Study: HR Mgrs. feel they lack time, money for succession planning
June 8, 2011 at 11:27 pm #132401
By Kellie Lunney @ GovExec.com June 6, 2011
Few federal human resources offices focus on ensuring they have skilled staff in the pipeline to hit the ground running when vacancies crop up, according to a new report from the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton.
HR managers spend more time on succession plans for their agencies than they do for their own offices, the survey found. Eighty-six percent of HR professionals surveyed reported some succession planning for their department or agency, but just 57 percent reported succession planning for their HR offices, according to the study from the nonprofit group and consultancy. “We picked HR deliberately on the assumption that if anyone was doing it, they were,” said Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership.
Respondents, however, cited four major barriers to their own succession planning: lack of time, inadequate funding, limited ability to assess and select candidates, and challenges with workforce forecasting. Some of those obstacles have more to do with managers’ perceptions than reality, said Ron Sanders, senior executive adviser with Booz Allen Hamilton and former chief human capital officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The Partnership and Booz Allen recommended the federal HR community develop a governmentwide model for succession planning in their offices, particularly since mobility is so high among those in the HR field. The report cited the information technology and acquisition communities as useful examples to emulate, and urged the Chief Human Capital Officers Council to take the lead on creating an approach that would benefit the entire federal HR workforce. One suggestion included establishing an interagency HR fellows program for entry-level hires.
“Succession planning isn’t simply trying to fill a job,” Stier said. “It’s what is the vision for your future and what kind of talent do you need going forward?” Stier and Sanders mentioned the Defense and Treasury departments as well as the General Services Administration as agencies that do succession planning particularly well.
Sanders said one of the ways to look at succession planning is the hit-by-a-truck test. “The most obvious application is, if this person were to leave tomorrow, and obviously hit by a truck, is somebody ready now to come in and do the job?”
The report lists five steps for HR managers to follow to carve out an effective succession plan:
- List critical jobs and project vacancy risk;
- Discuss future needs;
- Analyze gaps in the existing talent pool;
- Develop strategies to close those gaps;
- Evaluate progress and update succession plans every six to 12 months.
The report estimated that more than 50 percent of senior executives in place now will have left government by 2015. “My own guess is that this litany of nonstrategic efforts to squeeze money out of the compensation system is going to take its toll,” Stier said, referring to various proposals floating around targeting federal pay and benefits. He added that the government will lose “good, critical people and we won’t have the pipeline to replace them.”
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