3 ways to build your bench strength before it’s too late
While the writing has been on the wall for a while, business leaders are now starting to directly feel the effects of insufficient bench strength during a critical talent shortage. Not having bench strength comes from not being able to retain talent. And the long-term result of all of this will be a failure to meet organizational goals.
According to the 2018 DDI Global Leadership Forecast, 14 percent of organizations do feel they have a strong bench, down 1 percent from 2014. What are those 14 percent doing differently? They are effectively identifying and cultivating their “high potentials”—employees with the ability and drive to move into roles of increasing responsibility—through development pipelines. This is something you can do, too.
The Problem: Lack of engagement with high potentials to build a strong pipeline for the future.
The Solution: Build an effective pipeline for future leaders by identifying high potentials, developing potential early and empowering individuals to own their growth.
This might sound easy, but having a pipeline and having an effective pipeline aren’t the same thing. Let’s discuss each step of the solution in more detail:
1. Identify high potentials: Expand your view.
In many organizations, high potential identification and development is reserved for senior-level leadership positions, usually relating to formal succession planning. However, organizations that focus on cultivating high potentials outside of the senior leader levels are 4.2 times more likely to outperform organizations that do not, according to the DDI study.
Therefore, to have a strong leadership pipeline, the top-down, top-only view needs to expand. Don’t simply place focus on someone who may one day fill a chair in the C-suite. Expand your view to identify those that may someday lead a function or a key initiative and identify the development they can use now to get them there. When you expand your view, you create a larger pool of high potentials and open opportunities for development through peer coaching, mentoring and long-term projects.
2. Develop potential early: Extend the development timeline.
The days of organizationally directed career paths are a thing of the past. The “corporate ladder” now represents a web of lateral/cross-departmental moves to develop skills and talent. As demand for the leaders of tomorrow outgrows supply, the identification and development of high potentials needs to begin earlier in individuals’ careers. Growth takes time and effort, so the earlier you begin developing skills and abilities, the greater impact it can have on the individual and the organization in the long run. Recognize the skills an individual can gain by moving into a new department or function. Engage high potentials in development that grows business acumen along with core leadership skills.
3. Empower people: Encourage accountability.
Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends survey found that 60 percent of organizations are only somewhat effective at best in empowering people to manage their own careers. To support individuals in driving their own development and moving past obstacles to build new skills, an organization and the individual’s leader need to provide recommendations and opportunities and encourage spending time on development and collaborating with and learning from peers. To drive results, provide guidance in designing goals and setting priorities that place responsibility on the individual. An individual development plan serves as a great template for this.
Make the choice to be a part of the 14 percent and ensure your organizational goals aren’t sacrificed to the current talent shortage. Focusing on these solutions helps create a climate of involvement, trust, freedom and challenge that will help drive organizational strategy as individuals grow. Use these to build a strong base of talent internally and accelerate the development of a leadership pipeline.
Jennifer Stangl is CUES’ director of professional development.
Also read “Purposeful Talent Development: The Machete or the Map?” and “Purposeful Talent Development Is Aligned to Strategy Execution” by Jennifer Stangl.