If there is one constant in business, it’s the revolving door. Key contributors to the organization don’t stick around forever. When a company has not prepared to replace those key contributors, a single exit can impact the entire organization. To mitigate the inevitable loss of key players, HR and leadership staff must establish a deep bench of talent who will be ready, willing, and able to step into new roles when called upon.
Bench Strength Begins With “You’re Hired”
The key to building a strong talent bench is to hire the right people in the first place. The odds that every new hire will last more than a few years are slim, but it’s important for organizations to make solid and strategic hiring choices to increase their chances of retaining that talent.
Finding good people is difficult: HR must adopt and test processes to identify candidates who not only have the right skills for the job, but to also identify candidates with a high aptitude for learning. Even if an individual’s resume doesn’t meet each and every job requirement, if they are coachable and trainable, they can fill in those gaps on the job. Investing heavily in strong hiring practices can go a long way in building long-term bench strength.
Know What Your High-Performers Want From Their Careers
Leaders often identify high-potential employees in the hopes of grooming them for greater responsibilities. Many times, however, they make the mistake of beginning the process without knowing that employee’s professional goals. High performers do not necessarily have leadership aspirations. Some prefer to stay hands on technical or become subject matter experts long-term.
It is important to focus on career development and professional goals at every level to build long-term bench strength. The easiest time to do this is during a performance review, however, managers and staff should revise those goals on a regular basis. Leaders can use these conversations to identify those individuals with the desire to grow within the company, and can also identify those individuals who feel the company may not meet their long-term needs.
Provide Real Opportunities
It is one thing to talk to an employee about his or her goals for growth, but in order to build bench strength, those employees need opportunities to work on new projects, learn new skills, and take a few risks. High-potential employees can’t meet challenges if leadership doesn’t challenge them.
Management and HR should work together to determine how they will develop high-potential employees. Individual development plans will vary from organization to organization and employee to employee. An individualized approach takes more time, but it’s an investment that can and will pay dividends. When leaders invest in their success, employees feel a stronger sense of loyalty to the organization – and that leads to a bench full of top talent as the years go on.
Building bench strength is about making the right hiring decisions, opening the lines of communication with employees, and giving high-performers the opportunity to accept new challenges. When that bench is deep, the organization can adapt to unforeseen changes quickly without disrupting operations.
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