Plan Forward for Your Team's Bench

07:33AM Sep 18, 2019
Think about the skills and manpower you need on your farm today versus five years ago. What talents will be important in the years ahead? 
( AgWeb )

Who is on your farm’s bench?

Think about the skills and manpower you need on your farm today versus five years ago. What skills are now required? What talents will be important in the years ahead? 

To be ready for future industry shifts, you might need to bring outside people with additional skills into your farm business, says Sarah Beth Aubrey, CEO of ACT and Top Producer columnist.

First, you should assess your current employee bench. “A good place to start is with three simple categories: age, experience and expertise,” she says.

Age: Consider the number of years your team has left to work, Aubrey suggests. Also think through the stage in life a person is in at certain age ranges. For example, people with young children at home or those 

caring for others are often pulled in many directions with family commitments. When you look to fill positions, are some people more likely to need part-time options or a lot of time off? Do you need to consider two part-time people for one job?
Experience: This is the most important category for assessing the leadership potential right now and going forward, Aubrey says. Do your people have the necessary seasons under their belts to lead? Are you investing in younger employees?
Expertise: Be very specific about your teams’ specialties, Aubrey encourages. List the special skills, gifts and talents for each employee. Also identify any of their unique training and education. Do the same for yourself. “Again, this is not so much about age as it is about skills and natural tendencies,” she says.

Identify Gaps

Once you’ve looked at the current bench, consider the pipeline needed. Are some areas of your operation too thin in terms of backups and backups to the backups? This can be a great way to develop contingency plans.

Start by asking key employees to identify a backup team member who could temporarily carry out their responsibilities, suggests Amy Wirtz, an attorney, certified exit-planning adviser and mediator. The backup can be someone already on payroll or someone from the outside who has similar skill sets. 

This will help you prioritize your team’s cross-training needs, Wirtz says, and it will also help you decide who could fill in for you if you need to be away from the farm for an extended period. As you do this analysis, also look for any significant gaps in employee credentials or trainings. 

“I encourage business owners to think broadly about the idea of talent acquisition in terms of a brief risk assessment that considers the talent pool now and the decisions you have yet to make,” Aubrey says. “Don’t forget to build your bench for success.”  

Sarah Beth Aubrey’s latest book “Who’s Running Your Farm Next?” captures the tremendous leadership transition happening in agriculture. She provides five steps to develop and coach young leaders. Learn more at