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Succession planning and management guide

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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 for future roles. Consider incorporating some of the following into your succession strategies. Some of these strategies may not apply to the Executive Group.

What are various strategies for learning 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.

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 from their post.

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 streams or domains of work.

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

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


  • Identifying critical development experiences is essential to ensuring that employees acquire the necessary experience to assume more senior or alternative roles. Some organizations identify critical experiences by interviewing incumbents in key positions.
  • Ensure that templates for learning plans make the link between developmental activities and capabilities for current and future roles on the one hand and performance appraisals on the other.

What are various strategies for corporate knowledge transfer?

Explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge are different and they require different strategies. Explicit knowledge can be tracked and codified in manuals, directories, and procedures. On the other hand, tacit knowledge, which makes up 80 to 85 per cent of an organization's knowledge assets, is much more difficult to codify because it encompasses people's insight, judgment, and know-how. It requires strategies that rely more on interpersonal interactions such as coaching, mentoring, and job shadowing. Consider incorporating strategies that track and retain both kinds of knowledge.

Many of the previously mentioned learning strategies also facilitate the transfer of knowledge. In addition to those, the following may be used to transfer knowledge. Some of these strategies may not apply to the Executive Group.

Documentation of critical knowledge/job diaries: This is a record that contains key knowledge, including contacts, networks, resources, learning, best practices, answers to frequently asked questions, etc. A template may facilitate the recording of information.

Special Assignment Pay Plan (SAPP) : Using this option, employees below the executive level can be appointed to classified or unclassified positions for periods not exceeding three years. This option would allow the incumbent of a key position to be assigned under SAPP and remain in the organization, thereby creating a vacancy. Following staffing of the position, the former incumbent would still be available to facilitate the transfer of knowledge to the new incumbent.

Exit interviews: Employees who are leaving the organization voluntarily complete an interview and/or questionnaire, which can capture critical information.

Communities of practice: These are groups of people who share a common purpose or concern and who exchange ideas.

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


In order to encourage knowledge transfer, management must consider giving the person whose knowledge is being tapped the time to share it, e.g. by reducing that persons workload so he or she can mentor, coach, train, or otherwise share information.

Managers checklist:

  • Has your organization defined the developmental experiences that it requires for its leadership positions and other key areas?
  • Have you explored various options to support your employees career goals, including acting assignments, stretch assignments, mentoring arrangements, job shadowing, courses, and language training?
  • Do employees have learning plans that are linked to the appropriate knowledge, skills (including language), and abilities required for current and future roles?
  • Have you had discussions with your employees regarding the various possible means of passing on their corporate knowledge?
  • Do you encourage employees to work in teams and cross-train employees to foster knowledge transfer and broaden employees skill sets?
  • Have you explored whether employees who are planning on retiring within the next few years are interested in participating in a mentoring arrangement?
  • Have you explored options that would allow you to bring in a new employee while the incumbent remains in the organization in order to facilitate knowledge transfer?
  • Has your organization considered offering professional development courses or establishing a professional development and apprenticeship program to identify and develop talent in key areas and among designated groups?

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