It is estimated two-thirds of Federal executives are eligible to retire within the next five years. If they all retire when they become eligible, there will be a large gap in our Federal leadership workforce. Given the significance of these events, how can we continue to develop the leadership talent pool to effectively fill future vacancies?
Succession management is the process of identifying those jobs considered to be at the core of the organization-- too critical to be left vacant or filled by any but the best qualified persons—and then creating a strategic plan to fill them with experienced and capable employees. Succession management is critical to mission success and creates an effective process for recognizing, developing, and retaining top leadership talent. It is important to note that strategic succession planning is not about talents the organization needs now; rather, it is projecting the talent, knowledge, skills and competencies needed for the future of an agency/organization.
In summary, succession management is a systematic approach for:
• Shaping the leadership culture.
• Building a leadership pipeline/talent pool to ensure leadership continuity.
• Developing potential successors whose strengths will best fit with the agency’s needs.
• Identifying the best candidates for categories of positions.
• Concentrating resources on the talent development process, yielding a greater Return on
Title 5, Section 412.101 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (5 U.S.C. 412.101) states:
“In consultation with the Office of Personnel Management, the head of each agency shall establish - (1) a comprehensive management succession program to provide training to employees to develop managers for the agency.”
Federal Government Tools and Resources
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
- OPM’s succession management plan is a fundamental component of the agency’s overall human capital planning priority. The plan supports:
- Workforce Planning by providing direction for managing critical leadership development resources and helps ensure the best use of those resources to achieve organizational goals and objectives. It also provides a mechanism for assuring continuity of leadership by creating a methodical process to identify leadership needs and to develop plans to meet those needs.
- The Identification of Highly Talented Individuals who have exceptional talent and performance and should be identified and advanced based on merit.
- Overall employee development - Employees are often hired knowing that they will require continued training to meet the needs of their jobs, and succession management helps justify the cost of training devoted to leadership development.
- In 2010, OPM conducted their latest Succession Planning Study (2010) in which senior leaders and HR professionals reviewed all leadership positions to determine their succession planning risk level. As a result of the analysis and research, all OPM's leadership positions received either a moderate or low succession risk level -- no positions were marked as high-risk.
- OPM's Human Capital Assessment Team: Offers an informative manual, A Guide to the Strategic Leadership Succession Management Model that helps agencies evaluate their existing talent pool, project future levels of leadership sufficiency, and examine the prospect of reorganization in line with mission-critical goals and priorities. Other resources on OPM's website include an outline of the Succession Planning process and Effective Succession Strategies.
Private Sector Tools and Resources
The Corporate Leadership Council (CLC)
- Agencies may find the CLC’s Workforce Planning Support Toolkit helpful in managing future talent needs as well as addressing succession management plans. For additional information, see the Corporate Leadership Council's Succession Planning Homepage.
The way in which positions are filled can also play a vital role in change management and culture transition. If an organization's culture is described as stagnant, safe, and lacking creativity, a strategic decision to consider may be to fill more leadership roles from outside the organization rather than from inside progression. If an organization's leadership is perceived to be highly effective, motivational, thriving and customer focused, then the strategic decision may be to promote from within. Both recruiting and development strategies would be developed to compliment the desired organizational culture. The list below depicts the breakdown of this structure:
- Accelerate development of candidates ready to move into leadership positions.
- Retain people in the leadership positions until candidates are considered ready to compete for those positions.
- Recruit individuals with technical and management experience to move immediately into the leadership positions.
- Reorganize functions and positions to meet the mission with the talent from the first three options.