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Workforce and Succession Planning: What’s the Difference?

Do you know the difference between workforce planning and succession planning?  While they have similar purposes, they are distinctively different.

Succession planning is all about identifying individuals and subsequently developing them to assume another (likely more senior) position in the future.

Workforce planning takes a more global look at staffing throughout the organization, using goals and relevant metrics to predict staffing needs in the mid- to long range future.

In the past few years, institutions have become increasingly cognizant of the merits of workforce and succession planning, especially amidst financial challenges and the potential for Baby Boomer retirements (albeit fewer than expected due to the economy). Regardless of economic conditions, it is simply solid HR practice to be proactive in anticipating workforce needs and in investing the time and resources to grow your human capital.

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  • The term Workforce Planning can cover all manner of evils, can’t it? The term has been used to describe everything from tactical workforce planning (this week’s roster, for example), right through to the other end of the spectrum, Strategic Workforce Planning. Strategic Workforce Planning is all about anticipating the supply and demand for the workforce well into the future – and formulating strategies to ensure that the future workforce of an organisation will be aligned to the business strategy. It is analogous to a financial plan, but for the workforce. Succession planning can be, in that type of workforce planning, just one small part of the strategy. Plenty of resources for Strategic Workforce Planning are available at