Virtual Learning Resource Centre

Talent management and succession planning

Development activities

PLEASE NOTE: Data entry within the developmental activities of this learning guide cannot be saved or stored to your PC. We recommend that you print this section and complete the activities as suggested.

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Activity 1

Key positions

This brief activity is useful to start you thinking about talent management and succession planning in your own organisation before you delve into more detailed exercises.

  1. From your own current position, look at the jobs of your peers, bosses and subordinates. Select three positions that would be very difficult to fill if the current person left.
  2. POSITION 1:



  3. Why would these positions be difficult to fill? Do they encompass skills that differentiate your company from its rivals? Does the person have a unique skill or manage a key business segment? Does the individual have a unique contact network? Enter your thoughts below.
  4. POSITION 1:



  5. Is there a pattern or consistency in your reasons given in the answer to question 1? If Yes, does that point to any broader actions that should be taken in the organisation? Please list them. If No, what makes each situation unique? What implications does that have for the business?
  6. Can you think of any people who, when developed, would be able to succeed into any of these three roles? Why?
  7. POSITION 1:



  8. What do you think could be done to 'plan' for such departures if they happened? What actions should be taken within the organisation and by whom? Even if you have a flourishing talent management and succession planning system in place is there some additional action that should be taken?

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Activity 2

Approaches to talent management

Below are some questions you could ask yourself which would help define your current approach to talent management and also initiate thinking on what could change. Share them with your management colleagues and have a discussion on your answers.

Core belief

  • What is your corporate core belief relating to talent management?

Definition of talent

  • How would you define talent in your organisation?
  • What percentage of the population does it cover?
  • Are there any subsections into which it can be divided?

Link to strategy

  • How are talent management, personnel development and personal achievement linked into the corporate strategy?


  • How transparent is your talent process to everyone in the organisation?
  • How far does your level of transparency fit in with the corporate culture?
  • If the process is not 100% transparent, what impact does that have on the population (both those deemed talented and those not)?

Recruitment and selection

  • How does recruitment and selection take place?
  • How far do you go trying to use internal talent before going outside?
  • How do your recruitment and selection processes relate to your approach to talent management?
  • How much feedback data do you gather from both successful and unsuccessful recruitment and selection situations?


  • What retention policies/processes are in place?
  • What are the core reasons people claim keep them in the organisation?
  • What are the core reasons for leaving?
  • What alternative career paths are available to aid retention?


  • Which aspects of the corporate culture support growth and development of talented individuals?
  • Does the culture in any way hinder talent management processes? How?
  • Does the corporate culture vary by geographical region? If yes, how does that impact on talent management?


  • Is there a large enough pool of champions and believers in your corporate talent management processes in the organisation?
  • How is your system of talent management supported throughout the organisation?


  • What diversity/equality of opportunity measures are in place?
  • Do they fit in with the talent management approach?
  • How is diversity encouraged?

Performance management

  • How does performance management work in your organisation?
  • What are its strengths and weaknesses?
  • Who decides what is good/poor performance?
  • Is the process seen as fair by most of the organisation?
  • Is potential measured as well as past performance?


  • What reward systems are in place?
  • Are they important or unimportant to talent management? Why?

Succession planning

  • Who is responsible for succession planning?
  • How does it work?
  • What are its strengths and weaknesses?
  • What tools and processes are in place to manage it? Do they work successfully?

Career development

  • How is career development managed?
  • Does it encourage talented individuals?
  • Is it effective or do people mostly pay lipservice to it? Why?
  • What tools/processes are in place to help with career development?
  • Does career development encourage sideways moves, alternative paths and stretched goals?

Leadership/management development

  • How does this development occur?
  • How far is it matched to individual needs?
  • What is available in terms of support?
  • How effective is it?

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Activity 3

Perspectives on Talent Management

This exercise is meant to be an ice breaker in terms of discussions on your corporate perspectives to talent management. The reality is far more complex, but this exercise injects a 'popular magazine quiz' element into a challenging topic. It is a variation on the simpler exercise found earlier in this Learning Guide.

For each question answer a, b, c, d or e to indicate the answer which fits your perspective the closest. There may not be an obvious answer, but pick the one that fits best. Calculate the score at the end of the questionnaire to get an analysis.

    1. Our core belief in our organisation is that we need to:

  • 2. Our recruitment and selection is based on:

  • 3. Our retention is based on:

  • 4. Our reward systems are based on:

  • 5. Our succession planning is:

  • 6. Our development approach is based on:

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Activity 4

13 dimensions

Here are 13 dimensions that shape talent management. The first section, 'Why talent?' measures the factors that make talent management a strategic imperative. 'Definition and entry point' look at boundaries around talent in your organisation. 'Managing the talent' looks at ownership and development of talent management and finally 'Outcomes and benefits' measures and reviews the talent management process. For each of the factors below, try marking the point along the line where you believe your organisation sits. What messages does that give you? Who else in the organisation should try this exercise? How will you compare and reconcile differences? How will you define which point along the line is 'right' for your organisation? What actions might need to be taken in light of your answers/the answers of your colleagues?

Why talent?

  • Dimension 1: Risk
  • How much risk is the organisation prepared to tolerate regarding succession plans?


    Low risk approachHigh risk tolerance

  • Dimension 2: Transparency
  • How transparent is the system in the organisation?


    Secret / opaqueOpen / transparent

  • Dimension 3: Culture
  • How competitive is the organisation's culture?


    Individually competitiveSupportive teamwork

Definition and entry point

  • Dimension 4: Decision process
  • How broad is the group of people who decides who is talent?


