How deep is your company’s team bench?

Football’s back! We can get a little nuts about football at the EnMast office. One thing I’ve always admired about NFL teams is the way they manage their talent. Every NFL General Manager has a depth chart with players stacked two and three deep. Every NFL General Manager has a depth chart with players stacked two and three deep, then beyond that every GM has a short list of players that he could call if the injury bug bites and he needs someone fast — a strong plan B (or C, or D…). The stakes are high, and the NFL has learned to be prepared for anything.

How high are the stakes for you? If one of your key people quit today, how would you replace them? Here’s 4 ways to manage talent to make sure you keep a deep bench at your key positions.

1. Work the waiver wire

Just because a player got cut doesn’t always mean they can’t play. Sometimes they were working in the wrong scheme, or they needed a better coach. There may be some good talent out there that you are dismissing because of a snap judgement. One way to make sure you don’t miss out on an opportunity to pick up some real talent is to be a little open minded. Folks in transition are often overlooked in the hunt for new talent. But they are often willing to come in and do a project or take on a short-term assignment. It’s a great way to give someone a tryout. You minimize your commitment, but get to better handle on how that person works, what skills they have, and how they fit with the rest of your team. So stop avoiding folks at networking events that are “in transition” — take a minute to find out what they are looking for and might be good at!

2. Scout some rookies

Almost every business has room for a new college grad. They don’t bring a lot of experience, but they do have new ideas, energy and enthusiasm. Do you bring in summer workers or interns to give your team a chance to evaluate their talents? This is another great option for a short term project. Buddy up to a professor at a local college and ask them for recommendations.

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3. Target choice free agents

Hiring a star employee from your competition can be risky; they can be a big difference maker, or an expensive bust. But you can improve you odds by getting to know them over time — giving them a chance to get to know you and your company — and you a chance to see them in a variety of situations. Is there someone you have seen around your industry association meetings that you admire? Follow them on social media, give them a call from time to time. You never know when they will be ready to make a move; but when that day comes you want them to think of you!

4. Keep your depth chart up to date

Even in a small business it’s worth looking at your talent to see who the up and comers are; in your pool of employees, who looks like they are headed for the next level? Are you giving them every chance to learn the skills they need to get to there? What training or development do they need?  Your best contingency plan could already be on your team!

If talent is a key factor in your business’ success (and when isn’t it?), then you need to be thinking carefully about how you are going to replace people when they get promoted, or depart. A GM’s #1 role is to make sure his team has adequate talent — in your business, talent management is your role.

Photo Credit: Jay Phagan (Flickr)

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