OPM Issues Guidance on Career Development Programs

Following are highlights of recent OPM to agencies on designing and carrying out programs for career development of federal employees to prepare them for senior levels and for continued development of those already at those levels.

OPM is providing this guidance to help agencies implement an annual talent management and succession planning process for successfully assessing and supporting the developmental needs of all Senior Executive Service (SES) members, and Senior Level (SL) and Scientific or Professional (ST) employees. Talent management and succession planning are essential to ensure effective human capital management – ensuring organizations take a planned, deliberate and holistic approach to the cycles of selection, development, and engagement of their workforce.

Talent management refers to a process for organizations to address competency gaps, particularly in mission critical positions and occupations, by implementing and maintaining programs to attract, acquire, develop, promote, and retain quality talent. Succession planning refers to a proactive and systematic process where organizations identify those positions considered to be at the core of the organization – i.e., too critical to be left vacant or filled by any but the best qualified persons – and then create a strategic plan to fill those positions with qualified and capable employees.

Executive talent management processes focus on individual executive needs to cultivate the potential of each executive, while succession planning processes focus on organizational needs and organizational readiness – pipeline talent prepared to move into vacated critical positions. A strategic Talent Management and Succession Planning (TM&SP) program enhances organizational agility by leveraging an organization’s current information on the capabilities and talents of its workforce to meet the demands of the evolving political and business environment. Meanwhile, an integrated TM&SP program enables an organization to: sustain efficient operational requirements; empower knowledge management; and optimize leadership talent at all organizational levels.

This guidance and supplemental infographic will outline key steps and activities to assist agencies as they develop and implement an integrated TM&SP program. The guidance is intended to provide agencies with flexibility in customizing TM&SP processes to their organizational needs and to executives’ developmental needs.

The process consists of five main stages: (1) determine future executive resources needs; (2) evaluate current talent state; (3) align talent to agency needs; (4) finalize executive development plans; and (5) implement and update plans. Through this process, agencies can successfully forecast executive resources needs, assess and develop the needs of current SES members, and create a pipeline of high-quality successors for the full range of executive positions within an organization. To achieve success, organizations should bear in mind the importance of patience and continual perseverance because TM&SP programs often require several years to fully and effectively implement.

Objective: The objective of Stage 1 is to develop a strategic workforce plan as part of mission strategy that outlines agency priorities based on future succession needs, anticipated organizational challenges, and projected turnover. Organizations should analyze current and future mission requirements, define core competencies for leadership success, and identify critical leadership positions.

Output: Succession Plan with: (1) identified targets that include the number of critical leadership positions across the organization, and (2) the core leadership competencies required for those positions.

Objective: Gather information on executives’ career interests and retirement plans, and determine existing executive competence against what is needed to strengthen executive performance and organizational success. Feedback must include input from the executive and the executive’s supervisor. Information will be used to recommend development activities.

Each executive provides information to support the agency’s talent management and succession planning process, including career interests and retirement plans. Each executive meets with his/her supervisor to discuss development needs and short-term and long-term career goals.
Output: Comprehensive Talent Development Questionnaire Report for each executive, including feedback from the executive’s supervisor.


Objective: The Executive Review Board (ERB) or similar body determines each executive’s “readiness status” and makes developmental and reassignment recommendations that align with the organization’s workforce plan and the executive’s career goals. The ERB identifies a slate of internal candidates ready to fill critical positions to meet agency succession needs.

• Thorough Talent Review Meetings conducted by the ERB
• Detailed Executive Feedback Reports highlighting executive readiness status and specific developmental opportunities
• Internal Slate of Candidates with core competencies to fill critical positions

Objectives: Present feedback, from the ERB or similar body, to each executive on current career growth status, future career possibilities, and recommended development activities. The executive’s supervisor works with the executive to update and finalize an Executive Development Plan (EDP). Collect final EDPs.

Each executive works with his/her supervisor to include recommendations from the ERB or similar body in his/her final EDP. Each executive submits his/her finalized EDP to the designated agency contact and makes preparations to complete the developmental activities outlined in his/her plan.

• Comprehensive Talent Review Meeting Debriefs with all executives
• Finalized EDPs for all executives

Objective: Use recommendations from the ERB or similar body to fulfill agency succession needs and strategically fill vacant positions. Monitor and evaluate talent management and succession plan as appropriate to meet changing organizational needs.
Each executive completes the developmental activities outlined in his/her EDP. Each executive revises his/her EDP as appropriate to meet changing career goals and development needs.

Outputs: Comprehensive list of metrics for periodic evaluations of TM&SP plan.