Got Talent? Why It’s Important to Build Bench Strength

Recently, I’ve been asked to discuss “bench strength” with a few organizations. All companies need to develop the next generation of leaders if they want to survive, let alone thrive. Unfortunately, few companies master succession management. In a study by the Corporate Leadership Council, 72 percent of companies predict they’ll have an increasing number of leadership vacancies during the next few years. At the same time, 76 percent are “less than confident” in their abilities to adequately staff these positions.

The few companies that apply rigor to identifying and grooming their top players enjoy retention and increased bottom lines. So let’s discuss the practices of an effective succession process. There are three initial steps:

1. Align and communicate the people strategy with the business strategy.
2. Identify employees with high management potential and actively plan their careers and development to build “bench strength“.
3. Anticipate and fill talent gaps.

Do you have a people strategy? Does it align with the business initiatives? The succession process needs to be a part of your company culture. World-class organizations open up the succession management process making it transparent to every employee. This encourages clarity and integrity and minimizes politics. Human resources departments should support the process, but management must own it.

Accountability for selecting and developing top performers and leaders can’t be delegated, it needs to be lived. Throw away the forms and processes and start flexible, open, inclusive discussions. The goal is for leaders to gain insights into their employees’ performance and potential. This is the first step in understanding the realities of the workforce, creating career paths for up and comers, and recognizing talent gaps.

Businesses that build bench strength make succession management an integral part of its corporate culture. Start by identifying the right players and escorting other employees to an intersection of choice. Organizations that implement successful people strategies actively approach the development of their top players and leaders with stretch assignments. Real development happens on the job, not in the classroom.

Smart companies create diverse experiences within a functional area. Carefully design assignments and quantify goals. Once an employee is tackling the stretch assignment, encourage and help him / her make connections. Studies show that 40 percent of all newly promoted managers and executives fail because they don’t build strong relationships. Building working relationships is a critical success factor and has substantial impact on the employees’ effectiveness.

The reality is that sometimes it’s not possible to grow talent. Anticipating the talent gaps your business strategy needs today and in the years to come will help communicate and implement smart recruiting strategies. Human capital is your most important asset, so invest wisely. Driving this people strategy occurs by staging on-going discussions that evaluate strengths and vulnerabilities against business goals and priorities. Start the discussions by asking the following questions:

  • Given our strategy, what are this team’s strengths and vulnerabilities?
  • Do we have the talent and competencies to deliver on the strategy and accomplish our business goals?
  • Who do we need to hire? Do we need to alter the requirements of our new hires? What’s our compelling story to attract these hard to find skill sets?

Succession planning is a delicate practice. The discipline it takes to develop, align, and execute requires “buy in” at all levels. However, this is a highly valuable process that shouldn’t be left to chance. The bottom line is, leading organization invest time and resources to human capital or succession planning. Are you tackling this crucial task? Let’s discuss your strategy, implementation plans, and how Aureus Group may be a strategic recruiting partner for hard-to-fill positions.

Chris Carlson, Aureus Group Regional Manager, CPC
Chris Carlson, Aureus Group Regional Manager, CPC

About the Author, Chris Carlson, CPC
Chris is an experienced executive in the staffing industry. She has extensive experience in developing and implementing operational analyses and programs and has assisted hundreds of firms streamline processes and upgrade the competencies of its workforce. Finding innovative ways to tap into talent and build effective work teams is her passion. She has developed and executed many successful people strategy initatives. Chris began her career at Aureus Group, a full-service professional recruiting firm, in 1994 and currently serves as the regional manager of Aureus Group specializing in the Finance & Accounting, Systems and Executive search areas.

In addition, Chris is a Certified Professional Consultant, and has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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