Strategic Federal Human Capital Management – Succession Planning

With an ongoing challenge of retiring baby boomers, a struggle to attract and retain millennials and the urgency of developing new leaders, federal Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) and HR leaders have an urgent need to put in place succession planning initiatives to ensure their agencies have the people and skill sets in place to continue to fulfill the agency missions.

This is the seventh post in a series looking at the numerous strategic federal human capital management issues facing federal HR leaders. As part of their strategic process, forward-thinking agencies ensure a data-driven approach underpins succession planning, which provides powerful insight for executives and managers to ensure they are identifying, retaining and developing the best talent.

Why Succession Planning is Critical

Even without the impending retirements that most agencies are facing, succession planning is critical to an agency’s ability to continue to fulfill its mission. There are many reasons for this:

  • The unexpected. Even if you feel you have a handle on your workforce, there is always the possibility of unforeseen events having a major impact. These include unexpected retirements, unexpected illness and unanticipated external forces. While you don’t intend for any to occur, your agency will be much better off if you’re ready, in case they do.
  • Leadership development. Employees will benefit from training and leadership development, as they become ready to take on important new roles.
  • Morale and engagement. Employees often become more inspired and engaged, as well as committed to an agency, when they better understand their current and potential contributions to the overall agency goals and mission.
  • Smoother transition. As your agency struggles with increased retirements and the need to bring on new talent, internal replacements for new positions can often lead to faster and easier transitions than hiring outside, which has a higher price and longer timeline for acquiring institutional knowledge

Five steps to Data-driven Succession Planning

Let’s look at five key steps an agency should take to implement a data-driven succession planning process or to enhance an existing plan with people analytics.

1. Identify critical positions and skills.

Identify the critical positions and skills to ensure leadership continuity and mitigate risk from leadership attrition. It’s important to ensure you understand the level of risk to your agency if a position is left vacant for an extended period of time. You also need to ensure the skill sets of other employees are known and who can potentially fulfill your vacancies.

2. Identify all high potential employees.

Identify the employees who are exceptional performers, passionate about the agency and will be able to help lead the agency forward. At the same time, it is important to build a culture where people want to help others and the agency succeed. This culture will be important in helping high potential employees step forward and feel their voices will be heard — and their skills and contributions valued.

3. Perform a reality check

Perform a gap analysis to align employee skill sets, position and potential vacancies. With this awareness, you can help employees prepare themselves for the next level in their career and within your agency. As part of the gap analysis, managers should talk to their employees about their career goals and aspirations. You want to ensure you’ll go about preparing employees for a job they want, rather than one that is not in alignment with their own goals.

4. Ensure employees are prepared

With career goals aligned with skill gaps and the agency’s needs, the agency should then implement training, development and support programs to ensure your high potential employees are prepared to move into the identified positions. Without proper preparation, you’ll be set up for failure.

5. Prove success with data

It’s important to systematically monitor workforce data, evaluate activities and make necessary adjustments. You should assess the required leadership competencies at higher position levels, compare them with known criteria and measure the progress of employees that have moved into more senior positions. By reviewing the data, you can determine which training programs are working best, which development programs might need tweaking and what is working best.

With increased scrutiny, federal agencies are faced with the challenge of providing exceptional service and accountability for the results produced. To ensure your agency meets its high performance expectations, it’s critical that workable and efficient succession plans are in place to deal with the inevitable loss of leaders and other key personnel.

Related Posts:

Strategic Federal Human Capital Management — Knowledge Sharing
Strategic Federal Human Capital Management — HR Service Delivery
Strategic Federal Human Capital Management — People Analytics
Strategic Federal Human Capital Management — Security
Strategic Federal Human Capital Management — Employee Engagement
Strategic Federal Human Capital Management — Talent Acquisition

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