Succession Planning for Life Sciences

succession planning for life sciences

In the realm of strategic leadership, at some point, every organization will lose key people. This can be for many reasons, from retirement through to international moves or strategic approaches from direct competitors.

However, businesses must continue to function seamlessly, irrespective of the talent gap. As most will know, filling this gap can be costly and time-consuming, so having an effective succession planning strategy in place is critical when handling the loss of key employees.


Identifying Key People

The process of developing a succession plan is unique to each business, but the initial step is to identify the integral roles that will ensure continued success. Look for vulnerabilities and highlight the skill gaps that would cause an issue if the current incumbent moves on.

By defining the main competencies, responsibilities and requirements of the role in advance, you are essentially creating a blueprint that can be utilised for future hires. The established criteria can help assess the current best person for the role and to determine who within the company has the potential to develop into the role.

It’s wise to establish a pool of talent that is qualified to fill key vacancies in the organisation, rather than limiting the options to the default choice. By focusing on identifying high-potential people who possess the skills, personality traits and ethos of the role, you will have greater options when it comes to bridging any talent voids.

It’s worthwhile noting that leadership development should be carried out proactively, long before there is a need to replace anyone. This provides a safeguard that can cover any talent losses in the future. It takes time to develop candidates and it may be too late to start when a key employee departs. Preparation is key when building a succession plan and having someone ready to jump in when needed will ensure the impact of attrition is mitigated.

Developing a Succession Plan

When you start building your succession plan, there are some key considerations to be addressed:

What are the critical areas of the business that require the most stability?

These are often the positions that are difficult to fill in departments and will impact business continuity the most.

Which roles are the most vital in the business?

Apart from the key areas of the business, certain jobs can impact the business continuity of the business when left vacant.

What strategies have been established to develop future talent?

Work cross-functionally to implement the necessary strategies as well as training and development programmes to cultivate future potential.

What are the disparities in the skills and competencies of future leaders?

It’s paramount to pinpoint what needs to be done to get successors ready to leap into future roles and address any gaps in their experience and capabilities ahead of time.

Upskilling Future Leaders

Whilst your organisation may have the people with potential, there are ways to ensure they are ready to take the next step when the time comes. The most effective ways to upskill your team include:


There is nothing better than learning first-hand from those who have experience in the actual role. Not only can a mentor support a mentee through the challenges of the position, but they can also offer invaluable advice, share networks, discuss the culture and vision of the role, as well as offer personal anecdotes of success.


Management training and development are great tools to get your future leaders ready. You may need to look externally or use a combination of internal and external programmes.


Work experience in other departments is a great avenue for successors to gain exposure to more senior roles. Even lateral moves can offer great insights into any skill gaps that may need to be addressed.

Trial and Error

You can always use upcoming annual leave to allow future leaders to get a taste of the extra responsibilities and nuances of a role. This will highlight how prepared they really are and what further preparations may be necessary if any.

Regular Communication

Feedback is priceless when developing future leaders. Engaging in open and honest discussions will define the positives as well as performance gaps. It’s imperative that these are conducted on a regular basis to target any areas of improvement quickly rather than waiting for the annual review.


Providing business stability, even in times of change or market challenges, is at the core of an organisation’s success. Succession planning will offer a continual strategy that ensures you secure only the best employees when it comes to bridging leadership talent voids. Your future leaders will be well equipped with the right skills, competencies and motivation to steer your teams in the right direction.

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