There is a heightened sense of urgency about succession planning because of the onset of “baby boom” retirements and other demographic and labour market trends that are contributing to tightening labour markets and skill shortages. By planning for and taking measures to close the gaps we face over the coming years, GNB will be better positioned to compete successfully in this challenging labour market.
Succession planning is an ongoing process which involves:
- Identification and competency-profiling of critical positions within the public service; and
- Development and implementation of strategies to transfer critical knowledge and attract, develop and retain qualified candidates to compete for these positions if and when they become vacant.
- Identification of internal candidates, who currently meet or have the potential to meet with some targeted learning and development, the minimum qualifications and competency requirements for critical positions to assist departments and agencies with their internal talent management.
It is a best practice in succession planning to identify critical positions in order to focus efforts and prioritize the allocation of resources. With thousands of positions in Part I departments and agencies, it would not be practical or meaningful to do succession planning for all of them. By identifying and managing the most critical risks that GNB faces first, we will ensure that leadership continuity is in place and that strategic and operational capacity is sustained. As time and resources permit, planning efforts will focus on other segments of the workforce that warrant attention.
Critical positions are defined as those positions that are instrumental to delivering on GNB commitments and corporate priorities or exert a critical influence on achieving operational and strategic goals (i.e., business plans). Tools have been created to help departments conduct a risk assessment to prioritize the positions, taking into account factors such as the imminence of departure of incumbents, the organizational impact of vacancies and the difficulty to fill positions. In each department or agency, the Senior Management group is involved in identifying and confirming the at-risk positions that will be addressed in the succession plan.
If a position is not identified as critical, it does not mean that it is not important to the organization or that the incumbent does not add value—it simply means that it is not urgent to have a succession plan in place for the position right away. All employees have an important role to play in meeting business goals and delivering on the mandates of their departments and agencies, and there are other processes in place, such as performance management and recognition, intended to recognize and foster the contribution of individuals.
GNB has adopted a competency framework to promote an integrated approach to human resource management including recruitment and selection, employee training and development, performance management, rewards and recognition and career and succession planning. Part I departments and agencies have been implementing the competency framework gradually, with the intent of eventually having competency profiles in place for all positions. Position competency profiles are typically developed prior to staffing a position, so that candidates know the competencies on which they will be assessed through behavioural event interviewing (BEI).
For critical positions that are identified in the succession planning process, it is necessary to accelerate the competency profiling process, since it is important to ensure that succession management strategies are rooted in an understanding of current and future competency requirements.
Each department and agency has determined the strategies that are most suitable to address the risks, taking into account the specific nature and circumstances of the critical positions that have been identified. In general, some of the strategies involved may include the following:
- identification, assessment and development of pools of internal candidates to improve their readiness to compete for future openings in critical positions;
- strategic outreach and recruitment initiatives to expand the pools of qualified external candidates for critical positions that are in short supply in GNB;
- interventions to ensure the capture of knowledge and “institutional memory” from experienced incumbents before their departure and enable smooth transfer to successors;
- retention and engagement initiatives to ensure that employees know they are valued and see the potential alignment between GNB’s talent needs and their career aspirations.
While the development and implementation of succession plans will occur primarily within the framework of departments and agencies, opportunities for interdepartmental and corporate-wide collaboration will also be identified and facilitated.
No, internal talent pools are not about developing “heirs” to specific positions. The purpose of talent pools is to improve the readiness of internal candidates to meet the qualifications and competency requirements for critical positions, in order to mitigate the risk of vacancies that would be detrimental to delivering on GNB’s strategic and operational goals. There is no guarantee that talent pool candidates will be promoted, and the merit-based competitive process will continue to be the primary means to fill positions as vacancies occur.
Succession planning is a proactive rather than reactive process. If you position has been identified as critical, there is a significant risk that the department would be very seriously impacted if the position became vacant, for any reason. Unfortunately, people do sometimes leave the workforce unexpectedly due to accident, illness, family circumstances and other factors. Therefore, it is important to ensure that strategies are in place to minimize this risk for positions where the impact of a vacancy would be highly detrimental.
The identification of critical positions for succession planning purposes should not be interpreted to mean that only some positions in the department are considered important or meaningful. Every employee’s contribution is important and valuable to achieving our goals. Rather, the purpose of this process is to identify imminent workforce risks and challenges, and develop strategies to address those needs first. As these risks are addressed, planning for other positions will follow.
Succession planning is an ongoing process that is heavily influenced by changes in the internal and external environments and the strategic direction of the department. Accordingly, positions identified as critical can and will change over time as risk factors and conditions change.
Departments and agencies are at different stages in rolling-out their processes, and are choosing the most suitable techniques to communicate within their organizations. In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns, you may contact your Director of HR and/or Project Coordinator of succession planning.
The Treasury Board provides subject matter expertise and advice to departments and agencies in developing and executing their succession plans. Treasury Board also facilitates corporate talent management and learning strategies.