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Succession planning and management guide

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Frequently asked questions

What is succession planning and management?

Succession planning and management involves an integrated, systematic approach aimed at identifying, developing, and retaining talent for key positions and areas in line with current and projected business objectives.

What are some of the key messages that should be communicated to get buy-in?

Succession planning and management is about developing employees and supporting them in their careers to ensure that the organization has pools of talent for key areas. It is not about identifying heirs to specific positions.

Succession planning extends to all levels of the organization, it is not limited to those in executive positions.

Employees play a role in the process by identifying their career interests, having an opportunity to be assessed for key roles, and developing their learning plans.

Succession planning and management is a priority among senior management.

The benefits are wide-ranging, including:

  • improved employee engagement through career development and resulting cost benefits;
  • the development of a qualified pool of candidates ready to fill key positions or areas;
  • a better appreciation of employees on the part of managers;
  • the opportunity for corporate knowledge transfer;
  • gains toward the attainment of employment equity and official languages goals;
  • increased ability to deliver on business goals; and
  • a more efficient and effective public service.

If organizations do not have the required resources to implement a succession planning and management process, what should they do?

The succession planning process begins with the identification of key areas and positions, in consultation with managers and HR advisors. This step can be completed with minimal impact on the organizations financial resources. However, resources to develop, implement, and manage the program would be built into the organizations Integrated HR and Business Plan for subsequent years. Consider implementing a pilot project for a segment of the organization; it will require fewer financial resources at the outset.

How can organizations implement succession planning in times of transition?

Changes in government, restructuring, and downsizing are part of the ongoing reality of our times. Knowing this, organizations develop their short- and long-term integrated HR and business plans based on their current reality and what they can reasonably forecast for the future.

Given these circumstances, succession planning becomes an indispensable tool for managers because it ensures a pool of qualified candidates capable of assuming challenging assignments on short notice, despite unanticipated events.

It is important to revisit the succession plan at least annually or following organizational changes and, if appropriate, make the necessary adjustments. In essence, plan for what you know and adjust for the rest.

What are some of the confidentiality considerations associated with collecting and using information for succession planning purposes (e.g. retirement plans, performance, learning and training, etc.)?

Some of the privacy issues include what information is being collected; what the sources of information are; and who has access to the information and for what purpose.

It is important that these questions be addressed and that the answers be shared with employees prior to their giving consent.

How do you identify feeder groups for key positions and key areas?

At the outset, it is important that managers speak to employees to determine their interests and obtain their agreement to become part of a feeder group for key positions and areas. To participate, employees would need to agree to share information such as their career aspirations and skills. This information could be used to build a skills inventory. An assessment of the current talent supply against key positions using multiple assessment tools would identify potential candidates for key positions in both the short and long term.

Whom do I contact for more information?

You may contact the HR Planning Directorate at 613-946-9303 or at Contact the HR Planning Directorate by email: hrp-prh-ref@cpsa-afpc.gc.ca for more information.

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