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Succession planning and management guide

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Step 3. Identify interested employees and assess them against capabilities

The main purpose of identifying and assessing employees against the capabilities for key areas and positions is to tailor development opportunities in such a way that employees can acquire the requisite skills and competencies they need to prepare them for future roles.

How do organizations identify and assess employees?

Organizations typically use a combination of the following approaches to determine which individuals are interested in and demonstrate potential for future roles.


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

  • encouraging career and learning discussions between employees and managers, and rolling up key information from these discussions for the management team;
  • administering a survey;
  • soliciting applications for a more formalized developmental program; or
  • creating a skills inventory database or employee profile that provides information on employees career interests and skills/competencies.

Assessment methods and instruments

Organizations may use a variety of tools for assessing potential for leadership or other key roles. These include:

  • performance reviews;
  • talent review meetings;
  • assessment centres;
  • 360-degree feedback;
  • written examinations;
  • behaviour-based interviews;
  • in-basket exercises;
  • simulation exercises or role-playing;
  • aptitude tests;
  • employees and
  • reference checks.

Talent review meetings

Talent review meetings are used by some organizations to identify the requirements for leadership and key positions, assess the capability of people in their organization to fill those positions, and ascertain the developmental needs of potential candidates. A solid understanding of these issues assists in developing strategies to balance organizational needs with the career aspirations of employees.

In preparation for these meetings, some organizations create a one- or two-page employee profile (see Appendix A). Information in these profiles may pertain to career interests, interest in leadership roles, competency strengths and vulnerabilities, performance ratings, willingness to relocate, retirement plans, and development plans. In addition, a separate profile may be created for key positions (see Appendix B).

Effective talent review discussions:

  • Begin meetings by measuring progress against last years goals.
  • Encourage participants to offer their input on employees so that assessments are based on multiple perspectives.
  • Encourage honest and frank discussion rather than reporting.
  • Include discussions on employees' learning and development needs.
  • Have discussions led by a skilled facilitator.
  • Allow sufficient time for discussion.
  • Follow up on action items within a couple of months of the meeting.


  • In order to minimize subjectivity, use multiple ways of assessing employees and include multiple perspectives.
  • If your organization is considering a more formal process of identifying internal talent for accelerated development, it is important to carefully manage expectations to avoid the presumption of guaranteed promotion and to protect against the risk of alienating those not selected. Employees who are not initially considered for accelerated development need to understand that they can be considered in the future with further career development and/or that there are alternative paths for development (e.g. opportunities for deployment).

Managers checklist

  • Have you spoken to each of your employees to discuss his or her career plans and interests in order to identify those who are interested in leadership roles or who wish to move to more senior or alternative roles?
  • Has the organization considered building an inventory of its employees' skills, experience, and career interests?
  • Do you know which of your key positions are vulnerable (e.g. which incumbents will be retiring or leaving for other reasons within the next several years)? Have you assessed whether there are enough candidates who are ready to advance or who could be developed in that time frame?
  • Is there a sufficient pool of bilingual candidates, as well as members from designated groups, in feeder groups for key positions and areas?
  • Have you addressed the potential barriers for the advancement of employees from designated groups?
  • Have you identified a temporary back-up for each key position with the appropriate knowledge, skills (including language), and abilities to carry out the responsibilities in the short term?
  • Have you conducted a risk assessment for key positions based on when you think the position may become vacant? The assessment should evaluate the overall impact on the business and whether there is a shortage of qualified candidates.
  • Does your management team meet to discuss the requirements of key positions and areas, as well as the development needs of interested candidates?
  • Does your organization base the identification and assessment of employees with potential for key roles on multiple assessments and perspectives (e.g. talent review meetings, assessment tools, 360-degree evaluations, performance)?

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