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Focus questions to determine success risks

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) uses the following focus questions to interview senior executives and managers, assisting them to identify critical staff, roles and capabilities and to determine the level of succession risk to the business.

Focus questions

1. Critical staff

  • Who are the 2 or 3 people that would cause maximum disruption to (a) the business unit and (b) your work area if they didn’t to turn up to work tomorrow and never came back?
  • What is it about these people that makes them valuable to the work of the business unit?
  • What, if any, succession management strategies have already been implemented to mitigate the risk of losing these people?

2. Intentions

  • Who are you aware of in your area that is likely to leave within the next 18 months or so - either through retirement, career progression or other reasons (eg. dissatisfaction with their current position)?
  • Which of these people would you say hold knowledge skills or attributes that will be difficult to replace when they are gone? What capabilities do they possess & why are they difficult to replace?
  • What, if any, succession management strategies have already been implemented to mitigate the risk of losing these people?
  • HR information system data indicates that the following people may have the option to leave the organisation due to retirement over the next 2-5 years (list to be provided).
  • What do you know about the retirement intentions of these employees?
  • How do you know this?
  • Which employees would you consider difficult to replace due to:
    1. availability of skill sets;
    2. training time/ cost required
    3. relationships and connections
    4. historical knowledge?

3. Critical roles

  • Within the business unit or your immediate work area, and without thinking of individual employees, what are the jobs or roles that are most crucial to achieving business outcomes? Why?
  • Within the business unit or your immediate work area, what are the jobs or roles that are most difficult to fill with fully effective people in a short timeframe (specify relevant timeframe)? Why?

4. Critical capabilities

  • Within the business unit or your immediate work area, what are the capabilities that will be increasingly needed in the future to support the achievement of business outcomes, that aren’t available now or may be difficult to obtain into the future? Why?
  • What capabilities do you see your current staff having that are attractive to outside employers and which present possible retention risks? Who are the competitors?

5. Other

  • What other issues are you aware of that may contribute to the loss of core capabilities required to support the work of the business unit?
  • What strategies have you implemented or are you aware of within the business unit to help transfer knowledge and/or retain valuable employees?
  • What do you think needs to happen to ensure that the business unit has the right people to achieve business needs in the short and longer term?
  • Who would you say are the key people that need to be involved in developing the succession management strategy in the business unit? Why?
  • Who in the business unit would you say holds the most different view to you in relation to managing succession and know