For managers

Succession planning and management is an essential component of broader human resources planning and is key to delivery of Public Service renewal. Effective succession planning and management helps organizations to identify, develop and retain capable and skilled employees in line with current and projected business objectives.

This guide will help you incorporate succession planning and management into your human resources planning process.


What is succession planning and management?

Succession planning and management involves an integrated, systematic approach to identifying, developing and retaining employees in line with current and projected business objectives.

It is about developing pools of talent to fill key areas and positions that are critical to an organization's ongoing operations and long-term goals. Succession planning helps employees to acquire the skills and competencies they need to compete for these positions when they become available. It does not entail guaranteed promotions for individual candidates.

Executives, managers and human resources professionals all play important roles in succession planning and management. So do employees, who are responsible for expressing an interest in career advancement, having learning plans and participating in opportunities to acquire capabilities in certain areas.

Currently, federal public sector organizations are at different stages in their approach to succession planning and management. Before beginning the planning process, you should assess the state of succession planning in your organization, including the need to reflect key values. Several key principles can help you tap into the advantages of succession planning and management.

Key principles

Succession planning and management is aligned with business plans and broader human resources planning process and linked to performance management; training, learning and development; staffing and recruitment; diversity and employment equity; official languages.

Succession planning and management extends to all levels: Succession planning and management considers all key areas and positions within an organization: it is not limited to executive-level positions.

Succession planning and management is about creating a pool of talent: Planning for current and future needs involves helping employees to develop the skills and competencies to ensure that the organization has a pool of talent for key areas. It is not about identifying individual candidates for specific positions.

Succession planning and management is values-based and well communicated: There is collaboration among key players, the process is well communicated and fair, accessible and transparent.

Succession planning efforts are monitored, measured and evaluated: Processes are established to monitor performance and progress in achieving the objectives outlined in both the succession plan and employees' learning plans.

Advantages

The benefits are wide-ranging, including:

The business case

Departures and retirements
Based on departure trends, around 25 percent of indeterminate public servants are forecast to leave the Public Service over the next five years (2008 to 2013). In 2008, two-thirds of all departures were attributable to retirement. Because retirements will occur over a period of time, this is a manageable issue; however, it requires strategic planning. Effective succession planning ensures that the federal government will have a supply of candidates who are qualified for leadership roles and other key areas and positions when these become vacant.

Competition for skilled employees
In a survey by the Canadian Labour and Business Centre, over two thirds of public sector managers reported current or expected shortages of skills and identified succession planning as the top action needed to address these shortages. Succession planning helps to retain skilled talent by ensuring that employees are provided with challenging assignments that support their career objectives.

Increasing diversity of the workforce
Immigration was the source of 70 percent of recent labour force growth, according to Statistics Canada, and projections are that it will be 100 percent by 2011, resulting in higher workforce availability of visible minorities. Without a systematic succession planning process, job incumbents tend to identify and groom successors who are remarkably similar to themselves in appearance, background and values. Effective succession planning ensures that strategies are in place to meet employment equity goals, and therefore that the Public Service reflects the Canadian population it serves.

Need to retain corporate knowledge
When employees leave, organizations may face not only loss of skills but also loss of corporate knowledge. Effective succession planning ensures that strategies are in place for knowledge transfer.

Career development leads to higher levels of employee engagement
Employees who are given opportunities to develop their careers are more likely to report higher levels of engagement. In other words, they are more likely to be committed to the organization, to take pride in their work and to work hard at what they do, resulting in cost benefits.

Approach to succession planning and management

There is not a "one-size fits all" approach to succession planning—what works in one organization may not work in another, given different contexts and resources. Moreover, an approach may evolve over time as an organization learns what works and what needs to be improved.

Different organizations are at different stages in their approach to succession planning. You can use the following chart to assess the state of succession planning in your organization. The information you gather can be used to build a more comprehensive, leading approach to succession planning.

Traditional Approach

Replacement Planning

Leading Approach

Succession Planning and Management

Assess the state of succession planning and management in your organization

Current state

Desired state

Key values: transparency, fairness and accessibility

Succession planning and management must reflect the core values of fairness, access and transparency. These are fundamental values of the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA).

It is important to ensure that:

Succession planning and management should ensure that employees who express an interest in and who have the potential to fill key areas and positions are provided with appropriate opportunities to acquire the necessary skills and competencies to compete for these positions when they become available. Succession planning does not entail guaranteed promotions for individual candidates. It is important that organizations carefully identify capabilities for key areas and positions and manage employee expectations to avoid misunderstanding.

Although the focus of succession planning and management is on key areas and positions, development initiatives should occur alongside more broad-based learning initiatives. In other words, all employees should be encouraged to have learning plans and participate in learning, training and development opportunities to further their careers. However, the analysis of key areas and positions may suggest that developmental programs and activities be tailored to build competencies for certain areas.

