GAO looks to foreign governments for ideas on planning succession in US civil service

GAO recently looked at the practices of several foreign countries to determine how future leaders are developed.

Succession planning is very important in large organizations such as the federal government.

GAO recently looked at the practices of several foreign countries to determine how future leaders are developed. GAO identified several practices used by agencies in other countries to help meet their future leadership needs. Here is what they found:

• Receive active support of top leadership. Top leadership actively participates in, regularly uses, and ensures the needed financial and staff resources for key succession planning and management initiatives

• Link to strategic planning. To focus on both current and future needs and to provide leaders with a broader perspective, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s succession planning and management initiative figures prominently in the agency’s multiyear human capital plan and provides top leaders with an agency-wide perspective when making decisions.

• Identify talent from multiple organizational levels, early in careers, or with critical skills.

• Emphasize developmental assignments in addition to formal training. Initiatives emphasize developmental assignments in addition to formal training to strengthen high-potential employees’ skills and broaden their experience.

• Address specific human capital challenges, such as diversity, leadership capacity, and retention. For example, the United Kingdom created a centralized program that targets minorities with the potential to join the Senior Civil Service.

• Facilitate broader transformation efforts. To find people to champion recent changes in how it delivers services and interacts with stakeholders, the Family Court of Australia identifies and prepares future leaders who will have the skills and experiences to help the organization successfully adapt to agency transformation.

You can read the GAO report by downloading it from

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47