    Distributed decisionConcentrated decision

  • Dimension 5: Permanency of definition
  • How permanent is the classification of 'talent'?



  • Dimension 6: Size of talent pool
  • How many people are included in the talent pool?


    Only 1% of employeesAll 100% of employees

  • Dimension 7: Ease of entry
  • How easy is it to enter the talent pool?



Managing the talent

  • Dimension 8: Ownership of talent
  • Where is the ownership of talent viewed to be in the organisation?


    Local within business unitsShared round the organisation

  • Dimension 9: Connected conversations
  • How many people are having conversations with individuals about their careers?


    Individual line managersWider group of people

  • Dimension 10: Development path
  • How are people developed once they have been identified as talent?


    By an accelerated pathBy a differentiated route

  • Dimension 11: Development focus
  • Where is the focus of the organisation's development activities?


    On strengthsOn weaknesses

  • Dimension 12: Support
  • How much support is provided to the talent pool?


    Sink or swimPaternal approach

Outcomes and benefits

  • Dimension 13: Performance management
  • How is people's performance measured in the organisation?


    By outcomes/outputsBy behaviour/processes

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Activity 5

Critical questions for a succession plan

Whether you have a succession process in place or are starting from scratch, answering the following questions will help you by highlighting the key elements of an effective succession development system.

  1. Organisational requirements
    • What is driving the need for succession planning and development?
    • Who will identify the critical replacement positions?
    • How many critical replacement positions will be included in the succession plan?
    • How comprehensive are the job profiles of the critical replacement positions?

  2. Identification and assessment
    • Who identifies the replacement candidates?
    • How sophisticated are the assessments of each candidate's readiness?
    • How involved are candidates in the process?

  3. Replacement tables/database
    • How much information is included in the tables?
    • Who is involved in developing and reviewing the tables?
    • What time period is covered by the tables?
    • Do the tables indicate candidates' projected career paths?

  4. Succession analysis
    • Who is aware of the succession plan?
    • Are replacement tables used in filling positions?
    • Who is involved in implementing development plans?
    • Who is involved in evaluating the implementation?
    • Who and what are included in the analysis of each candidate's strengths and weaknesses?
    • With what other HRD systems is the succession plan linked?

  5. Development
    • Are candidates' development plans based on replacement tables?
    • Who is involved in writing and reviewing candidates' development plans?
    • What types of activities are included in the development plans?
    • What time period is covered by the development plans?
    • How are managers to be held accountable for the development of their staff members?

  6. Implementation and maintenance
    • Who is responsible for implementation of succession planning?
    • Who is responsible for reviewing the succession plan?
    • Who is responsible for maintaining it?
    • How often is the succession plan updated?

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Activity 6

Retention strategies

Retention of people critical to the organisation plays a key role in talent management. Ask yourself the following questions about your organisation:

  • What is your USP in your organisation as a 'great place to work'? How do you currently promote/develop it?
  • How can quality of work life be improved to make the organisation a more desirable place to work?
  • Is the environment clean, orderly, and professional? If not, can resources be obtained to address problem areas?
  • What orientation do you provide new employees? Do you have "hosts" or "buddies" to help new employees get acclimatised?
  • How can relationships among colleagues, supervisors, and managers become more collaborative, positive, and enriching?
  • Is there diversity among the staff? If not, how can you incorporate diversity into your recruitment and development strategies?
  • What scheduling or work options can you consider implementing to help employees achieve a better balance between work and home life, such as flex-time, home-working, etc.?
  • How can assignments be made more challenging and varied?
  • How can promotional opportunities be enhanced in conjunction with other strategies?
  • Are employees provided with opportunities to learn and grow?
  • Can more resources be devoted to career development?
  • What rotational opportunities are available?
  • What experience-broadening sideways moves are available? Is there a general management development growth policy to broaden experience outside the normal area of expertise?
  • Does your organisation have a mentoring programme?
  • How are employees recognised and rewarded for their performance? Are all employees aware of the processes available for recognising good work?
  • Is there sufficient support in place for managers to motivate and support their employees?
  • How do you reward 'potential' compared to 'actual achievement' for those people who may be critical to the future?
  • Does the performance appraisal process discuss and record 'potential'?
  • Do you conduct exit interviews and conduct surveys to find out what employees need and want?

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Activity 7

Knowledge transfer strategies

Losing employees often means losing knowledge. How well is your organisation geared up to prevent this happening?

  • Have you documented methods and procedures for the work performed?
  • Have you documented the processes, methods, tools, and techniques of people with special skills and responsibilities?
  • Can retiring employees mentor employees in the unit for a period of time before they retire?
  • Could the retiree's successor be appointed to a duplicate or project position to 'shadow' the incumbent for three months or more so the successor can learn first hand?
  • Are there other 'project' positions which would allow individuals to gain greater knowledge of critical positions? Could they be implemented before there is a crisis/retirement situation looming, as a normal part of management development?
  • Are there other opportunities for cover to expand horizons (holiday cover/sabbatical cover)?
  • Where people have gained insight into certain positions (as in last three bullet points above) how will you/do you capture that experience for others to share?
  • Do you have a communications system in place that encourages the sharing of information on all aspects of your organisation's operations and experience across organisational boundaries?
  • Do you record important meetings/events/presentations on video or audiotape?
  • Are records systems established to ensure that valuable information on important events or decisions is saved for an appropriate period of time and accessible to those who need it?
  • Are records in place to archive material critical to documenting the institutional history of your organisation?

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Last modified: 01/10/2007