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Capability

One agency, concerned about a lack of ‘ready now’ internal applicants for SES Band 1 positions, has adopted a succession pool approach to developing immediate and medium term readiness (‘ready 1-2 years’) in the EL2 feeder group.

The approach is based on a clear understanding of required capabilities based on the APS Integrated Leadership System and specific service delivery capabilities.

Succession pool

Accelerated development

Multiple perspectives on potential, including 360۫ feedback and staff survey data in conjunction with manager input, are used to develop a succession pool candidate list with those individuals invited to join a succession pool which targets their capability development. If they choose to apply, they participate in a development discussion with their senior manager, giving them an opportunity to discuss their aspirations and career interests and consider a range of options to develop and extend their capabilities. In general, these employees remain in their roles and may undertake short-term experiences or other development opportunities, or take responsibility for complex/major projects. In addition, the agency has nominated temporary assignment to an SES vacancy (HDA) and working in a client/stakeholder organisation as options which replace existing responsibilities for their duration. It is generally expected that candidates for extended HDA vacancies are drawn from the succession pool.

The decision of those who elect not to participate in the succession pool is respected: they remain valued employees, and are supported by a development and retentionplan to build their proficiency and capability at level.

Fine-tuning

The agency is continually refining its approach, which began in 2002 with a structured analysis of bench strength for SES roles, and prioritised efforts towards specific positions for which there was only one or no apparent employees who could fill a future vacancy. The approach has been modified as it was found to be too structured to fit with the agency’s culture, and it may have overstated the supply of EL2s for SES positions - some individuals were counted more than once due to their suitability for a number of positions.

The revised approach is more informal and low-key, and the agency is better able to manage expectations and reactions such as perceived pressure on participants, possible unrealistic expectations regarding promotion prospects, as well as ‘in-out’ concerns in relation to the succession pool. Now, career aspirations and intentions are discussed in broader terms, de-emphasising succession pool membership, and allowing for changes in circumstances over time in relation to development for higher-level roles. Performance and development achievements and issues are discussed and managed as necessary on a case-by-case basis between the manager and the individual.

Evaluation

Challenges cited by the agency include gaining an accurate understanding of leadership potential and development needs and gauging accurately the career aspirations of EL2 level employees. Although, as the agency becomes more experienced in this area, it builds iteratively on the quality and usefulness of these discussions. A further challenge is maintaining consistently high levels of support and active involvement from senior managers: a continuing organisational focus on succession management at senior levels is helping in this area. A side benefit has been a broadening of experience across the agency as the approach has facilitated greater movement between divisions. The agency is also able to measure its approach as it now can determine the number of internal EL2 applicants for SES positions, and can therefore demonstrate where the approach has produced benefits to the organisation.