Bench Strength

179059809Given the good economy for skilled employees it is important to maintain bench strength in the organization. This, so that as people are promoted, leave or terminated the company has replacements to bring up without having a void in the organization. Think of it as a well-managed sports team so that when a player goes down due to injury, the team can keep on playing without a drop off in their performance.

Recent surveys have indicated that a third of all employees are always on the lookout for a new job and twice that ratio are still fielding offers during their first few months of joining a new company. Chalk this up to a combination of wanting more responsibility and advancement opportunities, wanting a more compatible workplace environment, being with people they like and a proper balance with their work and leisure time. This is not like their father’s credo of wanting a secure job where they didn’t have to worry about being laid off after the next inevitable economic downturn — keeping their nose clean and being seen as a productive and loyal employee.

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Today’s employees are young, Gen Y and Millennials, who have also been called the entitled generation. They are educated and tech savvy and have been generally rewarded for just showing up. They have been told that everything they do is just great and most importantly they have not really experienced adversity. They feel that their employers’ job is to make them feel fulfilled and there is always another and better job around the corner if their present one does not suit them. Many corporations are guilty of reinforcing this attitude themselves in a competitive marketplace for people with talent; real or not. Needless to say, not everyone 20- or 30-something fits this stereotype, but enough do so that there is enough of this mind set to warrant both finding “good” employees and having a supply of bench players ready to step in when attrition sets in.

Having said this, how much bench strength is enough? Companies with lots of money, profit and in a strong growth mode can afford to have a substantial surplus of staff on the sitting bench, learning and doing enough work until they are needed to be on the first team. But for the typical company, where money is tight and the national average runs from 3-5% growth per annum, a good rule of thumb might be to have 4-8% of the staff as productive benchwarmers. If your turnover is high this should be adjusted accordingly, particularly for highly skilled and critical positions and a high portion of Millennials.

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Michael Neidle
Michael Neidle is president and CEO of Optimal Management, an advisor to staffing firm owners and managers.

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