A team of people using a learning management system for succession planning
Advice | June 6, 2022

Five ways your LMS can streamline succession planning

8 minute read

Benjamin Franklin said: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” It can be difficult to plan for your company’s future, but there’s no denying how crucial it is to ensure continuity. With the right technology, you can build your future management team and support these employees to develop the skills needed for their next role. Explore five practical ways your learning management system can be a part of your succession planning process

It’s unlikely you’ll leave home without planning something for a day out. You’ll need to check how to get to your destination, that you’ve got a way to pay for lunch (or any treats you want), ensure the places you want to visit will be open – and, of course, what to do when it inevitably starts to rain. It’s the key to a successful adventure.

Planning for a trip is similar to planning the future success of your organisation. You’ll want to make sure your business continues to grow and develop in the years ahead – so preparing in advance is imperative if you want to cover all eventualities. And your learning management system (LMS) can play a crucial part in supporting your current employees to become future leaders. Here’s what your brand needs to put in place to guarantee its future through succession planning.

What is succession planning?

Succession planning  is where you identify and develop your potential future leaders and senior management to be placed in business-critical roles – so, if a person in a key position leaves your organisation, or progresses to a different role, that vacancy can be filled swiftly and with minimal disruption. Programmes for succession planning will usually include tailored and relevant practical work experience for these future positions, alongside targeted on-the-job learning activities.

The best place to start is to identify the critical roles in your company that will need those potential successors lined up. The succession planning scheme you implement can focus on either individual positions, or on a pool of roles that use similar or interchangeable skills — or are essential in emergencies.

Succession plans usually include the most senior positions, and will aim to identify those people with the potential to fulfil these posts. Focusing on these roles means only a few employees will be part of the process, but it will make the scheme manageable. Larger businesses may use local models at site, division or country level.

There’s an increasing focus on identifying groups of roles, plus developing potential successors for these jobs as a way to future-proof growing organisations. These positions may be grouped by role, level or function, so appropriate skills can be developed among a cohort of employees. The aim is to have a pool of people who can adapt and fill a range of roles.

Larger companies stand to benefit from using technology and tools to conduct skills gap analysis, which effectively highlights knowledge gaps that can later be plugged through workplace training programmes. But, just how important is it to plug skills gaps in the modern business?


Why is succession planning important in organisations?

There are a number of advantages to implementing a succession plan – for your business as well as your employees. A robust succession plan can, for instance, protect your company from any uncertainty because you have time to plan for leadership changes. You should start your succession planning before any announcements are made, whether these are planned (eg retirement) or not (eg resignation). Developing your pool of talent means you’re prepared for any changes — and with ‘leadership’ cited as the most desired soft skill for managers to possess — this demand simply can’t be ignored.

You may also find you save money on recruitment. This is because you won’t be spending as much on external recruitment for candidates, since your succession plan will include internal staff.

Succession planning also instils loyalty to a person’s employer – it could make or break your brand, depending on how your management team supports changes. If you implement your plan correctly, it could mean your employees are motivated to take part in decision-making processes and remain committed to your organisation as they prepare for career advancement.

Employee morale will rise, too, since a succession plan (with the possibility of growing their career within your company) will encourage them to do more and stay for longer. In the short term, colleagues can inform you of the skills gaps they may have so they can gain the training they require, which also helps them fulfil their immediate goals.

Often, the way learning is delivered is just as important as the learning content itself. With nearly a fifth (18%) of the global workforce working from home or in a hybrid way in 2022, organisations need to be savvy about how they deliver learning opportunities for in-office workers and those further afield. Could technology be the ultimate solution?


Succession planning tools: why your LMS is the ultimate tool

To make sure your succession plan produces the best results for your company, you’ll need to do more than offer a leadership role to the most senior person. Your approach will also need to be built on analytics and data.

This is where your LMS comes in: the tools within your learning management system software can give you a way to not only deliver training, but also to evaluate skills and management expertise through its reporting functions. This knowledge will help you build a great group of talent, with employees who are ready to fill any leadership gaps when these opportunities occur.

It’s best practice to integrate your LMS with your HR software so you can have a full view of your organisation’s talent. It means you have details on training records, appraisals, plus other information that will help you decide who to promote into those leadership roles. Your LMS is integral to this, so here’s how this software will support those pertinent decisions for your company.


Five ways your LMS can streamline succession planning

1. Measure management skills

Your LMS analytics give you an objective way to measure potential, and this data can reinforce other observations such as appraisal outcomes. For instance, your HR team can review managers’ direct reports to check how well they perform in assigned courses to assess if an employee is ready for a more senior role. Your LMS can organise certain metrics for this, such as learner progress, assessment scores, and completion times.

This can also be used to check if a potential leader can create a group of strong candidates within their own team who are ready for promotion. Your succession plan should make managers aware of these up-and-coming colleagues, so you know who can be considered for any open positions, and can also highlight if you need to recruit new team members if no-one is ready to make that move. These succession planning activities can help you provide opportunities for upskilling and developing employees’ careers.


2. Evaluate and expand skills

Another way your learning management system can help with your succession plan is to both evaluate and expand your employees’ skills. Your HR and L&D teams should discuss what makes a successful leader in your company – considering not only skills, but the values, behaviours and characteristics that are in tune with your company culture. These points can then be mapped onto your succession plan’s training curricula.

Those reporting tools in your LMS can be used at this point to help identify those who may be ready now for a leadership role. Your learning and development team can then use the talent already in the business to either fill existing roles, or build plans so your future leaders have the required skills for these positions.


3. Provide targeted training

And, of course, your LMS can be used to provide targeted, personalised training for your leadership development programme. This can, for example, include training in management, financial planning, and employee engagement. You may find that after conducting a training needs analysis (TNA), some employees will need to complete certain courses before they can be promoted – which offers you the chance to train, upskill and even cross-skill those already in your organisation, rather than bringing in new skills with external appointments. Using your LMS for targeted training means you can assign and track employees’ progress and check how ready they are for their next role using real-time data.


4. Deliver ongoing, optional content

The learning management system should be used to continuously deliver content to your management prospects. These employees won’t be ready to take on a management role after just a few weeks of training – instead, you should aim to implement long-term personal and professional development plans for them, so these colleagues have the time and opportunities to acquire their leadership skills. You may also want to offer a curated catalogue of digital learning content across a broad range of topics – such as mental health and inclusion, for example – to give employees the option to take their development even further.


5. Add personalised career paths

There’s also the option to create personalised career paths for colleagues in your LMS. These paths can be collated by either the employees themselves (who can choose their own content) or their manager (who assigns a path to them). This can help these prospective leaders to prepare for critical management roles, as well as giving them a focus on set objectives.


A learning management system can become an invaluable part of your company’s succession planning programme. As well as helping you to identify those people who have the potential to become future leaders, you can then support them by offering the training they require to make sure they’re ready when those opportunities arise. And, because not everything will go according to plan, you’ll be prepared if any of your current management team leaves.


Because Digits LMS combines the best of LMS and LXP functionality, you can use it to deliver targeted training courses to potential leaders, while at the same time offering them the option to complete bitesize learning modules in topics that most interest them. Its engaging design encourages learners to keep coming back, while its sophisticated reporting and analytics tools help HR and L&D teams make informed decisions about career progression and career plans.



As part of the CIPHR Group, Digits knows a thing or two about people. To make sure your employees are prepared for your organisation’s future, book a demonstration of Digits’ LMS or download our brochure to find out more about our learning software. You can then begin to streamline your succession plan and upskill your next senior managers.


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Written By Rosie Nicholas

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