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Succession management discussion tool

The following text is drawn from one agency’s approach to prepare managers for succession management discussions with their staff.

Why have a succession management discussion

The succession management discussion can be included as part of the performance management system. It provides a process in which employees are able to articulate their intentions, aspirations and goals related to their career development. However the discussion can occur at any time as required.

The succession management discussion with a team member will seek to gain an awareness of:

  • their career expectations and how they see their current work fitting in to those
  • any plans to leave the role
  • the impact on business continuity if they were to leave the position
  • knowledge that may need to be transferred to other members of the team if they were to leave.

It should be noted that:

  • the employee is not required to provide any information about themselves if they do not wish to
  • the employee responses are not binding and they are able to change their mind
  • the information provided by the employee is only to be used for planning purposes and will assist the manager in undertaking a succession management risk assessment if required

The process will also assist managers in gathering employee information for team succession management and workforce planning.

Preparing for the succession management discussion

Step 1: Book a time for the discussion

Make an appointment with the team member in advance. Allow up to one hour.

Step 2: Employee preparation

Provide the team member with the Succession Management Discussion Preparation template to assist their preparation for the discussion.

Prior to the discussion the manager may also:

  • affirm the purpose of the conversation and ensure the employee understands what the conversation is about
  • reassure the employee that the information they provide is only to be used for planning purposes. It will not be used in any way to judge, discriminate or disadvantage them in their future employment choices.
  • ask the employee if they have any questions or concerns about the discussion.
  • confirm timeframe for the discussion.

Suggest that the employee consider the following questions prior to participating in the discussion:

  • How do you think your current role fits into you career plan?
  • What other work or roles do you want to undertake in the organisation?
  • What factors influence when and what your next career move might be?
  • What practical issues would impact on your decision to stay or to leave?
  • What do you think the impact on the team would be if you were to leave your current role?
  • If you were to leave, what tasks/activities would you need to handover to ensure that the team meets its performance objectives?
  • What do you think the manager should be doing now in the team to prepare for your departure if this is what you believe will happen? (recruitment, training, reorganise the work loads etc)?

Step 3: Collate and review information

Collate any information, already known about the employee or wider work area, in preparing for the discussion, for example:

  • the employee’s role and capabilities. How critical is the role; how difficult would it be to fill? Make a list of what they bring to the team as strengths and any specialised experience or skills.
  • the employee’s current known or anticipated career/work intentions
  • the area’s workforce needs for the coming year and a likely response to any potential work options the employee might present

Step 4: Review discussion questions

Review the questions outlined in the Succession Management Discussion Preparation template. Use an additional copy of this as a recording template for the discussion.

Step 5: Conducting the succession management discussion

Tips to beginning the conversation:

  • make the employee feel comfortable
  • affirm the purpose of the conversation
  • ask the employee if they have any questions or concerns about the discussion
  • confirm timeframe for the discussion.
  • indicate what notes or other record will be made during the discussion
  • explain what will be done with the information following the discussion
  • confirm the employee’s agreement to proceed.

Tips during the conversation:

  • Make notes on the conversation record. Covering the questions listed over the course of the conversation will ensure the manager has all the information needed to undertake a risk assessment.
  • The conversation is about exploring possibilities as well as gauging the likelihood of the employee’s intentions.
  • Let the employee do the talking. The conversation is about them, not the manager.
  • Remember this is not an interview or a survey or an interrogation; the conversation should be relaxed but focussed.
  • Let the conversation go where it needs to go. It won’t be a linear or entirely predictable process and it could seem scattered at times.

Tips ending the conversation:

  • Summarise some the key points discussed.
  • Ensure the outcomes of the discussion are recorded. Use the discussion preparation template to record the discussion.
  • Outline any actions that need to be undertaken.

Succession management outcomes/actions

Following the discussion the manager should be in a better position to:

  • Understand the employee’s work intentions and aspirations; and
  • Assess the likelihood of a team member leaving the team and the consequence on business outcomes if this were to occur.
Succession management discussion preparation template - for employees and managers
Work intentions and aspirations Marketability

How are you going in your current role? What are you enjoying? What are you finding challenging?

How do you think your current role fits into your career plan? How long do you think that you would like to stay in your current role?

What do you see as being the most likely next move in your career?

What practical factors would impact on your decision to stay or to leave?

What long term career goals do you have? Where do you see yourself in 3yrs/5yrs time?

Where else do you think your skills and experiences may be useful in the organisation?

If you were not working in this organisation, where else do you think your skill sets would fit well that would interest you?

Have you had any approaches form other areas (either internal or external) that were of interest to you?

Sources of skills Team planning

Where do you think is the most likely source that we could find a replacement to fill your role if you were to move on?

How long do you think it may take a replacement to get up to speed?

What do you think the impact on the team would be if you were to leave your current role?

If you were to leave, what knowledge/tasks do you think we would need to capture or transfer to ensure that the team meets its performance objectives?

What do you think your manager can be doing now in the team to prepare for your departure if this is what you believe will happen? (recruitment, training, reorganise the workloads, etc.)