Career planning is a process carried out by individuals to examine their interests, skills and capabilities and systematically plan their career goals for the long-term. On the other hand, succession planning refers to the process carried out by organizations in which they recognize and develop employees to take up major leadership roles following the resignation, retirement, transfer or demise of current leaders. This shows that the main difference between career planning and succession planning is that career planning is significant from the employee’s perspective, whereas succession planning is critical for ensuring the effective functioning of an organization.

The two terms will be discussed in detail in this article, followed by the differences between the two.

Definitions and explanations

Career planning

Career planning is basically a systematic process that is carried out by individuals to establish goals for their careers and come up with strategies through which these objectives can be achieved. It helps individuals in analyzing, choosing and fulfilling their aims so as to achieve satisfaction with their careers.

Career planning is the foremost step of the career management process, which is used by individuals to determine the kind of career they want to pursue and the different techniques or steps which they can follow to achieve it. It plays a part in helping individuals analyze their interests and skills, determine and evaluate the different career opportunities, establish career objectives and plan development activities accordingly.

Succession planning

Succession planning refers to the ongoing process in which potential leaders for important positions are identified and developed so that they could take the place of the previous ones. This is an important step for an organization as it ensures that the organization continues to operate in a smooth and continuous manner. This strategy presents the steps that should be taken to accomplish the vision and goals of the organization.

The process of succession involves scanning the employees and offering them the required training to take up significant positions in an organization after the resignation, termination, retirement, promotion or transfer of the current leaders. The objective of succession planning is to determine possible replacements from within and outside the organization.

It is typically the senior management of an organization that carries out succession planning. The line managers provide information to the senior management about the employees exhibiting excellent performance. Succession planning takes place over an extended time period because the skills and competencies needed to adopt a leadership role develop with time.

There are several advantages of succession planning to both the employees and the employer. It serves as a source of motivation for employees as they know that their good performance will be awarded with a leadership position in the organization. This will be a source of inspiration to perform well and keep learning more on the job. Furthermore, it strengthens the desire of the employees in terms of career growth and career opportunities. With respect to the employer, when a critical leadership position becomes vacant, no obstructions or delays are experienced in attaining organizational objectives as an employee is already ready to take up the position. There is no urgency to recruit an employee from the outside in a limited time span, which may incur high costs.

Hence, succession planning is very important as it allows the senior management to evaluate and create a pool of talented employees, who are capable as well as willing to take up vacant posts within the organization.

Difference between career planning and succession planning

The major difference between career planning and succession planning is given below:

1. Meaning

Career planning refers to the process in which employees review their skills and abilities and plan their career goals accordingly. Succession planning, in contrast, refers to process through organizations recognize and develop employees who are capable of taking up the important positions in an organization that have become unoccupied.

2. Objective

Career planning is essentially the planning process that an individual carries out for the advancement of his own career. On the other hand, succession planning signifies an organizational strategy that aims to ensure continuity within the business. It ensures that the critical positions in an organization are replaced as soon as they become vacant with the ideal employees that have been chosen for that role.

3. Carried out by

Career planning is carried out from the perspective of an individual employee, whereas succession planning is carried out by the organization.

4. Ensures

A valuable part is played by career planning in providing success to an individual in their career. Succession planning, on the other hand, ensures that there is consistency in leadership for key organizational roles.

5. Roles

A single employee takes up different roles over a period of time in career planning, whereas in succession planning, a single role will be carried out by different employees over a period of time.

Career planning vs succession planning – tabular comparison

A tabular comparison of career planning and succession planning is given below:

Career planning vs Succession planning
Systematic process carried out by individuals to examine their skills and abilities and determine career goals and ways to achieve them Process carried out to identify and develop employees who can take up critical organizational positions that have become vacant
Advancement of the individual’s career Smooth and effective functioning of the organization
Carried out by
Individuals Organizations
Success of individuals in their careers Continuity in key leadership roles of an organization
Distinct roles adopted by one individual over a period of time Different employees will carry out a single role over a period of time.

Conclusion – career planning vs succession planning

The main point of distinction between career planning and succession planning is whether it is carried out by the individual employee or the organization. An effective career planning is beneficial for employees, whereas effective succession planning is significantly important for the organization. There is also a relationship between the two; when employees are highly motivated to advance their careers, they may be offered a leadership role so that they can play a positive part in the growth of the organization.