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Building a Better Talent Bench

What does that mean?

If you have never heard of the term “Talent Bench” used in the context of recruitment, allow me to explain. A talent bench is a group of potential candidates that have been hand selected by a company’s recruitment department. These individuals, when cultivated correctly, are future employees that are waiting in the wings, ready to fill any vacancies that a company may have.

Every company should have a bench, but not all of them do. So, when an unexpected rise in vacancies occurs, those without a bench are left scrambling around, trying to fill positions. This situation will cost that company time and money, and more importantly, trigger an unhealthy hiring cycle. Because when you hire out of desperation, you often hire the wrong people, which will inevitably increase your turn over.

Top 3 reasons to have a bench:

1. Reduces the Cost of Turnover: The reason I put this first, is because turnover is not a question of “if”, but a question of “when?”. How prepared is your organization for the inevitable? Time spent on endless backfilling is like digging a hole, just to find yourself standing in it when you're done.

2. Alleviates Succession Pressure: Think about it. Whether it’s a professional sports team or a hit Broadway show, there will always be sideline players and understudies, people who can step in without missing a beat. Why should the corporate world be any different?

3. Brand Improvement: Engaging and being responsive at every stage of talent acquisition will improve your brand by spreading awareness. Over time your company’s culture becomes one of strategic advantage and that will be reflected on social media platforms when done correctly.

Bench Strength:

It’s not just about having a bench, it's about filling it with the right people. A talent bench is only effective if it consists of competent workers, vetted to align with your company’s growing needs. It can be difficult to anticipate your company’s future without the assistance of a mystical crystal ball, but there are steps you can take that don’t require you to consult Zoltar the Fortune Teller.

Develop a plan, one that assesses your current organizational lineup and job descriptions. Understanding your company’s most influential roles and the advancement ability of the employees will help plan career potential. You’ll also be able to quickly identify skills and traits necessary to fill key positions when you clarify job descriptions.

How do you find these benchwarmers?

Finding quality candidates isn’t hard when you look in the right places. Using search engines are just the tip of the iceberg, as a recruiter you can utilize employee referral programs, industry networks, and active headhunting methods. Probe your most qualified employees and you will find that talent attracts talent. Some of the best workers are those described as “Passive Candidates”. These are people that aren’t actively seeking employment. Studies by the CEB show that 44% of employed workers identify as “passive” candidates and when hired they perform 9% higher than “active” candidates. If that doesn’t spark your interest, they also have a retention rate that is 25% higher than candidates gained through traditional means.

Placing a careers section on your company’s webpage isn’t going to cut it anymore. Because believe it or not, waiting for the perfect candidate to come to you is NOT how you should spend your time. That strategy may work for some Disney princesses, but it's not how a business gains a competitive edge. You need to bust out of your tower and roll up your sleeves if you want a happy ever after.

Maintaining a Bench:

Now that you recognize why you need a bench, you need to consider who to fill it with and how you will keep it full. Remain open and honest with candidates and engage with them frequently. Give them updates that show them you are interested and view them as the valuable assets they are. As a recruiter, this can be challenging because, ideally, you should have a bench of 15-25 candidates that all qualify for critical roles. Managing these connections takes effort and planning. If your company doesn’t have a system in place, you need to establish one that will provide a framework for effective candidate engagement. You don’t want to build a bench, just to have it break down.

Being a recruiter can be stressful when you hold the company’s future in your hands, but that massive weight can be leveraged by the strength of your bench. That strength comes from active engagement, diligence, and planning.

So, my last question to you is, how much do you bench?

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