Case study: Bench-Strength & Succession Assessments

In previous articles, we have argued that understanding the concept of bench-strength is a vital component of talent management and talent strategy during uncertain times like these.  In today’s article, we show how best-practice measurement of bench-strength can be applied to a real-world case.

In this case study, we focus specifically on how TTS consultants used the three-tiered approach, combined with integrated talent reporting to deliver outstanding results to our client.

The client challenge

The client, a large, multi-national business in the resourcing industry, approached TTS because the resourcing and mining sector was going through significant changes both in macro-economic and labor dynamics.

As a result, the client needed to re-appraise their leadership pipeline and obtain a more accurate picture of their bench-strength given a very challenging business environment. The changing nature of their business sector also meant that past definitions of what high potential looked like would have to be re-appraised.

This was especially true within the supervisory and management layers of the organization, where past, less robust hiring practices resulted in a problematic talent landscape.

The project would run across the client’s global operation, and included assessment of more than 150 senior and middle-managers as well as over 1000 supervisors across ten business functions.

Given the importance of the project for the client’s operations, our project team had support and access from the executive layer right down to the most operational tiers of the business.

The assessment solution

Because our client needed a comprehensive re-appraisal of their talent pipeline, we applied contextual thinking to the problem. As such, it was clear that a three-tiered, bench-strength orientated solution was called for.

In order to arrive at an accurate, scientifically credible solution, we examined three aspects of work performance:

  1. Backward-looking experience. This component was vital, as the specialist nature of the industry often meant that past experiences and knowledge were vital for optimal performance. In addition, the client was especially concerned about safety awareness, and candidates’ past experiences of having effectively dealt with such challenges would be very relevant to this project.
  2. Forward-looking potential criteria. While past experiences form the basis of a robust talent pipeline, it was critical to identify such candidates who also had the potential to meet new challenges and adapt to a dynamically shifting business environment. As a result, objective psychometric measures would be needed along with contextually-sensitive assessment to determine future potential.
  3. Foundational factors. In addition to forward looking and backward looking factors another important element of the assessment process was to look at personal considerations related to everyday functioning such as emotional intelligence, leadership stability and safety orientation.

Once robust and scientifically credible assessment products were selected to measure the three elements above, the client’s contextual constraints were taking into account and the process was tailored to meet their organizational and strategic objectives.  For instance, an important additional consideration in this regard was to ensure that the client’s value system it was operationalized within the assessment matrix.

While traditional, best-of-breed psychometric assessments were used for measuring forward-looking potential, backward-looking and foundational components required a different approach.

For measuring selected backward looking factors, a critical experiences model was developed and measured by conducting structured, consultant-led interviews. In addition, technical expertise was gauged by developing and implementing situational judgment tests that were specific to the industry of the client as well as the specific roles in question.

In helping our client answer the question of bench-strength, the important principle of high potential for a specific application was always considered.

To measure bench-strength successfully therefore, the actual future and current roles of participants were taken into account when calculating talent match statistics and high potential indicators.

Finally, all the assessment data was collected and used in group reporting and talent analytics to provide a global view of bench-strength for the organization.

In addition, individual and management feedback was provided with the aid of TTS’s integrated Talent Match Reporting. The focus of such feedback sessions was to facilitate developmental planning and a deeper insight into the talent pipeline.

The outcome: Bench-strength measurement leads to organizational insights

There were several notable outcomes of this project on an organization level:

  • Talent analytics highlighted gaps in the organization’s operational model as well as their talent management strategy.
  • Deficiencies in the talent management strategy related to succession management, career paths and selection practices were identified.
  • Critically, leadership behaviors that had potentially negative effects on a culture of safety were identified.

On an individual candidate and manager level, the project also had several positive outcomes, as summarized by the feedback we received from participants:

  • Being an independent assessment process, it allowed managers to understand their development areas in a non-judgmental manner.  
  • The multi-faceted nature of the assessments allowed team leaders to have a consistent and objective view of their teams. This suggested various strategies on how to address gaps, both from a group and individual talent perspective.
  • ​The assessment results clarified expectations for both managers and team members.
  • The assessments provided a holistic view of behavior and ability, gave candidates insight into their own functioning at work

Overall, the client found the assessment process very valuable, and we were able to help realign their talent function to address the critical tasks ahead.

Final thoughts & conclusions

In this article, we reviewed a real-world application of the TTS approach to measuring bench-strength within a client in the resources and mining industry.

The successful outcomes showed the merits of this approach, and showed how identifying high-potential candidates, aligned with specific role and strategic criteria, could enhance a talent management function.

In addition, by analyzing group data, we were able to provide highly topical management intelligence regarding bench-strength, talent gaps, and possible succession strategies.

Overall, the assessment process contributed to the organization’s change strategies, and contributed to their ultimate aim of adapting to a changing and uncertain business environment.

If you would like to know more about your organization’s bench-strength, or are interested in how TTS can help enhance your talent management functions, why not contact us at: