Succession planning critical now for gov't

Monday - 6/6/2011, 9:00pm EDT

Ron Sanders, senior executive advisor, Booz Allen Hamilton.

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By Vyomika Jairam
Federal News Radio

The federal government has been bracing for some time now for the "brain drain" that is expected in the next few years when a large segment of federal workers retire. Estimates from the Office of Personnel Management in a new Partnership for Public Service report run as high as 50 percent of current federal executives retiring by the end of 2015. Just what the impact will be, nobody knows.

In the meantime, federal agencies will serve themselves well to prepare as best as they can, namely by developing succession plans. That's the focus of a new report by the Partnership and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Succession planning is different from succession managment, a distinction the report establishes at the beginning. Succession planning is the process by which an organization:

  • Identifies its most critical positions
  • Projects its attrition
  • Assess the sufficiency candidate pool
  • outlines training, development and recruiting strategies to close gaps between demand and supply
Succession management is executing the succession plans.

The reports looks at the federal HR community as an example of what the federal government as a whole might face. According to the findings, "HR offices spend much more time helping develop suc­cession plans for their agencies than they do for their own offices."

Within the federal HR community, the report found four specific roadblocks to succession planning:

  • Lack of time
  • Inadequate funding
  • Limited ability to assess and select candidates
  • Difficulty with workforce forecasting

So what can federal agencies do to prepare? Among the reports recommendations is thinking ahead when replacing retiring workers; managers should plan ahead and consider what skills the position may require in the future, not just focus on replacing the skill set that was lost.

In addition, managers should constantly evaluate positions, both in leadership and technical roles, that are mission critical and consider their vacancy risks.