Put Me In Coach: Why You Should Build Your Bench Strength

Teams like the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees utilize a strategy your organization needs to implement immediately: developing a roster of players they can call up when they need to. This is why they build strong farm teams and minor league clubs. When they have open positions, they look at their most promising candidates and bring them up to the big leagues.

Admittedly, it’s not exactly the same in the corporate world. There’s no farm league, and not everyone’s chomping at the bit to join your team! But neither of those differences is reason to ignore your own talent pipeline. If you know what type of positions you anticipate needing to fill, start finding people. Now.

Starting the Conversation

Ask employees, associates, and colleagues. Scour your networks. Is there a promising intern? Does a star employee have a talented friend or former classmate? Who has the skills and background you will need? Find those people, and start a dialogue.

When you identify people who could be a good fit for your organization, tell them – but don’t leave it at that:

  • Describe your organization. Ditch the elevator pitch and just speak honestly. Who are you? What do you do? What might this future position look like?
  • Invite them to come in and meet people – casually. This is an informal way for them to have a look around and get to know both the organization and the employees. If they are a good fit and do end up filling a role, they can hit the ground running. Or at least jogging!
  • Keep in touch. Who knows? You may follow up in a month or so and catch them on a day when they’re irritated with their current employer or thinking about starting a new opportunity.

The Key to Building Bench Strength: Transparency

One of the challenges keeping companies from taking a proactive approach is – well, they’re reactive. But another is that they fear those positions will not materialize, that some change will negate the need for those employees.

Hopefully that doesn’t happen, but guess what? If it does, it does. Maybe their skills and background can be of use in another position; maybe they know someone who better fits the new need and can offer a referral.

People get irritated, or angry, when someone has made them a “promise.” Never promise or guarantee a specific job. Instead try saying something like: “As our organization grows, we anticipate needing someone with X experience and Y skills. We think you may be that person. We’d like to start a dialogue and keep in touch with you.”

If you’re honest and upfront throughout the entire process, folks are typically more open and accepting. If you’re transparent, they’re willing to have those conversations. And if you’re not, why on earth would they want to work for you anyway?

Do You Come Across as Desperate or Needy?

Where’s the line between being seen as proactive and just plain desperate? Well, if you’re calling people every week and hounding them…yeah, you’re coming across as needy, and that should throw up a big red flag for those individuals.

Rather than picking up the phone, again, and telling them about your organization, again, try something like this: “I see you’re a member of ABC Association. We are too! Want to meet up with a few of us for coffee after the next meeting?.” Informal, no pressure.

What about companies, like those in Silicon Valley, that are vying aggressively for in-demand talents? They have to step up their games. One recruiting firm sent 150 cookie baskets to key Zynga employees – at the office, where it would have maximum impact. Others plan a breakfast attack. When the employee buses arrive, they have a whole breakfast bar set up to wine and dine – or orange juice and dine – potential candidates.

They aren’t stalking; they aren’t hounding. They are opening conversations. However your company chooses to do it, do it! The war for talent is fierce: don’t be afraid to go big or go home.

If you’re striking out here, it’s going to be a long, hard, and, ultimately, losing game. Build your bench strength; nurture people now. Build those relationships so you can call them up when you need someone. Not everyone’s going to say “yes” and that’s fine: just make sure the right ones do.