In a survey conducted by University of North Carolina’s Business School, of approximately 400 companies, a mere 21% are satisfied with their current bench strength. The stats are not surprising given the conditions of the past several years.

In 2002 – 2Leadership Bench Strength007 there was rapid growth causing people placed in positions whether they were ready or not. Late 2007 through 2010, the BIG recession  forced companies to shed their talent, leaving a thin and over-stretched work force. There was no time for training. Even if there was time, budgets were non-existent.

Looking at the present condition and expectations for the future…. Organizations are experiencing slow and moderate growth, with some sectors experiencing explosive growth. Coupled with growth, comes another significant factor contributing to the concerns about bench strength. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Baby Boomers make up 31% of the workforce and are approaching retirement. By 2020 40% of the workforce will be comprised of Millennial (people born from 1978 -1989).

These factors are causing a leadership void that organizations are already feeling, and will continue to intensify over the coming years. What can you do to build your bench strength?

First- Start planning for your tomorrow’s leaders today. Look at your:
• Existing leadership to determine who will be retiring or stepping into less demanding roles.
• Growth plans – Will you be moving into new markets requiring more leadership positions?
• Knowledge Expertise – Are there individuals that are the only ones with a special expertise? If they left, your organization would need to deeply impacted?

Next – Have a system to identify your high potentials
• Don’t rely solely on manager’s gut feel for recommendations. Incorporate objective measurements to evaluate performance potential.
• Define the leadership competencies needed for specific jobs. Don’t fall trap to defining only competencies for your organization. There are different leadership competencies needed in different disciplines. For example: CFOs and CMOs may share competencies such as ethics and strategic thinking. However, you may want your CFO to be highly developed analytical thinker, while your CMO is more innovative thinker. Identifying these competencies allow you to identify high potentials and build your bench strength accordingly.

Lastly – Start developing your leadership early on.
• According to the Zenger/Folkman training database, the average boss begins managing people at age 32, but doesn’t get leadership training until they’re 42. Building your bench strength requires you to start developing your talent early.
• Along with traditional training, use a variety of measures to develop your talent such as: Cross-functional and higher level projects, mentoring, and coaching.
• Existing Leadership must model what you want developed as well as hold others accountable. When senior leadership does not emulate desirable leadership behaviors, then it is important to leadership isn’t what you want for your future leaders then it’s time to develop a plan for change.
Be proactive…Start planning for your tomorrow’s leaders today.