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Part 3 - Develop Succession Planning Strategies

Determine which succession planning strategies will ensure a strong pipeline of talent is ready to assume critical leadership roles.  Succession planning strategies develop a deep bench strength through employee recruitment, development and retention.  Once you have completed Part 3 and developed strategies and an action plan for implementing them, return to Phases 3 – 5 of the State of California Workforce Planning Model to ensure the action plan and strategies are incorporated into the overall workforce plan to track their implementation and evaluation within the context of the workforce plan.


Part 3 identifies strategies to address succession planning needs based on competency gaps existing in the current talent pool.


An action plan with measureable strategies and objectives to address succession needs in the highest priority areas.

Steps to Accomplish the Deliverable

  1. Develop strategies that contain specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, and time-based (SMART) metrics to address succession needs within high risk leadership positions identified in Part 1, based on the talent pool gap analysis performed in Part 2.  When developing strategies, consider the following:
    1. If and how it is appropriate to determine whether an employee is eligible to participate in succession activities based on objective assessments utilized in Step 3 of Part 2.
    2. The type(s) of knowledge required in critical leadership areas and the most appropriate strategies to capture that knowledge.
    3. Whether individual plans containing multiple strategies will be developed for each candidate or will general strategies be implemented to groups of staff, or is a combination of both appropriate.
  2. Meet with candidates to discuss their eligibility, deliver feedback regarding competencies they should focus on developing (based on assessment process utilized in Step 3 of Part 2), and develop a plan to improve their leadership readiness (incorporating new and existing strategies developed).
  3. Develop a process to track employee progress.
  4. Return to Phase 3 of the State of California Workforce Planning Modelto reincorporate succession planning strategies into the overall workforce plan.

Resources to Assist with Steps

Detailed Information to Assist with Steps

Step 1: Develop Succession Planning Strategies

In some cases there are general knowledge transfer strategies you will want to implement throughout the department, such as developing standard operating procedures for how to complete critical processes throughout the department.  In other cases you will be utilizing a more targeted approach to develop leadership skills and may want to prioritize efforts based on employee Readiness Assessment results.

Succession planning can be addressed through a variety of strategies such as recruitment, development/learning and retention, as outlined below:

  • Recruitment—Strengthens the ability of the department to acquire the most qualified leadership talent.
    • Market department as a “best place to work”.
    • Create attractive job announcements.
    • Highlight benefits of working for your department such as: mentorship, recognition, wellness and professional development programs.
    • Create a personal connection with your audience.
    • Perform competency based interviewing.
  • Development/Learning—Promotes development of competencies, exposure to more challenging experiences and broaden horizons outside the immediate department.
    • Action learning team projects
    • Leadership project roles.
    • Communities of practice.
    • Formal leadership training.
    • Other formal training classes.
    • Temporary assignments.
    • Job rotation: full-time or part-time.
    • Job shadowing.
    • Mentorship and coaching
    • Self-development: community/volunteer activities, individual study.
  • Retention—Enhances workforce motivation, commitment, and performance around mission accomplishment.
    • Mentorship and coaching.
    • Onboarding.
    • Feedback and recognition.
    • Quality of work life programs: telecommute, alternative work schedules, fitness and wellness programs.

To view examples, tools, and resources from other state departments visit the Succession Planning section of the Workforce Planning Toolkit webpage.

Step 1.1: Determine Eligibility

Develop a well-documented process for determining if, how and by whom employee eligibility will be assessed.  CalHR recommends compiling a review panel consisting of the Succession Planning Coordinator/Facilitator, Candidates Manager, Leadership Development staff, and an Executive level member. 

Depending on the formality of your succession planning program, or the capacity for the number of candidates that can be accommodated the program can be all inclusive, or you may have to prioritize the number of candidates in the program, or criteria for which candidates are eligible for which succession planning strategies.  If not every candidate is involved in some way, remaining employees should continue to receive development opportunities to prepare them for eligibility in the future.  The following objectives should inform the candidate assessment and/or eligibility process:

  • Understand the candidates strengths, gaps and developmental goals and priorities
  • Obtain insight from Managers/Supervisors and executives about the candidates potential to assume leaderships roles and responsibilities.
  • Discuss the diverse development opportunities that would effectively assist in preparing potential candidates.

Step 1.2: Knowledge Transfer

There are three major types of knowledge:

  1. Explicit knowledge—Concrete knowledge that can be easily recorded, such as processes and procedures.
  2. Tacit knowledge—Experience or observation that can be captured through relationships such as mentoring
  3. Institutional knowledge—Cultural understanding of the department (such as awareness of historical outcomes, expectations, internal politics, and other environmental factors) that can be captured through a combination of archives and sharing personal experience.

Mitigating Barriers to Knowledge Transfer

When implementing succession planning and/or knowledge transfer strategies, the department’s leadership team should acknowledge and challenge common barriers to knowledge transfer with their employees, such as:

  • Difficulty communicating highly specialized knowledge/processes.

    • If necessary, managers and supervisors should assist employees in effective communication of the material.

    • Ensure employees receive sufficient time to train others with consideration to their ongoing responsibilities.

  • Organizational “silos” that hoard knowledge in one area of the department.

    • Emphasize common goal to support the department’s missions and goals.

    • Create opportunities to work across different areas in the department.

  • Knowledge hoarding.

    • Assure employees that their level of expertise will grow when they share their knowledge with others, which could increase their marketability while training others.

    • Encourage employees to engage in mutual knowledge sharing to increase their own breadth of knowledge.

  • Investment of time and effort.

    • Reframe the investment of time and effort  to show that having more than one employee able to perform a critical job function makes the employee’s job easier and less stressful.  Additionally, the more people that have knowledge of their function and processes, the greater understanding there is for the length of time or complexity involved in a process.     

While employees may not be aware of their own barriers, it is important to communicate these along with suggestions for alternative perspectives.

Step 1.3: Individual and Group Strategies

Some strategies will be developed to accommodate individual needs of the candidates,  While others can be developed to address a larger group’s needs, and may be beneficial for multiple audiences, not just those participating in succession planning.

Step 2. Meet with Candidates

Candidate Managers should meet with candidates to discuss the following:

  • Meet with candidates to discuss their eligibility.  Refer to Step 1.1 for considerations when determining eligibility.
  • Deliver feedback regarding their strengths and competency opportunities for development (based on assessment process utilized in Step 3 of Part 2).  
  • Develop a plan to improve their leadership readiness and set concrete developmental and leadership goals which incorporate existing and new strategies developed.

Step 3: Track Employee Progress

Develop a plan to track employee progress.  On top of ongoing development plan evaluations and adjustments, as needed, the review panel utilized in Step 1.1 should conduct a formal evaluation at the end of one year.  Discuss who met development goals and what their next steps for development are, who needs to focus on various competencies in the next year, etc..  Again, Managers should meet with candidates to provide feedback and determine next steps.

At this point, CalHR recommends re-advertise the program to gain ongoing participants and maintain a large pool of talented employees with the skills to potentially succeed key leaders.

Step 4: Reincorporate Strategies into Workforce Plan

Once you have completed Part 3 and developed strategies and an action plan for implementing them, return to Phases 3 – 5 of the State of California Workforce Planning Model to ensure the action plan and strategies are incorporated into the overall workforce plan.  Implementation and evaluation of succession planning strategies will continue to be tracked within the context of the workforce plan.

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