The Importance of Succession Planning and Plan Components

Call it the “Silver Tsunami” or the “Great Resignation”, there are many vacancies in local government positions and planning for those anticipated vacancies is important. The current labor market is tight and many positions in local government are specialized, requiring unique skill sets. Couple that with lack of available talent and the changing wants and needs of the workforce, local governments are in a potentially undesirable situation when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. A comprehensive succession plan can help address these issues and help ensue a community has the talent to move into positions when they become vacant.

Why is succession planning important? There is a myriad of reasons why it is important but here are a few to consider:

  • Allows for the transfer of institutional knowledge
  • Ensures continuity and efficiency of operations
  • Reduces exposure and liability
  • Supports employee development and retention
  • Recognizes respects the expertise and longevity of incumbent employees
  • Makes fiscal sense to do so

When developing a succession plan, there are many stakeholders who should be included in the process and/or part of the succession planning team: incumbent employees, key management staff, human resources, supervisors, and employees. Other stakeholders can also be included, such as committee members, community groups and peers.

Prior to developing a succession plan, a community will want to review strategic initiatives so they can be aligned to the plan. For example, hiring more diverse staff members or incorporating alternative staffing models into the organizational configuration. Further, understanding the external market, including the availability of talent, compensation expectations, and workplace wants and needs, is helpful and necessary before a plan is developed.

There are key components to a succession plan:

  • Workforces Analysis 
    • Review present workforce and organizational objectives, upcoming retirements, and strategic initiatives
    • Identify future workforce needs, upcoming issues and core competencies needed
    • Analyze present and future needs and identify gaps or surplus, review and update job descriptions
    • Develop and implement human resources strategies, and plans for succession
  • Mission Critical Positions and Staffing Configuration
    • Determine which positions are critical to the mission of the organization
    • Consider which positions must be filled by employees of the jurisdiction
    • Consider if alternative staffing models can be used to fill any of the positions going forward, such as outsourcing, insourcing, contracting, job sharing, phasing retirement, seasonal or temp-to-hire positions
  • Internal Talent Identification 
    • Supervisor should identify employees to move into positions
    • Employees should be asked about their career goals, and to which positions they aspire to occupy
  • Institutional Knowledge Transfer
    • Capture the knowledge of departing employees 
      • What projects are they working on and what is the status?
      • Have their positions changed and if so, how?
      • What skills and training will be needed for future employees?
      • Are they willing to mentor new employees?
      • How can they be contacted and is all of the information they are leaving behind secure and accessible?
  • Employee Readiness Employee Development
    • Employees should be asked if they are ready to assume leadership positions 
    • Human resources can work with supervisors and employees to establish development plans so there is talent to take over when opportunities arise

There is a myriad of reasons to develop succession plans for organizations. Aligning strategic goals and initiatives to the plan will help achieve organizational objectives as they related to staffing.

Including many stakeholders in the succession planning process will bring in different perspectives and guard against bias. Asking employees about their career goals and aspirations may improve employee engagement and participation in the process.
Succession planning will keep you safe from the “Silver Tsunami” and allow your organization to weather the “Great Resignation”!

Joellen J. Cademartori
Chief Executive Officer, GovHR USA