Author Jim Collins (Built to Last, Good to Great) spoke of the importance of building the bench, ensuring that the depth of the team can sustain its performance over time. Teams that are truly built to last have depth at the top, in the middle, and at the bottom. This truly is a leadership imperative -- to ensure that members of any team have the skills and tools to enable success, now and in the future.
For my team, this means focusing on our new hires. Yes, I am in the enviable position, like many federal agencies, of bringing in new talent. This year, we have added nearly 40 recent college graduates to the team. What better time to build our depth than when we have so much work to do and so many exciting projects on which these new, very talented people, can learn their craft.
I have tried to stay very involved with this great crop of interns. I spoke to them recently about my expectations. I have been personally engaged in the recruitment and the placement of each of them in the organization. I have tried to meet with all of them, learn their story, understand their goals in joining our team. Finally, I took them on a "road trip" across the organization, showing them who we are, what we do, and what they could expect in a career with us. I wanted them to connect with our mission and with each other. (The picture above was of the group at one of our projects)
Mission accomplished! The trip was hugely successful. I told these young people many times that I wanted them to stay with us...for the rest of their lives! This trip will be a memory that they will reference for the rest of their careers as they advance from the bottom...to the middle...to the top of our organization! They left the trip tired, inspired, and...glad they were hired. And many of them just may stay...for the rest of their lives!
Now, I understand that many are not in the position to add to their team. But the requirement to build the bench, to invest in newcomers, to ensure the viability of the team and its mission, is important to every leader. What are you doing to add to the skills and tools of your new employees? How are you helping them want to stay with you? How are you ensuring that the newest members of the team feel connected and know that they are still being developed? How are you building your bench?
You see, when the economy picks up, people are going to start moving again. Unless you have taken measures to retain them now. Some call it "building the bench." I call it...Leader Business!