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Focus Finder

If you are considering initiating a succession or talent strategy, this list may help you to identify the areas you need to focus on. Take a look at the list of benefits below, and identify no more than five that you think would be of most importance to your institution. This will give you an indication of priorities.

We do not expect that you will pick any benefits from the last category – but be honest. Are any of these lurking in the background in your organisation?

Once you have made your choices, click here to see what they say about the focus of your strategy.

  Benefit Description
Substantive corporate benefits Influence organisational strategy Using intelligence from the talent pool to feed into strategic planning
Mitigate risk Having people ready to step into key roles if the current holders become unavailable
Increase diversity at the top, correct inequalities Actively setting out to ‘fast-track’ people from under-represented groups
Reinforce distinctiveness Identifying roles which make a difference to the organisation and which competitors do not have, to help the organisation put resources into maintaining what makes it different
Improve corporate governance Widening the conversation about what the organisation needs and how it will be identified and developed, thus improving its capacity for self-criticism and improvement
Provide more good candidates for senior roles Improving internal candidates’ capability to fill key roles and, by defining the roles more clearly, attracting good external candidates too
Increase interest in leadership roles Increasing the level of interest in roles such as heads of academic departments, which may be hard to fill because they are seen as unwelcome distractions
Improve performance levels in certain roles The organisation may have certain roles in which there is a wide variation between the top and bottom performers
Secondary corporate benefits Make the organisation an employer of choice Ensuring the organisation is seen by candidates and potential candidates as a good place to work
Improve retention Making sure people feel supported in their career development, so that they will be more likely to stay
Map learning and development to organisational needs Planning learning to achieve the competencies associated with the organisation’s succession needs
Benefits to individuals Improve transparency Providing clear data on what is needed for key posts and the extent to which individuals meet the requirements
Provide clear career direction Ensuring individuals can see how their current experience maps onto possible next steps, and what they need to do to improve their chances of achieving the next role they aspire to
Map learning and development to individual needs Planning learning to achieve individuals’ career or development goals
Support development Putting resources into individuals’ personal development
Ill-thought-through reasons Create corporate culture Using a succession or talent scheme primarily to communicate a message about how people are expected to behave
Create illusion of certainty – staving off fear of future Succession planning has sometimes been criticised for planning what cannot be planned, and for pretending that we can control the future
Punish enemies, reward friends Pursuing schemes that originate in a desire to perpetuate the existing senior management culture
Box-ticking Doing it because it is thought to be expected
Emulate competitors Initiating a scheme purely because other universities or local employers have one


