Who's On Your Bench? Why You Should Focus on the B Team

Business.com / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

While your A Team is out winning, don't forget about you back up players. Your B Team is more important than you realize.

Companies always talk about having a great A team—these are the go-getters, the ones who are looking to climb the ladder as fast as possible.

Businesses invest a tremendous amount of time and money developing these people. But what about everyone else? What about your B team? Should you work to develop them? 

Krisi Rossi O’Donnell, Vice President of Staffing & Recruiting at LaSalle Network, thinks you should focus on your B players and there are many reasons why. We break them down below.

Related Article: Make the Dream Work: 12 Proven Tactics For Building a Better Team

Describe a B Player

B players are the players who, with some direction, do their jobs well. They execute tasks when given directions and when followed up on consistently. They may not completely understand the full implication of their jobs on the overall business (bigger picture) but they do realize that their jobs are important and they act as such.

B players make up about 60-70 percent of an organization. They typically fly under the radar because most organizations focus on either the top 20 percent or bottom 20 percent. B players land right in the middle and are most often, the group getting the least amount of attention.

How do they differ from A Players?

A players are easier to distinguish. They are the top producers week over week and are the employees you trust to delegate projects to. They are the high-potentials who need little—if any—guidance and are able to take a project and execute beyond what is expected. A players are self-aware and able to make independent decisions autonomously.

The B players, on the other hand, are the potential high-potentials. They need guidance, but are able to take direction and apply the feedback the first time it is given. B players are able to come up with resolutions, but need reassurance that their choices are correct. When asked about the how’s and why’s of what they are doing, they get it but lack confidence that their answers are correct and sometimes don’t understand the bigger picture of their impact on the organization.

Related Article: How to Recruit Top Talent (Even if Your Company Isn’t Cool)

Why not just have A players and get rid of the B’s?

In order to keep an organization growing at a healthy pace there needs to be a plan in place for the future. In a perfect world, the A’s will stay at the company and not be tempted to leave for other opportunities, but we don’t live in a perfect world and if offered a higher salary, they could leave.

Managers can’t assume their A players will be there forever; therefore, recognizing and training the next generation of leaders needs to happen early on. B players are the core of your succession planning process. While you should always be looking for A players, to think that you can’t foster and teach a B player to be an A is incorrect.

B players stay in their positions a little longer, really learning the craft and when they are ready to be promoted, they have a strong understanding of the operations of the group. Home grown growth affects all employees positively. Growing your B’s into your future management/leadership team has long standing, positive effects on an organization.

How can managers develop their B players? Is it possible to turn a B into an A?

Yes it is possible, but there needs to be a lot of time spent with them. Time is the greatest gift they can ever receive from a manager. Oftentimes, managers want to spend time with A players because it’s more enjoyable—they are easier to manage and the conversations are richer; however, managers need to focus on building the skills of the B players, too.

They need to have the patience to help them learn from their mistakes. It will pay off in dividends. Managers also need to realize that an employee can gain valuable experience, not just from the manager in one:one situation.

For example, move desks around and have B players sit next to the A players on their teams. This gives them the opportunity to listen to them on the phone and watch how they handle in-person interactions with other coworkers. A mentorship program can be extremely helpful and beneficial, too.

What advantages can a company gain over their competitors by focusing on a B?

Managers and leaders are moving 100 MPH to get things done so the company can continue growing, and depending on the company culture, some managers only care about immediate results, not necessarily helping employees grow.

What happens as a result? The A player that is producing leaves and there is no one to immediately fill that gap.

It takes another six weeks to fill that position and there goes six weeks of productivity, not including the ramp up time to get the rehire up to the pace of previous A player. However, companies who are focusing on building the B players early on will have someone who is ready to jump into the game.

Has your company seen success when you've focused on the B players? It can make a huge difference.

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