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VOL. 126 | NO. 62 | Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Susan Drake

Hidden Talents Pay Dividends


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Do you really know your team and their capabilities? Do you understand what kind of work they like to do best? Could their hobbies or avocations come into play in your workplace? Are there skills they’d like to further develop? And how much better could your company function if you took the time to consider these things?

When we hire people for positions, we look at the list the job requires and compare it with the candidate’s skills. If there’s a close match, we put them into a nice, neat org chart box, do an annual performance evaluation and expect that they’ll pass with flying colors. That will be that.

Truth is, we may not want to know what else our successful employees would like to do because we don’t want to lose them from their existing jobs. But when team members have multiple skills they don’t get to use, they can become burned out and dissatisfied with doing the same old thing. And we also suffer a missed opportunity. But what if…

What if we tapped those hidden talents and supported our employees in developing their other interests and strengths? They don’t necessarily have to change positions. They could pursue activities as an adjunct to their normal job responsibilities. I don’t mean make them work harder or do more without trading off some duties or even receiving additional compensation. But at least consider a panorama of flexible duties that don’t fit into nice, neat little boxes with linear job descriptions.

Following this line of thinking, you can get a much bigger payoff than you ever dreamed, such as more motivated and energized employees, greater bench strength, and skills that you might not be able to afford to hire a full-time or even part-time person to deliver with a team of your typical size.

Aren’t those possibilities worth much more than static job functions?

How do you go about realizing these potential treasures? Be alert to your surroundings. It doesn’t take an expert to look at someone’s desk and see artwork they’ve created, or trophies, or certificates for extracurricular activities. Everyone knows that Jill makes jewelry, Jack coaches Little League and Jan participates in Toastmasters. Might these translate into Jill enjoying learning to do more creative PowerPoint presentations, or Jack organizing a United Way fundraiser or Jan acting as your spokesperson at the Chamber?

When you conduct performance evaluations, ask the simple question: Is there any type of skill you’d enjoy developing that’s outside the normal scope of your job? Give your employees the latitude to pursue their passion and you’ll reap rewards that pay off in personal and business terms.

Susan Drake is president of Spellbinders Internal and External Marketing. You can reach her at susand@spellbindersinc.com.

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