the company.

Not having a succession plan is detrimental and jeopardizes the health of a company. When employees depart—whether it be to pursue new opportunities or retire or because they pass away—companies should be prepared to fill critical vacant positions.


Without a comprehensive succession plan, organizations are unprepared for when a key employee leaves the position or even the company. It is a good business practice to have individuals ready to move vertically and horizontally within an organization.

Companies should have employees in the pipeline who can fill vacant positions. A company should not have to scramble to find qualified prospects at the last minute; instead, they should have a roster of individuals ready to fill in the gaps within one to two years and beyond. Organizations should invest in training their current staff so that they are able to fill critical vacant positions when they arise.

Additionally, companies should search for qualified candidates outside of the organization. The recent graduating class represents an entire workforce that has not been tapped due to the pandemic. It can be a win-win situation for both parties. For employers, it is an opportunity to bring in individuals who can contribute to the company and their pipeline. For recent graduates, working at a company allows them to build their skills and gain invaluable experience.


The key to succession planning is to be proactive, not reactive. It is important for companies to create a succession plan as well as manage and revise it as needed. As individuals leave their positions, employers should assess the gaps and create a pipeline of qualified prospects.

Here is the bottom line: Every company should participate in succession planning activities to ensure business continuity as they prepare for predictable attrition as well as the unknown such as a global pandemic. Think ahead before there is a critical need that can affect the company’s business operations and sustainability.

To learn more, join me March 22–25 during the OrgDev Virtual Conference for the session Succession Management for the Unknown.

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About the Author

Deadra Welcome is the founder and principal consultant of Concerning Learning and a Certified Professional in Talent Development, Certified Professional in Training Management, Certified Virtual Facilitator, Certified Associate Diversity Coach, and a Kirkpatrick Bronze Level Certification credential holder. She has trained and coached thousands of professionals from executives to individual contributors.

Deadra’s passion for making learning extraordinary continues to increase employee engagement within corporations, nonprofit entities, and government agencies on business, human resources, diversity and inclusion, and leadership development topics. Using a unique blend of instructional design, facilitation, and coaching techniques, she equips individuals with key skills that lead to improved organizational and individual performance.

Deadra is the author of Don’t Get Left Behind and founder of the Extraordinary Learning Academy, where she trains other trainers to design, develop, and deliver inspiring, engaging, and actionable learning experiences.