Can Succession Planning Be Done Under Fiscal Constraints?

This question comes up often. Some think that workforce and succession planning is a waste of time when few jobs are being filled. Why plan if we can't fill jobs? Workforce and succession planning aren't just about preparing for the automatic replacement of employees who leave or retire. The concepts are broader.

Succession planning is about identifying critical positions and preparing to move people into those jobs, often to replace employees who are leaving. This needs to be done even though appointments may be delayed by budget restrictions. Workforce planning involves evaluating the current and anticipated work of the organization and then designing or re-designing jobs to fit the needs of the agency. Many agencies are re-assessing the work they do and re-evaluating the knowledge, skills and abilities needed by employees due to changes in technology, services provided, etc. It is about matching the workforce to the work that needs to be done.

Having said this, there are those who say: "Why do succession planning when everyone has to take a test anyway? You'll never know who will be at the top of the list." It's true; you will need to use eligible lists for competitive class positions and your succession planning needs to take this into account. It's not a matter of picking and developing a successor, hoping he or she will be reachable on the eligible list. You need to implement an approach that provides opportunities for development to all qualified employees on a voluntary or universal basis.

There are costs in time and effort associated with workforce and succession planning. But having the right staff in the right place at the right time who are properly trained should translate into a fiscal return and improved organizational performance. As such, workforce and succession planning are a long-term investment that continues to be worthwhile regardless of the waxing and waning of budgets. Who can argue with staff being well prepared for the challenges of agency strategic initiatives and the ever-changing world in which we work?