REtention & Succession Planning Checklist

The ability to retain your best staff is critical to the success of every organization, and when you can’t retain a high-performing leader, identifying and developing a successor early is crucial. The below checklist is a starting point to help you gauge the health of your organization’s retention and succession planning within the framework I use with clients. No strategy checks every box, but if you have a strong plan to retain your top performers and plan for vacancies, you should hit at least 80% of these, both overall and within each section. 

Feeling overwhelmed? If your organization has very few of these things, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are my First Three – the first three things you should work on to improve your retention and better plan for vacancies. 


1. Leaders (whether at the network level or individual school leaders) collect data from staff on their plans for the next school year. This data is used to drive hiring activities, and while it may not be systematized, it’s at least happening.


2. Network leaders have a process to identify successor leaders. This process may be in the early stages, and might still lack rigor or transparency, but at a minimum, you aren’t running around building a selection process from scratch when a principal announces they’re leaving.


3. You know your numbers. You know your organization’s retention/attrition for the past three years and have it broken down by demographic and role. You know if individual schools or teams have skewed your numbers in a given year and why.

Ideal State

Vision, Goals & Strategy

  • Goals are aligned to overall talent philosophy and vision statement
  • Historical retention and promotion data were utilized to set realistic yet ambitious goals that meet the organization’s need
  • Goals are rigorous and have a clear impact on student impact across the organization (e.g. >80% teacher retention at each school instead of >80% retention overall)
  • Leadership and relevant teams buy-in to goals and played a role in developing goals (if relevant for their role)
  • Clear strategy is in place to achieve goals; includes specific tactics, milestones, metrics, and owners

enabling Structures & mindsets

  • A full-time individual or team in HR/Talent dedicated to implementing the processes, collecting and analyzing data, and leading training and communication as needed
  • Strong culture of transparency and honesty at individual schools, leading staff to be willing to share their future plans with leaders

Process, Systems & Tools


  • There is a clear, centralized system in place to collect data from staff on their plans for the next school year
  • Data collection drives an action planning cycle that includes workforce planning, stay conversations, hiring activities, promotions, and transfers
  • Stay conversations occur several times throughout the year – it is an ongoing discussion between staff and managers


Succession Planning:

  • Regular (minimum: bi-annual) talent reviews are in place to review staff for the potential for promotion
  • Managers use a framework or tool to objectively measure succession potential in the leadership bench (e.g. understanding if a specific AP is ready to become a principal)

Manager Training & Execution

  • Managers receive training and coaching on how to: 
            • improve retention
            • lead stay conversations
            • build a culture of transparency
            • identify potential successors
  • Managers complete necessary conversations and data collection activities within the designated time frame

Staff Training & communication

  • Promotion criteria and the process to be promoted are written down and communicated to staff regularly
  • All staff are made aware when promotion opportunities arise (or staff know where to find information on potential opportunities)
  • Staff understand why stay conversations are important and how their responses to retention surveys will be utilized


  • Retention data is analyzed for trends across lines of race, gender, age/tenure, disability, and any other demographic collected by the org
  • Equity audits of talent reviews are conducted to check for any inequities in potential successors by the demographics listed above
  • Discrepancies discovered through the above data review are addressed
  • Individuals participating in talent reviews have completed anti-bias training related to evaluating employees and providing feedback
  • Leadership promotions reflect the staff demographic

Impact & results

  • Retention improves YOY OR sustains at the intended goal at both the staff and leadership levels
  • >X% of successor leader roles are filled internally (X will vary depending on your organization’s goals around internal promotions)
  • Leadership vacancies are known six months (or more) before departure
  • Surprise summer/late resignations from staff decrease

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