Roles and responsibilities

Linking succession planning and management with human resources planning process

The five-step process for planning and managing succession is a component of broader human resources planning. As part of human resources planning, a gap analysis may identify key areas, one of which may be succession planning. Other areas may include recruitment, change management, employment equity and official languages. Your succession plan should be incorporated into your human resources plan.

Five-step process for succession planning and management


Templates

Templates have been developed to help you prepare and support your succession planning strategies which will be included in your human resources plan. You can use these templates in whole or in part to supplement your organization's existing planning processes. They are not intended to replace any that your department or agency may already have in place.

Step 1 Identify key areas and positions

Step 3 Identify interested employees and assess them against capabilities

STEP 1— Identify key areas and positions

Key areas and positions are the focus of your succession planning and management efforts. For example, succession planning activities may be geared to developing talent for certain occupational groups (e.g. executives, foreign service officers) or functional communities (e.g. financial management, the human resources community), or they may focus on increasing representation of persons in a designated group.

Tips

Review key positions periodically because they may change over time, depending on developments in programs (e.g. new initiatives, sunsetting), changes in Government direction and the introduction of new technology.

Key positions are those that exert critical influence on the operational activities or strategic objectives of the organization. This means that without this role, the organization would be unable to effectively achieve its business objectives.

Executives and managers need to play a primary role in identifying key areas and positions because they are linked to the operational activities and strategic objectives of the organization. However, human resources professionals can play a supportive role by providing criteria to help managers in this role.

In this step, managers should:

Questions to consider when identifying key areas and positions

Step 1 — Template: Key positions profiles

The following template will help you prepare the profiles of your key positions.

Template in RTF format

Note: This template is available here in Rich Text Format. If it is not accessible to you, please contact TBS Web Services by e-mail or for assistance telephone (613) 957-2400 to obtain other formats such as regular print, large print, Braille, audio cassette or other format.

STEP 2—Identify capabilities for key areas and positions

It is important to identify the capabilities needed for key areas and positions for guiding learning plans. Capabilities may also serve as the basis for self-assessment tools. Moreover, knowing the required capabilities is necessary for setting clear performance expectations, assessing performance and for selection purposes. For the purposes of this guide, capabilities may consist of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) or competency profiles.

Whether your organization uses KSAs or competency profiles, it is important to incorporate capabilities for key areas and positions into strategies for succession planning and management. This practice will allow you to better assess gaps and focus development efforts.

Definition of capabilities

For the purposes of this guide, capabilities may consist of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) or competency profiles.

Knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs)

This guide defines these terms as follows:

Competencies and competency profiles

Many organizations define competencies as knowledge, skills and abilities demonstrated through behaviours that result in superior job performance. Some definitions include personal qualities, values or traits. Examples include interpersonal effectiveness, teamwork, technical ability and reliability.

A competency profile is a set of competencies typically applied to groups of positions such as occupational groups (e.g. executives) or functional communities (e.g. information technology, finance). Some organizations also have a set of core competencies that are aligned with the organization's mission and values and that apply to all employees in the organization.

Competency profiles facilitate the alignment of succession planning and management with other human resources disciplines, such as recruitment and performance management, by using a common framework and language.

How to identify capabilities?

Once you have identified key areas and positions, create a list of the most important capabilities needed for each by using information from job descriptions and merit criteria, and by interviewing incumbents and stakeholders.

How to develop competency profiles is beyond the scope of this document, but you can consult Additional Sources of Information in the Succession planning and management resources and key documents section for more information.

Questions to consider when identifying capabilities

STEP 3—Identify interested employees and assess them against capabilities

Tip
In order to minimize subjectivity, use multiple ways of assessing employees and include multiple perspectives.

The main purpose of this step is to identify which individuals are interested in and have the potential to fill key areas and positions so that employees can acquire the skills and competencies they need to fill the gaps when these positions become available.

Organizations typically use a combination of approaches to identify and assess such individuals. For example, the Public Service provides an Executive Talent Management framework to support the ongoing development and retention of executives.

If your organization is considering a more formal process of identifying internal talent for accelerated development, be careful to manage expectations to avoid the presumption of guaranteed promotions and so as not to alienate those not selected. It is important to inform employees who are not initially considered for accelerated development that they can be considered in the future with further career development or that there are alternative opportunities (e.g. through an assignment or a deployment).

Approaches to identify and assess employees

Self-identification

As a starting point, many organizations give employees the opportunity to express their interest in leadership roles, career advancement or lateral moves. You can do this in various ways, including:

Assessment methods and instruments

You can use a variety of tools to assess an employee's potential for leadership or other key areas and positions. These include:

Talent review meetings

Some organizations use talent review meetings to identify the capabilities required for leadership and key areas and positions, assess the potential of employees to fill those positions and find out what further development candidates need.

To prepare for these meetings, some organizations create an employee profile. These profiles provide important information, including career aspirations, strengths and weaknesses, performance ratings, willingness to relocate, projected date of retirement and learning plans.

