Building bench strength should be an ongoing program in any organization. As the new year approaches and we begin to think of the improvements we want to make in our lives and our businesses, development of your team must somewhere near the top. I’m not telling you it has to be the absolute top, but it should be a top consideration. I’ve worked in companies where developing bench strength was encouraged, and I’ve worked in others where it was good if it happened and not so bad if it were ignored. I prefer the former.
The truth is turnover is inevitable. Whether it is a natural progression for someone, job dissatisfaction or personal reasons, you can count on 25% of managers to change or leave jobs. If your bench strength is too light, you will find yourself in a jam. That is a guaranteed outcome. It makes sense that building bench strength is a necessary part of any department plan. This is not an HR-specific part of management. Managers need to fill a role as mentors and trainers on an ongoing basis. But, where do you start if it’s not by going to HR?
Step 1: Identify Business Needs
Needs can generally be grouped into three areas: industry, job and task. Industry-related needs are typically found when a new player comes into the market or when a company decides to expand into a new vertical. I started my marketing career at the time the casino industry was expanding into the regional markets. Although many people traveled to Las Vegas and Atlantic City in those early days, most of the workforce in these regional markets had never stepped foot into a casino. The language was different. You almost needed a dictionary to work at or with a casino. Most of the initial employees needed industry training.
As casinos continued to expand into markets, many operators found they were hiring well-meaning employees that had no background in the jobs they were now responsible for. As a manager, you want the final output of the job itself to be of acceptable quality. If you find yourself constantly reviewing or perhaps changing someone’s work, they may need job-related skills training.
Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Sometimes you can assume a person needs job-related training, but they may need task-related training. What’s the difference? A good way to understand the difference in the need is to ask yourself whether the missing skill is inherently part of the position or something that comes with on-the-job training. For instance, a cashier at Target may have the skills to be a cashier at Walmart, but tasks may differ.
On the job training will typically satisfy task-related needs. If you think about your day at work, it is composed of many tasks. One happens after the other, and at the end of the day you can feel like you’ve “done your job”. When one or more of these tasks is a struggle, it can alter the outcome of your day. Productivity and morale suffer. A look at all the steps it takes to accomplish the work, can assist in identifying task related training needs.
Next: Perform a Gap Analysis
This is probably the least time-consuming, if not the easiest of the steps. The process is simple, and if you’ve been diligent in performance reviews, you should have easy access to documentation of the gaps you want to close.
Then, Assess Training Options
Traditionally, training as been done in a classroom setting, but we’ve learned the options for training is almost as vast as the way employees successfully absorb the information. Will you travel for training, or does it have to come to you? Will it be instructor-led or self-paced? If you choose instructor-led, do you choose in-person or recorded? Webinar or an anytime, anywhere option? Do you opt for a lab or hands-on environment, or do you record the processes as an example?
Once you’ve gone through these assessments, you can start the development of a training program, setting both short and long-term goals for the employee and the company.