Since we’re in the midst of the annual planning season, now would be a great time to explore the topic of talent development – starting with the talent bench.

To assist us with this conversation, we reached out to coach Tim Wiley. Aside from being a Gravitas Impact premium coach, Wiley is also the president of Wheelhouse Coaching and an expert on talent development. He provided us with some valuable insight into the importance of building up the talent bench, as well as some tips on how to do it well.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

Losing a valuable key player – especially on the management team – is frustrating. Having to scramble for a replacement only makes the situation more arduous and expensive. The Center for American Progress says that it can cost upwards of 20% of an annual salary to replace a mid-range position and up to 213% of an annual salary for an executive position.

“The worst time to start looking for key talent is when you lose someone,” Wiley says. “It rushes the process and limits the pool. Therefore, you should at least have a list of people already considered for key positions, if not already vetted.”

Wiley’s advice for CEOs is to make talent bench development a critical priority that includes recognizing the positions that must have a back-up (such as the c-suite and/or management team) and designating names for each slot. Those on the list can come from outside the company or within. Either way, Wiley says this is a key process for any CEO – one that shouldn’t be put off.

“I would identify the key roles that would damage your business the most and develop a list of at least two people per slot that could potentially fit. It is reasonable to casually interview some candidates over time, though some would need to be on your list silently. Still, you can get background info on those candidates from others without really revealing your intent. “

Once names and faces have been attached to each respective role, the focus should then shift to maintenance, which Wiley says is as simple as regularly reviewing the bench in order to validate the list and, if necessary, update.

“I would say {reviewing} semi-annually is reasonable once the list is built,” Wiley said, “but always be on the lookout for new talent.”

Finding The Talent

Wiley says the best way to mine for potential players (outside of promoting internally) is through referrals.

“As coaches, we already know the best place to start is by gaining referrals from within the organization, from the industry, and from competitors,” Wiley said. “Think of your organization in the middle with industry associations, distribution channels, competitors, suppliers, partners, and customers surrounding it. That makes up the strongest referral sandbox. Thus, the interactions of all the people within that sandbox can be fertile for employee referrals. They are people who also know your company and industry tangentially.”

Wiley goes on to suggest a few ways leaders can take advantage of these potential resources. “Tapping into that knowledge base should be encouraged with employee referral bonuses along with management team members keeping an eye out for talent. Inquiring about people within that base can be done somewhat discreetly while you get an opinion from others. At trade shows, it is easy to observe others in action and see who customers are impressed with or comment about. It is also an opportunity to inquire about people without a direct contact. Again, any potential relationship within that group can provide a connection and opportunity. I would say my talent bench was 80% derived from that sandbox, while others were generally some other type of business network connection.”

The Coach’s Role

So far, most of these insights have been geared towards the CEO. So where does the coach fit into all this? From Wiley’s perspective, the coach’s role should focus on four primary areas:

  • Driving the activity
  • Creating exercises to expand the pool
  • Insisting on establishing KPIs
  • Most importantly, holding the CEO/client accountable to the activity

As we mentioned earlier, many coaches and CEOs are right in the middle of their annual planning sessions. This can provide an opportunity to discuss and review the bench, especially in relation to the goals and strategy being developed. That said, Wiley also suggests setting the talent bench as an agenda item every other quarter, as well as a KPI for the CEO to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

Regardless of when this process takes place, talent bench development must be standing priority for every business leader. You never know when you’ll need it.

“Developing talent is part of the overall puzzle that includes your whole process under the People Decision,” Wiley said. “However, the actual talent bench you develop must be ready regardless of the status of those other pieces of the puzzle.”

 

  • Don’t wait around on your talent bench. Don’t be caught scrambling to fill a critical position.
  • Start by identifying the positions that must be filled. These are the roles where a deficit would damage your business the most.
  • Use your sandbox for referrals. Include your own organization, your industry, and your competitors.
  • Designate and vet at least two names for each role. Maintain your talent bench by reviewing and updating it at least semi-annually.
  • As a coach, your job is to drive the activity, provide resources for expanding the pool, and hold all key players accountable.

 

How would you like to become a world-class coach like Tim Wiley? Use your talents to help the world’s business leaders grow and thrive in the modern market. To learn more about becoming a Gravitas Impact premium coach, just follow this link.

 

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