Identify your Critical Positions with 6 Key Questions

By Ann Fish

Creating a sustainable organization requires understanding which positions you need today and in the future. By examining those positions and determining each one's importance to your operations and overall success, you will be better prepared for what lies ahead. You can identify critical positions before they become vacant by using a simple importance rating scale of high, medium, or low. Doing so will take the guesswork out of which positions need succession plans and help you adequately plan for unexpected turnover.

The following questions will guide you in determining the importance level of positions within your company.

  1. Is the position a sole gatekeeper to knowledge or skills?
    Identify which positions are exclusive gatekeepers to specific skills or knowledge that is valuable to the organization's success. In addition, be aware of new or changing industry knowledge, which is only known or understood by an individual in a certain position. Identifying these positions can inform where shadowing, documentation, and mentorship are required for an effective successor transition.

  2. Can the organization operate with a vacancy in that position?
    Consider how having no one working in any given position for two weeks, four weeks, or two months would affect the company's operations. If a vacant position would significantly cripple the organization's ability to operate efficiently, it may justify a higher rating.

  3. What education, licenses, or certifications are required?
    Higher required levels of education often equate to more specialized areas of expertise, a potentially larger learning curve, and a smaller pool of potential candidates when filling an open position. Positions that require a higher level of education or a specific license or certificate may require a higher rating.

  4. What is the availability of the external workforce to hire and fill the position?
    Evaluating the current hiring market, including the availability of potential new talent for a position, can affect the position's importance level. For example, suppose there is a small pool of potential candidates to fill a position in the future; it may serve your organization best to consider the position as critical and create a succession plan or prioritize mentorship and talent development. Doing so will increase your ability to fill the position with an internal candidate rather than competing with other organizations for an external hire.

  5. Is there anyone within the company who could temporarily fill in if a specific position is vacant?
    Identify if there are individuals within the organization who could step in to fill a specific position tomorrow without any additional training. If no one is prepared or has the bandwidth to perform the job duties of a particular position, that position may need a higher position importance rating.

  6. Does the position have a high potential of being vacant in the near future?
    When examining positions, consider impending retirements or whether a position is currently filled by an individual who has demonstrated high flight risk. Forecasting turnover can help reduce the time to fill open positions and decrease interruptions in productivity.

As you assess the importance of positions within your organization, remember that critical positions are not necessarily the managerial positions or the positions with the largest salary. Instead, you may find that a longtime employee nearing retirement is the gatekeeper of critical organizational information, or an entry-level position is essential to daily operations. Knowing which roles are crucial to the everyday success of the company will assist you in identifying positions that should have a succession plan. This foresight will not only increase the sustainability of your organization but also improve your ability to create a plan for mentorship, growth, and the continued education of your people.

Schedule a demo to learn how to track and fill critical positions with Built.