A key position profile will provide valuable information on time lines, language, capabilities, corporate knowledge, challenges and strategies for replacement and a rating of the importance in achieving business goals.

This information helps to balance the career aspirations of employees with organizational needs for talent to fill key areas and positions.

Effective talent review meetings:

Questions to consider when identifying and assessing interested employees

Step 3 — Template: Employees profiles

The following template will help you prepare the profiles of your employees.

Note: This template is available here in Rich Text Format. If it is not accessible to you, please contact TBS Web Services by e-mail or for assistance telephone (613) 957-2400 to obtain other formats such as regular print, large print, Braille, audio cassette or other format.

Step 3 — Template: Key positions analysis

The following template will help you analyze your key positions.

Note: This template is available here in Rich Text Format. If it is not accessible to you, please contact TBS Web Services by e-mail or for assistance telephone (613) 957-2400 to obtain other formats such as regular print, large print, Braille, audio cassette or other format.

STEP 4—Develop and implement succession and knowledge transfer plans

Research has shown that experience-based learning is more effective than classroom training in preparing potential candidates to assume future roles. It is important to incorporate strategies for learning, training and development and transfer of corporate knowledge into your succession planning and management.

Strategies for learning, training and development

Stretch assignments allow employees to "stretch" beyond their current abilities. Some examples include chairing a committee or meetings, leading a special project or being assigned a challenging new task.

Tip
Offering appropriate development opportunities gives employees the experience they need to assume more senior or different positions. Interview incumbents in key positions to get their ideas about appropriate development opportunities.

Acting assignments can be a good opportunity for employees to get experience at a more senior level by temporarily taking over another employee's responsibilities while they are absent.

Job rotations give employees the opportunity to work in different areas of the organization and acquire experience in different disciplines or functions. The employee remains in his or her substantive position but is exposed to different aspects of work.

Mentoring and coaching provide opportunities for employees to obtain ongoing guidance and support from more experienced employees. Arrangements can be formal or informal.

Formal training, including language training, may include classroom training, web courses and the pursuit of higher education.

Strategies for transferring corporate knowledge

Explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge are different and require different strategies. It is important to incorporate strategies that track and retain both kinds of knowledge. Explicit knowledge can be tracked and codified in manuals, directories and procedures. On the other hand, tacit knowledge, which makes up 80 to 85 percent of an organization's knowledge assets, encompasses people's insight, judgement and know-how. It requires strategies that rely on interpersonal interactions such as coaching, mentoring and job shadowing.

Tip
Consider giving the person who is sharing their corporate knowledge the time to mentor, coach, train or otherwise share information by reducing that person's workload.

While many of the strategies described under learning, training and development also apply to corporate knowledge, the following options specifically address transfer of corporate knowledge:

Documentation of critical knowledge: Job diaries and other records contain a wealth of knowledge, including contacts, networks, resources, best practices and answers to frequently asked questions. Consider using a template to facilitate recording this information.

Special Assignment Pay Plan: Employees below the executive level can be appointed to classified or unclassified positions for periods of up to three years. This option allows the incumbent of a key position to be assigned under the special assignment pay plan (SAPP) and remain in the organization, thereby creating a vacancy. Following staffing of the position, the former incumbent is still available to transfer corporate knowledge to the new incumbent.

Exit interviews: Employees who are leaving the organization voluntarily complete an interview or questionnaire that captures critical information.

Communities of practice: These are groups of people who share a common purpose or concern. Potential candidates can benefit from their exchange of ideas and thus tap into another source of corporate knowledge.

Pre-retirement transition leave: Under this arrangement, employees who are within two years of retirement may reduce their work week by up to 40 percent without affecting their benefits and pension. This may be used as a retention strategy to allow more time for transferring corporate knowledge.

Questions to consider when implementing succession and knowledge transfer plans

STEP 5—Evaluate effectiveness

To ensure success, it is important to systematically evaluate and monitor your succession planning and management efforts and make adjustments as needed. This section provides some indicators and methods that assess effectiveness, as well as questions to consider in evaluating effectiveness.

Assessing the results of succession planning and management also helps you to determine future priorities and decide on the allocation of resources.

Examples of indicators to assess succession planning and management

The following can be used to measure progress:

Other methods to assess the effectiveness of succession planning and management initiatives

In addition to qualitative measurement of outcomes, it is also useful to measure and monitor the quality of professional development and apprenticeship programs and other initiatives by determining satisfaction with development programs and monitoring progress on individual learning plans.

Various methods can be employed to evaluate these initiatives, including the following:

Program logic models map the key activities or components of a program and how they link to short-, medium- and long term objectives. You can use program logic models to evaluate both processes and outcomes.

Cost-benefit analysis is a technique used to quantify and compare the costs and benefits of a program. Costs may be direct (e.g. money spent on an assessment centre) or indirect (e.g. time spent away on training).

Surveys can be used to measure satisfaction with different aspects of your succession planning and management process or development program.

Questions to consider when evaluating effectiveness

Date modified: