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Part 1-Identify and Prioritize Key Positions

Part 1 brings together the findings from the workforce planning analysis accomplished in Phases 1 – 3 of the State of California Workforce Planning Model to strategically determine the department’s areas of highest succession risk within key positions.


Using the findings from Phases 1 – 3 of the State of California Workforce Planning Model, determine which of your department’s critical leadership functions need to be addressed through succession management strategies.


A written document identifying the prioritized high risk key positions to be addressed through succession management at your department.

Steps to Accomplish the Deliverable

  1. Extract the high risk key and/or leadership positions from your workforce planning analysis, performed in Phase 2 of the State of California Workforce Planning Model, that could benefit from succession management strategies.
  2. Identify gaps in succession management strategies that are currently taking place within the department (if any), that address the high risk key positions extracted from the workforce planning analysis.
  3. Prioritize high risk key positions that currently lack effective succession management strategies.  These remaining high risk key positions should be prioritized based on functions that most critically support your department’s mission. 
  4. Use the results from the competency analysis performed in Phase 2 of the State of California Workforce Planning Model, to gain feedback from the key positions identified regarding a prioritized list of position specific competencies, additional KSAs, and training critical to the success of their position.

Tools to Assist with Steps

Detailed Information to Assist with Steps

Definition of Key and Leadership Position

Key Position - A position whose decision-making authority and related responsibilities significantly influence organizational policies, strategic goals, business operations, or mission-critical projects. A key position can be a managerial position or a highly specialized individual contributor position. 

Key Leadership Position - The most influential position(s) in an organization’s leadership pipeline. Individuals in key leadership positions typically have significant policy-influencing responsibilities that impact the achievement of strategic and operational goals.

Definition of Succession Management

Departments may choose to apply succession management strategies to any variety of positions which would benefit from a succession management approach. 

Succession management is an approach which should be applied when a department wants to plan for continuity of critical functions and business lines to mitigate loss of services to customers.  For example, if a Career Executive Assignment (CEA) position has been identified as a key position that supports a critical function, then feeder classifications reporting up to the CEA would be strong candidates for succession management , as illustrated through the following procession of classifications: SSMII, would be developed to succeed → SSMIII, would be developed to succeed → CEA.   

Succession Management Best Practices

Thoroughly analyze all pertinent workforce data to develop a data-driven basis for succession management.  For detailed instruction on workforce data analysis refer to Phase 2 of the State of California Workforce Planning Model.

  • Gain executive leadership as well as division and program area buy-in by demonstrating the benefits of succession management to their division/program area.
  • Anticipate and mitigate barriers to knowledge transfer, which are described in the Detailed Information section.
  • Identify and utilize leadership competencies for selecting and developing a talent pool.  For detailed instruction on developing competencies refer to the Detailed Information section in Phase 3 of the State of California Workforce Planning Model.
  • Identify and develop a talent pool early for long-term needs.
  • Ensure succession plans accomplish more than continuity of leadership.  In rapidly growing fields succession management needs to provide for backfilling of key positions, as well as filling new positions serving multiple or cross-functional roles.
  • Drive a culture of continuous learning and development where employees are committed to their own self-development.
  • Ensure senior leaders are personally involved, and hold themselves accountable for growing leaders.
  • Communicate succession management findings, be transparent and consider inclusion in the department’s strategic plan.
  • Link succession management to strategic and workforce planning. 

Step 4: Identify Competencies for Key Positions

Interview or survey the identified high risk key positions.  Utilize the competency set or model developed in Phase 2 of the State of California Workforce Planning Model, to incorporate in your interview or survey.  This process will result with a prioritized list of position specific competencies, additional KSAs, and training for the high risk key positions.  The Leadership Succession Management Survey  is an example departments can use for this purpose. The results will be used to compare the potential candidate's competencies with the high risk key position's competencies.

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