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          1. Exploring the role of associate dean in UK universities
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          1. Dr Mark Pegg
          2. Spring 2014 News
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          1. Leadership: the next ten years
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          7. Research: Staffing Models and Institutional Flexibility
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        3. ENGAGE 32 - summer 2013
          1. Change: the new norm
          2. Project update
          3. Interview
          4. In Practice
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    2. Published Research
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      10. Research by Theme
        1. 1. The UK HE System
          1. The Case for Growing STEMM Research Capacity in Wales
          2. The employability agenda and beyond: what are universities for?
          3. Devolution and Higher Education: What next?
          4. Credit Risk? Reviving credit accumulation and transfer in UK higher education
        2. 2. The New HE Economy
          1. Out in Orbit: strategies and trajectories for higher education satellite campuses
        3. 3. Collaboration and Partnership
          1. Leading interdisciplinary Research transforming the academic landscape
          2. Leading interdisciplinarity: creating environments for success
          3. Higher Education Collaborations: Implications for Leadership, Management and Governance
          4. Conversations and Collaborations: The Leadership of Collaborative Projects between Higher Education and the Arts and Cultural Sector
          5. Collaborations and Mergers in HE: Lessons Learned and Future Prospects
          6. What do we know about: Collaborations and Partnerships in Higher Education
          7. Neo-collegiality: restoring academic engagement in the managerial university
          8. Developing and Sustaining Shared Leadership in Higher Education
        4. 4. Governance
          1. Governance in a changing environment: literature review
          2. Governance in a changing environment: thought piece
          3. The governance of private higher education providers in the UK
        5. 5. Leadership in Practice
          1. Leadership of Practice Disciplines in Universities: The case of nurses and teachers
          2. Effective Leadership in Higher Education
          3. Developing Collective Leadership in Higher Education
          4. Humanities Research Leadership in Europe
          5. What do we know about leadership in higher education?
          6. Leading academic talent to a successful future: interviews with leaders, managers and academics
          7. Leading academic talent to a successful future: an international perspective
          8. Academic Leadership: Changing Conceptions, Identities and Experiences in UK Higher Education
          9. In the wings and backstage: exploring the micropolitics of leadership in higher education
        6. 6. Changing Roles, Structures and Careers
          1. Staffing Models and Institutional Flexibility
          2. Professional Managers in UK Higher Education: Preparing for Complex Futures
          3. Performance Management in UK Higher Education Institutions: The need for a hybrid approach
        7. 7. Leadership Development
          1. A Complexity Approach to Leadership Development: Developing Practical Judgement
          2. Leadership development within the UK higher education: its impact on organisational performance, and the role of evaluation
        8. 8. Leading the Student Experience
          1. Leading change in assessment and feedback
          2. Leadership for a better student experience: What do senior executives need to know?
          3. Leading the Student Experience: Academic and Professional Services in Partnership
          4. Exploring Student Leadership
        9. 9. Leading Equality and Diversity
          1. How can we make not break black and minority ethnic leaders in higher education?
          2. Religion in Britain: Challenges to Higher Education
          3. Gender and Higher Education Leadership
          4. The experience of BME academics in higher education: aspirations in the face of inequality
          5. Towards the family friendly university?
          6. Women and Higher Education Leadership: Absences and Aspirations
        10. 10. Internationalisation
          1. Challenges for the leadership of transnational education in higher education: balancing risk and innovation
          2. Using International Recruitment Agents: Risks and Regulation?
          3. Losing our Chains?
          4. Internationalising the curriculum: Design, delivery and depth
          5. Horizon Scanning: what will higher education look like in 2020
          6. Leadership and Management of International Partnerships
          7. Report from the: Programme for University Leaders in the Southern African Region (PULSAR)
          8. The Changing Role of the University Registrar: Challenges and Prospects in Southern African Higher Education Institutions
          9. Registrars and Senior Administrative Officers as Change Leaders in Southern African Universities
          10. Action Learning as a Tool for Change and Development: The Experience of Registrars and Senior Administrative Officers in Southern Africa
          11. Trends in Governance: Universities in the Southern, African Development, Community
      11. Research Order Form
    3. Current Tenders
      1. Call for Proposals 2016
    4. Commissioned Research
      1. The UK HE System
      2. The New HE Economy
      3. Collaboration and Partnership
      4. Governance
      5. Leadership in Practice
      6. Changing Roles, Structures and Careers
      7. Leadership Development
      8. Leading the Student Experience
      9. Leading Equality and Diversity
      10. Internationalisation
    5. Resources
      1. Diversity
        1. Strategy
          1. Diversity Strategy for 2007-2012
