Being on bench, Blessing in disguise!!

By Prateek Jul 27, 2020

You might be involved in something very similar but it could be named differently, the ‘bench’, is used to refer to the part of an organisation’s employees that are not actively working on any project for the time being. Although they may not be actively contributing to the output of the company, employees on the bench still remain on the payroll of their respective organisations and therefore have an impact on cash flow for the business.

A prime example would be a team game in any sport. While there will be players on the field at any point, there are usually about five or six more players, sitting on the bench as substitutes. This set of players are ready to replace tired or injured players or those having a bad day.

Similarly, employees on the bench are usually called upon when their contributions are needed to take on new projects.

In this blog we will explore the concept of bench why it is a blessing in disguise. 

What is the concept of "bench"?

The bench concept is majorly seen in the IT industry, let’s understand what it is about. It refers to the state of employee or group of employees who are not working on billable projects for some short/long period but are still eligible for all employee benefits from their employers. 

Generally, employees don’t have a problem with being on the bench as they are being paid by their companies without projects - sounds good, doesn’t it! There is another side of the coin, if people will not work, by sitting idle they will not learn anything new which is imperative for their growth or might even end up degrading their current skill set. That's why most employees are scared about being put on a bench. 

But it's a new opportunity 

However, there can be a totally new perspective of being on bench which can be explored to carve out a fruitful set of: 

Skilled & knowledgeable employees ready to fill vacant positions

For employees on bench it might be quite scary to think about their future, learning etc. But it is important to explore why it is not troublesome and rather a chance which opens a door for new opportunities. A popular perception exists that if you are working on a real project only then can you learn new things.

But this is not completely true because while being on the bench, employees can learn new technologies which can help them grow and also help their company in future business & sales pitches. There are some steps you can take to learn new thing:

  1. Identify what you need to learn
  2. Find learning material accordingly
  3. Find a mentor. You can also take help from leads, HR etc.
  4. Plan your learning schedule with some milestones so that you can track your progress with some real outcome

For instance, a Frontend developer can learn some new frontend technologies or a backend developer can learn new languages or sharpen the existing skills.  

There are some online websites where you can enroll yourself for courses & learn new things. Udemy, Coursera, UpGrad are to name a few.

Not just technologies, people can even utilize this time to improve their communication. If anyone wants to improve communication then they can focus on online courses as well.

If you want to upgrade your skills then you can utilize this time to learn project management, Agile etc. So, whenever an opportunity comes you are competent to apply for it. To suggest some really good courses for the people who are willing to move into project management, I’d recommend: 

  1. Basics of Scrum, Agile and Project Delivery  
  2. Agile Scrum Mastery: Full Project Simulation + Certification 

Both of these programs are available on Udemy.

Use your time wisely to develop your skills so that whenever a new opportunity or new project comes your way, you can grab the opportunity with both your hands and make the most out of it. 

YouTube also serves as a good source for learning. A lot of tutorials are available which can be utilized for learning new technologies. 

If you don't want to learn anything, you can use this time to:

  1. Assist other departments (like HR, accounts)
  2. Work on internal projects (Intranet, HR Tool, Some Goal setting tools for delivery etc.)
  3. Improve the existing code
  4. Network with like minded people
  5. Organize virtual meetups

Suggestions for the Company's Leadership

For employees, being on bench is an opportunity which I have explained already, but this would be a major problem for an employer as well. Since these people are not generating revenues, they usually have low morale and are likely to divest from the company. 

It is expected that employees can get demotivated while on bench. Hence this is the leadership’s responsibility to motivate people who are spending time on the bench to learn new things that will be useful. Some key suggestions :

  • Provide guidance to employees by setting up their learning path based on their interest along with training courses
  • Help them with identifying skills that might be required later
  • Connect people to help each other and set up a peer-to-peer process
  • Tag some experienced person (Mentor) with them so that knowledge can be shared 
  • Some team building activities would also help them to focus
  • Some biweekly, monthly checkpoints also help them to track their progress

If employers and employees both can manage to do something like that, the benefit can be huge for everybody.  Employers can then go after new opportunities armed with top quality skills. At the same time, employees will experience positivity by learning something and will be motivated during this not so positive situation. 

So, the bottomline would be to never lose hope as the darkest clouds precede the loveliest rain and I endorse it completely.

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