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Succession Planning – What Works and What You Need To Know

This past November participants were very engaged and interested in the success and model of succession planning used by the Halifax Regional Police Department (HRPD). On November 16th, 2005, Superintendent Michael Bell, Halifax Regional Police Department presented information regarding Succession Planning to approximately 50 Human Resources Professionals from the Metro area.

Superintendent Bell discussed the following Components of Succession Management for Regional Police.

  • The main objective of succession planning for the HRPD was to ensure qualified candidates are available for leadership and/or specialized positions by individual activity to complete goals/tasks supported by organizational development/learning opportunities
  • Explained demographics of HRPD in 2003 and projection for 2007. Currently there are 60 members who are able to retire with over 140 new members that been hired since 1998. This difference presents some challenges as their expectation is that more errors could arise based on the inexperience of the newer members – this was the basis for their succession planning.

    Components of their succession strategy were discussed based on the following areas:

    People Tracking System (starting point for their model):

    Confirm and update a retirement tracking report – A list was generated listing all members by name and expected retirement dates (i.e. 1 yr., 2 yrs., etc. This allowed them to establish when current members could retire from active service

    Confirm current snapshot of potential retirements – Allowed them to look at a snapshot of where there will be potential gaps. In identifying these gaps, the HRPD was able to move members around and overstaff where there were gaps which helped them minimize future risk. They then were able to revisit their initial listing and track these movements.

    Talent pool data update with retirement, etc. – Continued to review the talent listing with the goal of being able to continue to identify where the risks would be

    Identify eligible potential leaders who may self nominate – All members were asked if they were interested in promotion or movement to a specialized unit. HRPD wanted to know where their member’s interests were and what they wanted to do. They were then able to provide additional, new, or different tasks to these members through projects, leadership skills, specialized training (for specialized units), training and courses with the goal of making the HRPD more inclusive.

    Position Tracking System:

    Key/New positions, hard to fill & potential vacancies identified – This is where they looked at the smaller harder to fill areas and how they could plan to fill these after retirements (example given of wire tap area where there was one member who stated he would retire in 3 years. In planning for this, they had selected other members periodically to job shadow and then selected the strongest of these members who has been job-shadowing this member for the last 18-months)

    Identify current knowledge, skills and competencies for positions – HR student conducted one on one interviews within all levels of the department to determine the skills and knowledge required for each position within the HRPD. A position description was developed for each position. Position descriptions were re-visited after 2 years for updates. The intent of the position descriptions was to give members the information they needed about jobs enabling them to make informed decisions about other jobs they may be interested in. It also gave leadership tools to determine where they needed training.

    Identify current learning practices that support these positions (fill gaps if required) – Intent here was to look at the current learning practices and accelerate the learning process were needed. Example given that since 140 new members have been hired since 1998, something was needed to help accelerate their learning process. A member of the leadership team was assigned a project to look at and document every call for service and develop a manual detailing the appropriate response to each of these calls. The intent of this project was to improve efficiency and detail consistent responses. A task force was formed involving all levels of the HRPD and within one year a manual was produced. It has since been updated 3 times. An added benefit of this new manual was that not only did it aid new members in accelerated learning but that it also aided senior members with their adjustment from specialized units back to shift work where they would be taking calls.

    Identify developmental opportunities that would give required experience for these positions – This initiative took about 18 months and was focused around developing core training needed. Recognized that they could benefit from using some already established core training programs already established within the city and the province. With the appropriate approvals, the HRPD was able to train more staff with less cost. This was also an example of a continued approach to knocking down the seniority clause within the union as there were minimum standards required for every level of training.

    Knowing that there are leaders preparing to leave within the next 3-5 years, this training allowed the HRPD to promote within to the next level. They have committed to moving staff to areas where potential risks or future shrinkage is to prepare the organization for the future retirements and have over-promoted members in certain areas in preparation of these retirements.

    Competency Systems (took about 18 months):

    Confirm the competency model for senior positions – History within the HRPD was that there was no understanding of what was expected. The Chief at the time was committed to this initiative and communicated this to all staff and leaders – important to have the support of management behind you.

    An established 28 competency dictionary was used and under the direction of an HR student a focus group of staff from leaders down was asked to score the competencies based on the minimum and maximum needed for each. These results were compiled and presented to leadership for approval on the minimum and maximum levels expected for each level.

    From these results the HRPD then developed a set of 8 core competencies for their department. An additional 2 were requested bringing them to have 10 core competencies.

    Update all job specs – With the core competencies established, all job specifications were updated.

    Develop & distribute competency packages – All staff were then trained to use the new competency model and were given the tools and resources needed. This allowed all members to know what was expected of them for each position.

    Engage learning to support competency development - enabled members to be engaged and present them with enhanced opportunities.

    Leadership Assessment & Learning Systems:

    Briefing of persons who self nominate –
    Establish learning plans with manager and implement –
    Decision & self-assessment process –
    360 degree assessment & feedback –
    Learning Forums –

    The HRPD wanted to know what competencies staff wanted to work on and if competency levels were achieved. They also wanted to be able to determine what Jr. members (0-5 years) could focus on as goals and, help members identify why they were doing what they were doing - ultimately tied into performance plans.

    Currently 360 degree self assessments are conducted for members who have identified that they want to be promoted. One person administers this assessment in strict confidence (to date has been administered by an HR Student.

    Performance Management System:

    Performance Management system review
    Performance plan format aligned to support Business Plan structure & language
    Provide training on Performance Plan requirements and conducting performance interviews
    Ongoing coaching/feedback meetings through the year to confirm progress

    A focus group was organized to develop a performance management tool. They developed a one-page system based on Customer Service, Case Management, and Performance with 5 core goals. Supervisors were to complete these forms for each employee, review with them and submit every 2 months with one copy to employee, one to superintendent and then to HR. Once it was launched, they received 99% positive feedback. This tool presented the opportunity for there to be documentation if someone was not performing and documentation that could be traced backwards. This process also helped in developing a separation between performance management and the competency model.

    In conclusion Superintendent Bell identified what the successes to date have been:

  • Competency model – gives all members the opportunity to know what is expected of them and gives them the tools to know what is expected of them and what they have to do. It gives them a clear idea of what the interview will look like and what competencies they will have to know. It also gives them the tools to prepare and study.

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