Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders: Strategies for Building Robust Bench Strength in Your Organization

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It’s the top of the 9th inning, and your pitcher just threw his arm out. What you have left does not look good; A rookie from a lower-level school and an 8th-round, 229th-draft pick without team experience. What do you do?

While you may be used to the term “bench strength” in sports, it also refers to the depth and quality of talent within an organization. It represents the pool of skilled and capable people ready to step into key positions or take on new responsibilities when needed. These people are to fill critical roles, contribute to innovation, and drive the organization’s success. Bench Strength is crucial for business continuity, succession planning, and adapting to changing circumstances.

Recovering from a Resignation Tsunami

It’s no secret that Covid-19 and the so-called “great resignation” have impacted hiring and retention, but what truly matters now is understanding the lasting impact on employees and leaders. The ripple effects have been profound. Firstly, the wave of resignations and high turnover, often called the “resignation tsunami,” has resulted in losing valuable talent across all organizational levels, significantly impacting bench strength.

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Additionally, the prolonged presence of baby boomers in the workforce, as many delayed retirements, created a scarcity of opportunities for others to step up into leadership roles. However, when the pandemic struck, it triggered the departure of many baby boomers, further exacerbating the leadership gap. As we navigate the aftermath, addressing these l shifts becomes paramount for organizations seeking to rebuild and strengthen their workforce.

Global leadership consulting firm Development Dimensions International (DDI) published a research report examining responses from almost 16,000 leaders and over 2,000 human resource executives worldwide to answer critical questions about leadership transitions. The report identifies that over 50% of CEO respondents stated that developing the next generation of leaders keeps them up at night, only 2nd to attracting and retaining top talent.

The problem is that most companies lack bench strength. The report backs this, stating that only 11% of surveyed organizations reported a “strong” or “very strong” leadership bench, the lowest rating in the past ten years.[1]

According to the annual survey conducted by DDI, a key factor contributing to the crisis is companies’ failure to offer good leadership development and transition training for newly hired and existing executives.

The presence of effective leadership greatly diminishes employee attrition rates, highlighting the pivotal role of strong interpersonal skills. Conversely, when confronted with inadequate leadership and poor interpersonal skills, employees exhibit a 3.5-fold increase in the likelihood of departure within a year. This underscores the significance of cultivating leadership qualities that foster positive relationships and engagement to enhance employee retention and organizational stability.

What types of skills should leaders develop in their employees for a deeper bench?

Assuming you have identified your potentially strong individuals, you should prepare to equip them with the ability to think and act more strategically, to lead with greater conviction, and to cultivate and nurture relationships.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review explores the core challenges faced by high-potential employees and the areas of development they need to address as they advance in their careers. The authors analyzed over 3,000 applications and sponsor statements over a 20-year period from Harvard Business School’s High Potentials Leadership Program. The study revealed that high potentials consistently identified five key challenges:

  • leading teams
  • leading change
  • leadership style
  • leading at scale
  • driving business results

Consistently, leading teams was the number one issue high potentials cited.

The success of high potentials depends on their ability to work with and through others, and managers and organizations must provide the necessary support and opportunities for growth. It emphasizes the need for high potentials to transition from individual contributors to team leaders and develop several skills, including strategic management, emotional intelligence, communication, leading teams, and relationship management.

It suggests that organizations should measure high potentials against specific competencies, help them increase their emotional intelligence, and encourage a learning mindset.

Components of an effective program to increase bench strength.


Internal hires are 35% more effective than external hires for leadership positions. Hiring from within ensures individuals who are familiar with the company culture, thrive within it, fit well within that culture, and have a deep understanding of the organization. This approach guarantees a consistent pipeline of influential leaders.

Ensuring a pipeline of influential leaders requires consistent elements. Here are a few points to consider:

  1. Identify Potential Leaders Early: Broadening the scope of talent identification efforts is crucial in seeking leadership potential at early stages in employees’ careers. Looking beyond traditional managerial roles, it is important to consider individuals who exhibit leadership qualities and potential contributions throughout the organization. Utilizing predictive assessments such as PXT Select early on in employees’ careers can help identify their aptitude for leadership, enabling proactive development strategies. Establishing precise success profiles that outline potential leaders’ required skills and characteristics can also aid in this identification process.
  2. Comprehensive Training and Coaching: Well-rounded leaders are capable of driving success. Targeted training and coaching programs should focus on enhancing soft skills encompassing effective communication, coaching skills, emotional intelligence, and team building.
  3. Foster a Coaching Culture: Developing a coaching culture involves managers to coach and mentor their direct reports – guiding and supporting them as aspiring leaders. Organizations should create an environment nurturing growth, continuous learning, and leadership development by integrating coaching as a part of the culture.

Our approach to implementing a leadership development program is multifaceted. Each begins with an assessment and ends with an analysis and action plan for moving forward. For example, emotional intelligence (self-awareness, control, social awareness, and relationship management) enables leaders to respond with agility. We use Wiley’s assessment tool called the Everything DiSC Agile EQ assessment, which combines evaluation and development, to help understand strengths and potentially unresourceful patterns of behavioral blind spots to enable leaders to adapt and enhance communication more easily.

By incorporating multi-rater assessments such as CheckPoint 360 with development programs,  you can match skills and behaviors to the success profiles of a job. We then coach participants on how to apply the assessments for success and ways to measure growth.

Bench depth can help your team win.


Baseball may not be your thing, but that 8th-round, 229th-draft pick might be your next team captain or a Hall of Famer. Case in point, baseball hall of famer, Nolan Ryan was a 12th-round, 226th overall pick in the 1965 MLB draft[2] and went on to play a record 27 seasons in the majors. He racked up 324 wins, tied for 14th on the all-time list, and an MLB-record 5,714 strikeouts.

Maybe an assessment can help your team identify and develop the next winner. Contact us if you would like help incorporating assessments into an existing program or want us to develop or enhance a leadership development program for your organization.

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POSTED ON: Team Development