Navigo Blog

How to create the ultimate employee ‘bench’

Written by Peter

Peter is Navigo's founder and Managing Director. Peter is passionate about building and running businesses, finding solutions to business process problems and new trends in HR Technology.

September 29, 2016

For those who don’t follow the AFL, it’s grand final day this Saturday! We’ve even got a public holiday in Victoria tomorrow to watch a parade (apparently that’s now a thing).

All footy teams have a ‘bench’ of players who are ready to jump in if one of the key players gets tired, injured or sick. Surprisingly, this concept hasn’t caught on in many organisations, despite the fact that a lost executive could be a lot more costly than an injured ruckman!

Here’s how to create your very own bench of employees so you’ll never be caught a player down again.

Step 1: Identify your key positions

Not every position needs a backup. Unskilled labour, for example, can be replaced without too much cost or turmoil if a worker resigns or is promoted.

What you’re really looking for are the positions that, if left empty, would:

  • Be expensive to fill
  • Take a long time to fill
  • Require very specialist knowledge
  • Impact the performance of your organisation

The last one is bolded for a reason; this is the number 1 reason why you need your bench of employees in the first place!


Step 2: Identify the skills, experience and personality required for the positions

Every position will have slightly different requirements, but many of our customers prepare their succession plans in Planning@Work based on two criteria (from the trusty 9-box):

  • Performance and
  • Potential

From there, you can weigh up which employees have the track record and the drive to succeed in key positions later down the track.

Conversely, if you uncover a lack of potential in the finance team, perhaps hiring or training initiatives should address this sooner rather than later in case you need someone else to take over the goal-kicking responsibilities.

One important thing to mention: don’t underestimate qualitative data when preparing your bench. If you have a star employee who has awesome performance and potential ratings, but they’ve mentioned to their line manager they want to go on a 2 year holiday in 6-8 months, you can’t count on them to become the next CEO!


Step 3: Create clear succession pathways and plans

Many positions have clear career paths. Take an HR Director, for example. Most will have had some experience as an HR Assistant, then an HR Officer or Talent Acquisition specialist, then will progress to an HR Management position, before finally reaching HR Director.

Other careers don’t have any clear career path. And there will always be exceptions to traditional paths.

Whatever paths you want to create for your organisation, make sure they’re very clearly defined and communicated to the team.

If your team members know they can work towards a set position, they’ll be much more motivated and engaged in their role.

It’ll also make it much easier to justify promotions to those who miss out when the time comes. Be as transparent and honest as possible.

After these steps, you should have a selection of employees on the bench for each key position. They’ll know they’re in the running for these key jobs, which will help motivate and inspire them. You’ll be able to train them up for these positions. And when the time finally comes that they need to step into the big game, they (and you) will be ready.


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