Implementing and Maintaining Succession Planning in Public Safety

This is part three of a three part series on succession planning in public safety departments. Part 1 focused on the organizational review and design of a succession planning process. Part 2 focused on how selection systems play a part in succession planning. Part 3 focuses on implementation and maintenance.

In this series of articles we have been sharing information regarding the design, implementation, and maintenance of succession plans with our focus being on public safety organizations with a particular emphasis on the use of assessment centers to assist in selecting appropriate participants. We have also emphasized the necessity of determining the scope of the program and ensuring that the KSAP’s identified for measurement in the center cover the levels within the organization and provide diagnostic information regarding the strengths and weaknesses of all participants.

Creating and selecting the appropriate exercises for inclusion in the assessment center may require the assistance of a consultant if a sufficient level of expertise is not available within existing staff. Regardless of who does the work, it is critical that job related simulations that closely parallel the work to be performed are used to elicit the widest range of behaviors possible from candidates. Again, this is an area where people are tempted to put candidates on the spot or get tricky or clever and all these temptations need to be avoided. Whoever designs the center needs to include those elements that have been identified as constituting an actual assessment center, these generally include:

  • More than one assessment technique is used and at least one is a simulation.
  • More than one assessor is used and assessors receive extensive training.
  • The decision on who participates and receives training is based on a pooling of information.
  • Overall evaluation occurs after completion of the exercises.
  • All rating dimensions are created from a thorough analysis of the job
  • All techniques used relate back to the dimensions.

Administration of the assessment center along with the selection of candidates for inclusion would generally mark the implementation phase. Although, it should be noted that a good succession plan will most likely move back and forth between the phases since modifications should be made as information is gained. Continue reading

How Selection Systems Play A Part In Succession Planning

This is part two of a three part series on succession planning in public safety departments. Part 1 focused on the organizational review and design of a succession planning process. Part 2 focuses on how selection systems play a part in succession planning. Part 3 will focus on implementation and maintenance.

As emphasized in Part 1 of this series of articles, it is critical in succession planning, to identify the employee pipeline in terms of its source, entry level and end point. It was also established that while rather generic in general, this series of articles is written with public safety organizations in mind and is intended for their benefit. In my experience I haven’t worked with any public safety departments that give serious consideration to the promotional potential of entry level candidates and yet to be successful, succession planning, needs to recognize that this is where it starts.

Most public safety organizations have rather rigid promotional requirements that typically include a specified time in the grade occupied before being eligible to compete for vacancies in the next level. That is, police officers usually have to spend two to four years as an officer before they are eligible to test for or be considered for sergeant, sergeants typically have to be sergeants for two to four years before they can test for or be considered for lieutenant and so forth on up to the top position. Police departments vary, of course, in their time in grade requirements as well as their selection methodology; however, the requirements cited are typical. Other things, typical or relatively common within public safety organizations is that selections for lower levels are not made with higher levels in mind or with any consideration of candidates outside the organization, both of which are important factors impacting succession planning. Continue reading

Review and Design of A Succession Planning Process

This is the first part of a three part series on succession planning in public safety departments. Part 1 focuses on the organizational review and design of a succession planning process. Part 2 will focus on how selection systems play a part in succession planning and Part 3 will focus on implementation and maintenance.

Succession Planning is one of those tools that is talked about a lot and considered fashionable by most, but unfortunately, implemented by very few organizations. That in and of itself suggests that there are challenges in implementing and utilizing an effective succession plan. Essentially, succession planning is a systematic process of identifying the future talent needs of an organization and taking the appropriate and necessary steps to ensure that there is an internal applicant pool available to fill the vacancies created by the loss of talent.

From that simple view of the process, it can be seen that there are a number of critical components to designing, implementing and maintaining a viable succession plan. It is important to recognize too that the implementation portion of the plan includes the critical component of selecting participants. Through many years of experience in designing oral boards for employee selection, I had the opportunity to work with hundreds of subject matter experts that were typically managers and supervisors in the career area or job family for which the test was being designed, typically police and corrections sergeants, lieutenants and captains. It was common for those managers to skip the critical foundational design components of an oral board and jump directly to writing questions. My observations in the succession planning process indicates that a similar phenomenon occurs among managers who are eager to start naming participants for the program or listing positions they don’t believe they can accomplish their missions without rather than focusing on developing the program. In both instances, skipping the basics that form the fundamentals for a successful oral board or a successful succession program leaves the process without a foundation. Continue reading