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Procedure: Succession planning


To establish the procedure for succession planning.


  1. Succession planning is part of the overall process of developing a sustainable workforce in accordance with the Developing a sustainable workforce policy, which requires a:
  • workforce plan that identifies broad current and future workforce needs; and
  • succession plans to identify specific replacement strategies at an individual staff or group level.
  1. As part of the process of developing a sustainable workforce, succession planning should be undertaken for key positions or groups of staff, including:
  • University leadership;
  • College leadership (College Deans/Directors, Deputy/Associate Deans, and College General Managers);
  • academic leaders in research;
  • academic leaders in education;
  • general staff leaders;
  • technical specialists; and/or
  • other groups identified in workforce plans
  1. Succession planning involves the systematic identification and development of internal replacement strategies for key positions or groups of positions.
  2. Key positions are those that are critical to meeting the research and education objectives of the University, and where a delay in filling a vacancy would have significant adverse effect on the operation of the University.
  3. The succession planning process helps sustain the future of research and education by:
  • identifying key positions;
  • identifying high potential staff capable of advancement to those key positions; and
  • identifying and initiating development plans and actions to support high potential staff.
  1. Succession planning does not replace the University’s merit based recruitment and appointment processes, it simply seeks to ensure the University has a strong internal field of candidates to be considered for key positions in the future.

Developing a College / Divisional succession plan

  1. This involves a planned approach to assessing key positions, groups of staff or services both now and for the future, objectively identifying high potential internal candidates, and developing strategies to ensure continuity for those positions, groups of staff or services.
  2. Succession plans should be developed from College/Divisional workforce plans in accordance with the workforce planning procedure which are integrated and aligned with the College/Divisional strategic and operational plans, including but not limited to:
  • the ANU strategic plan;
  • College/Division strategic plans;
  • Research Committee and Education Committee priorities;
  • annual executive planning priorities; and/or
  • marketing and development priorities;
  1. When developing succession plans, Colleges and Divisions should ensure that they consider:
  • the future direction of the College's research and teaching disciplines;
  • the future direction of the Division in supporting College's research and teaching disciplines;
  • continuity risks or areas where significant disruption may be felt if key staff left;
  • age profiles and retirement plans of key staff; and
  • performance assessments of senior staff.

Step 1: Identifying key positions

  1. Identify key positions - identify the specific positions in each area of the organisation where planned replacement action is essential. It is not normally intended that this process maps potential replacements for every position.
  2. Obtain general background on the present incumbent of each key position and complete the profile template at Succession Planning Position Profile.
  3. Assess the likelihood, and possible timing, of the need to fill the position due to possible departure of the present occupant. A guide to identifying the likelihood that key staff may leave can include the amount of time an incumbent has been in their position; their age as a guide to possible retirement intentions; and any other information that may be provided through discussions with staff during their Statement of Expectations review meetings.

Step 2: Identifying potential successors

  1. Consider the possible successors that might be suitable to fill the position within a range of timeframes such as:
  • immediately;
  • within 1 year; or
  • within 2-3 years.
  1. Depending on the potential successors identified, determine the urgency and nature of development or targeted recruitment action needed:
  • If no successors then external recruitment is most likely necessary. If the availability of external candidates is low, then a specific recruitment replacement strategy should be developed for the position.
  • If it appears that potential successors are likely to need considerable development, then an accelerated development plan, linked to the individual's Statement of Expectations should be developed for these individuals.
  • If a full range of successors, both short and longer term are available, then no specific actions may be needed - simply monitor the situation in case it changes.
  1. A College/Divisional succession plan does not replace individual performance planning and discussions, or even budgeting and financial planning. Workforce and succession plans support the College/Division strategic objectives and resource decisions to ensure that future staffing arrangements are sustainable and integrated, rather than merely opportunistic or ad-hoc.

Step 3: Identifying relevant development strategies

  1. Development strategies for ‘potential' successors may include:
  • formal leadership/management or technical skills training (internal or external);
  • opportunities to act in the role or other similar roles;
  • working on identified projects;
  • mentoring or coaching;
  • provision of additional responsibilities to build skills/confidence; and/or
  • planned ‘on-the-job' training.

Linking to the performance and development review

  1. Development plans for individuals should be included in their performance and development review.
  2. Care must be taken to ensure that potential ‘successors' are not given the expectation that they will be appointed to a key position. The normal competitive and merit-based selection and approach process will apply.

Reviewing and evaluating

  1. The Human Resources Division will evaluate the appropriateness and effectiveness of the University succession planning framework on an annual basis.


Printable version (PDF)
Title Succession planning
Document Type Procedure
Document Number ANUP_000665
Version 4
Purpose To establish the procedure for succession planning.
Audience Staff, Staff-Academic, Staff-Professional
Category Administrative
Topic/ SubTopic Staff - Employment of Staff
Effective Date 25 Jul 2016
Review Date 31 Dec 2017
Responsible Officer Director, Human Resources
Approved By: Director, Human Resources
Contact Area Human Resources Division