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USGS Workforce and Succession Planning

USGS Workforce and Succession Planning

What is Workforce Planning?

In its simplest terms, workforce planning is getting "the right number of people with the right skills, experiences, and competencies in the right jobs at the right time." It is a proactive, strategic, and systematic process which aligns strategic planning, human capital, and budgeting to meet organizational goals and objectives through forecasting mission critical talent needs; analyzing current workforce and talent supply; and developing, implementing, and evaluating strategies to address the gaps. Workforce planning is a management responsibility requiring strong leadership; clearly articulated vision, mission, and strategic objectives; and cooperative support efforts of staff in many functional areas. In summary, workforce planning is an organized process for:

  • Identifying the number of employees and the types of skill sets and competencies required to meet USGS goals and strategic objectives
  •  Developing a plan of action to ensure that the appropriate workforce will be available to perform the mission of the USGS.


How often should workforce planning occur?

USGS has a five (5) year workforce planning cycle with reviews on an annual basis and plans re-evaluated every fifth year. The longer timeframe allows managers to make valid long-term assumptions while annual reviews ensure validation of projected workforce needs. Science center and cost center workforce plans are a valuable resource during the development of higher echelon plans (such as Regional and Bureau level plans). Such plans inform those of higher organizational echelons, allowing every level of the organization to be involved and inform the organizational decision-making process.


Why is workforce planning important?

Workforce planning is essential in meeting USGS's strategic science goals. It benefits managers by providing a strategic and consistent approach to identifying gaps between current job skills and competencies needed to perform work in the future, preparing for the growing number of retirements, maintaining and recruiting a diverse workforce, providing an orderly way to address external or internal environmental changes that could impact the workforce, and preparing for expansion, restructuring, or reduction in the workforce.


Who does workforce planning at USGS?

Workforce planning within the USGS occurs at several levels. The tools and resources are designed to be flexible and can be adapted for use at different organization levels. There is also a set of standard workforce data that can be used at various organizational levels.

At the finest scale, science centers and offices develop specific workforce plans that guide local hiring decisions. Such local workforce plans have long been an integral part of USGS operations. Starting in 2012, the USGS also began working through a broader-level three-phased workforce planning effort. The first phase started with the mission area offices and science support offices in headquarters. The second phase, conducted in 2013, focused on regional workforce planning. The third phase resulted in the development of the 2015-2020 USGS workforce plan.


What is Succession Planning?

Succession planning is a systematic process of identifying and developing candidates for key positions that have a significant impact on the mission of an organization. Key positions include those that require specialized job skills or expertise, high-level leadership position, and/or positions that are considered 'mission-critical' to USGS. Effective succession planning provides a framework for developing a pipeline of highly qualified employees who are capable of filling critical positions and helps avoid delays in filling critical positions. Succession planning mitigates the risks associated with the planned or unplanned loss of knowledge and skills critical to USGS's success.

To learn more, please see the Succession Planning Desk Guide.


How is Succession Planning different than Workforce Planning?

Succession planning complements and is a follow-up to workforce planning. It is intended to help assess short-term (1-3 years) staffing requirements to ensure there is a potential talent pool available to meet the organization’s goals and objectives. Succession planning efforts translate strategy into action by building a pipeline/talent pool to ensure continuity, developing potential successors, identifying the talent pool for key positions, and concentrating resources on the talent development process.

For assistance and support in workforce and succession planning efforts, contact the Strategic Initiatives Team (SIT). The SIT is available to assist you in using the tools available on this Web site and throughout your workforce/succession planning efforts.


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