Are You Overlooking Your Top Talent?

If you look at the hierarchy in your office, do you have the most qualified people on your staff in the top management positions? Are the people on the bottom of the heap truly the least qualified?

Top talent doesn’t necessarily mean the highest on the totem pole or those who have the broadest skill set. Your employee with the best business-writing skills might be a low-level staffer. A coordinator-level staffer might have some of the best social media expertise in your office. Your staff might surprise you if you look at their complete array of business skills – not just the ones you’ve put into their job descriptions. Top talent can include an ace at a specific skill who is not necessarily a staffer with the most complete skill set.

One of the best ways to avoid underutilizing talented people on your staff – and eventually losing them to another agency, department or private-sector company that understands their value – it might be a good idea to “fire” everyone in your office this weekend. Imagine that you came into your office one day and everyone was gone. Just like the departed in the HBO series, “The Leftovers,” all of your staff had suddenly disappeared. For good.

You now must re-build your organization from scratch. Would you hire the exact same types of people with the exact same hard and soft skills and put them in the exact same positions as you have today? If your current organization chart doesn’t show your most talented people at the top and the rest listed in order of their value to your department or agency, it’s time to start re-assessing the worth of your team members.

Look at Your Reviews

Is HR telling you that your employees are frustrated with your leadership? Do you hear that your employees feel they aren’t being used to their fullest? Do they complain that you practice favoritism, promoting unqualified staff members. Employees who believe they are using all of the critical skills they’ve developed through school, internships, seminars, workshops and mentorships are less likely to complain that their boss doesn’t know how to manage. Don’t fall into the trap of promoting employees with the most confidence or “biggest mouths.” You might create areas of your organization that operate using smoke and mirrors.

Re-Imagine Your Org Chart

If you haven’t looked at your org chart lately, do so this weekend. Have you created jobs based on the people you had, looking for roles for them to keep them on board or because they didn’t fit into their original position? Look at each job and ask yourself what would happen if you eliminated it. If you need a particular position, ask if Joe is the best choice for that role and if you’d hire him again. Ask yourself if you had the budget to add one or more employees, what jobs you’d create or if you’re perfectly staffed right now.

Assess Your Job Descriptions

Review each employee’s job description. Start by creating job descriptions before you read the current ones you have. Match your best-case job descriptions to the ones you have on file. You might find you’re not asking your employees to contribute in ways that would not only benefit your organization, but which would also challenge them and make them more committed to their jobs. List the critical skills you need in your organization and then determine if they are assigned to the right employees, or if they’re going unserved.

Review Each Employees Skill-Set

Now that you know what your perfect organization looks like, take a look at each employee in that context. Review their skills and match them to the needs list you created. You might find that a low-level employee has a critical skill or talent you’ve assigned to a manager who isn’t quite up to speed in that area. This is an opportunity to take advantage of that lower-level staff members’ underutilized skill.

Analyze your Succession Plan

Make sure you can keep your dream organization intact from year to year by reviewing your succession plan. Are you developing your staff from the bottom up? Do you know where each employee will fit into your plan three years from now? Do you know how you’ll replace each employee if any leave? Look at the training and development opportunities you have in place for each staff member. Finally, discuss with each employee where they seem themselves down the road and if they have any skills they want to contribute but don’t have the chance to.

Start Offering Opportunities

Once you’ve identified staff members who have more to offer your organization than they currently are, start giving them opportunities. You can start by simply letting them sit in on planning meetings with managers. Next, ask them to offer feedback and suggestions on proposed initiatives you’re working on. Finally, start letting them take responsibility for projects or suggesting ones they’d like to try.

Warning Signs

If you’re overlooking your top talent, you increase the chances they’ll underperform even at simple tasks. They might defect to another employer who sees their value. Look for positive, engaged employees who often volunteer for extra work or aren’t shy about making suggestions. These staff members feel you respect their opinions, most likely because you are using their talents. If you have negative employees, ones who gossip, those who keep quiet during meetings, employees out the door at 5:01 pm each evening or staffers with ongoing attendance problems, they might feel they are in a dead-end job. Make sure your employees feel valued and that their skills are being used to their fullest.

Additional Resources:

You May be Overlooking your Top Talent

Nurturing the Top Talent in your Organization

Nine Best Practices for Effective Talent Management

Effective Talent Management Has Become an Essential Strategy for Organizational Success

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Chaeny Emanavin

My org tries every year to reorganize for efficiency. Then the next group comes in and changes it again. All of this is unofficial as we have to submit the changes to the department for formal inclusion in the departmental manual. Once it’s submitted, it’s changed by new management and submitted again. These are great ideas, but some of them might have to be “informal” changes in organizations like mine else they will be out of date by the time it’s “official”.