What Is Bench Strength?

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Bench strength is the organization’s ability to fill vacancies from within. Testing

bench strength means determining how well the organization is able to fill

vacancies in key positions from within.

Turnover saps bench strength. There are two kinds of turnover. Unavoidable

turnover is outside the immediate control of the organization. It is the

loss of personnel through death, disability, and retirement. It may also include

turnover resulting from organizational action, such as layoff, early retirement,

buyout, or other means. Although many line managers would like to include

promotions and transfers from their areas in the definition of unavoidable

turnover, most HR departments do not include internal movements in the

definition of unavoidable turnover.

On the other hand, avoidable turnover is initiated by employees. It is a

loss resulting from resignation as individuals leave the organization, typically

moving to positions in other organizations. Although turnover of any kind is

costly because the organization must find and train replacements, avoidable

turnover is worse because it could be avoided if the organization could find

some way to retain the employees.

Avoidable turnover from key positions—or the less of high potentials—can

be particularly distressing because it creates unnecessary crises. (This is sometimes

called critical turnover.1) One aim of any SP&M program should thus

be to find ways to reduce avoidable turnover among high potentials or key

position incumbents—or at least find the means to keep it stable.