        2. Key Leadership and Diversity Projects
        3. Resources, Publications and Links
        4. Equality Legislation
        5. Diversity Advisory Group
        6. Diversity talks
      2. Organisational Development
        1. OD Mapping Project
        2. ODHE Group
        3. ODHE Group Meetings and Related Resources
      3. Governance
      4. Research Outcomes
        1. The Self Assessment Toolkit
      5. Case Studies
      6. LGM Fund Outcomes
    6. Succession Management
      1. What is it?
        1. Definitions
        2. Visualising the definitions
        3. History of the Concept
        4. Succession in 2005
        5. Key Characteristics
      2. Why do it?
        1. Benefits - Case Studies
          1. BBC
          2. University of Kent
          3. Nottingham Trent University
          4. Imperial College London
          5. Newcastle University
          6. University of Leeds
        2. Focus Finder
          1. Interpreting the Results
          2. Focus Finder Revisited
      3. How it's done
        1. Resources
        2. Making the case
        3. Size and scope
        4. Roles, stakeholders and engagement
        5. Roles, stakeholders and engagement: examples
        6. Selection and assessment
        7. Selection and assessment: examples
        8. Development methods
      4. Case Studies
      5. Tools
    7. Small Development Projects
      1. Small Development Projects 2015
      2. Small Development Projects 2014
      3. Small Development Projects 2013
      4. Small Development Projects 2012
      5. Small Development Projects 2011
      6. Small Development Projects 2010
      7. Small Development Projects 2008-09
      8. Advice from Previous SDP Leaders
    8. ITF Projects
      1. ITF 2014 Phase 2
      2. ITF 2012 Phase 1
      3. Case Studies
      4. What they say about the Innovation and Transformation Fund
    9. Knowledge Resources
      1. Mergers in Higher Education
        1. HE/FE Mergers - Literature
        2. Merger Evaluation Reports
        3. Higher Education Case Studies
        4. Legislation/Guidance
        5. News Articles
        6. Non HE Literature on Mergers
      2. Shared Services
        1. The Shared Services Approach
        2. Shared Services in the Public Sector and Higher Education
        3. The Transition to a Shared Services Model
        4. Bibliography
        5. The Shared Services Model
        6. Shared Services in the Public Sector
        7. Shared Services in Higher and Further Education
        8. Additional Leadership, Governance and Management Considerations in Shared Services Models
        9. UK Policy and Guidance Papers
        10. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Resources
        11. Websites and Online Materials
    10. Post Event Resources
      1. Conferences and Events
        1. Innovation and Transformation in HE Unlocking Learning
        2. Internationalisation
        3. Research Leadership
        4. Future Proofing Higher Education
        5. Developing higher education: strategies for a new era
        6. Online and open-access learning in higher education: MOOCs, new pedagogies and business models
        7. Imagine
        8. MOOCs: What have we learned, emerging themes and what next
      2. Governor Development Programme Resources
      3. Developing Academic Leaders
  5. Governance
    1. Governors
      1. Becoming a governor
      2. What is governance?
      3. Governor responsibilities
        1. Academic governance and quality
        2. Compliance and regulation
        3. Commercial operations
        4. International students and developments
        5. Risk management
        6. Students
        7. Strategic plans
        8. Monitoring performance
    2. Governing bodies
      1. Audit Committee
      2. Nominations committee
      3. Remuneration
      4. Employment
      5. Finance
      6. Estates
    3. Operating context
    4. Resource bank
      1. Features
      2. Previous news alerts
        1. Does a change in leadership lead to a change in strategy?
        2. FIFA and corporate governance
        3. Volkswagen
        4. Kids company
        5. The need for good governance
        6. Sustainability
        7. Review of governance at Plymouth University
        8. Equality and diversity and governing bodies
        9. A Changing Agenda
        10. Revised HE Code of Governance
        11. Role and effectiveness of audit committees
        12. Governance of Scottish Higher Education Institutions: Consulative Paper on HE Bill
        13. Governance issues at Tesco
        14. Update to UK Corporate Governance Code
        15. Student visas
        16. Governance at the Co-op
        17. HE funding - IFS report
        18. HE Code of Governance
        19. Removal of student number control
        20. Governance issues in the private sector
        21. Governance at the BBC
        22. Reforms to how higher education in England is regulated
        23. HBOS & London Met: case studies in governance
        24. New IPPR report on HE
        25. Moocs are coming
        26. Increasing diversity
      3. Getting-to-grips
      4. Useful websites
      5. Codes of governance
      6. New research on governance in higher education
      7. Book reviews
      8. HE facts
    5. Governance Briefing Notes
    6. Governor Dialogues
  6. International
    1. International Associates
    2. Anglo-Swedish-Scottish Higher Education Policy Seminar
    3. Kazakhstan Networking Dinners 2014
    4. Umeå University, Sweden - Study Visit

We are a membership organisation of and for a sector that has some of the brightest minds in the UK.


Our members are key to our strategy and form a community of higher education institutions with a clear commitment to and experience of developing leadership, governance and management capabilities at all levels. Academic and professional services staff from member institutions contribute to our programmes, projects and research and advise on benefits and services.


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