In a typical company there is a cross-section of talent – say, 10% high performers, 10% of under-performers and around 80% in the middle. While much of management’s time and energy is spent on the extremes, the challenge of finding the right “people strategy” for the average employee often gets lost in the mix.
So what can you do to redress the balance for the stalwart performers who are doing the day-to-day stuff well enough without standing out? Anthony K. Tjan provides some pointers on the HBR.orgBlog Network. Tjan says it is essential to address the issue because, if average employees lack appropriate guidance and management attention, it can create a lack of understanding regarding who has the real potential to move up the ladder with the right nurturing.
What’s more, the author says, this situation can have a negative effect on those actually capable of making a difference, creating retention and motivation issues.
Tjan admits: “There will always be a distribution, even if it is a forced curve, of talent potential and capability in a business. “But,” he adds, “the goal should be to raise the overall average of the entire pool, and avoid letting it get pulled down.”
Tjan proposes two simple ideas to help the situation. First, he insists the practice of conducting regular and specific performance feedback is essential. Just as important is ensuring that the person given the task of reviewing performance is both capable and respected.
The author comments: “Senior people who are responsible for managing the middle pool of talent should also be managed on their own ability to see, sift, cultivate, and retain the very best of that pool. How you grow and mentor organisational talent should be an evaluation criterion for senior managers’ performance.” Second, Tjan advocates “Fit Test Points” at regular intervals in a person’s career. With performance reviews, as long as someone is getting the job done to a reasonable standard, the situation is viewed as acceptable. But that view is biased in favour of the interests of the company.
Tjan says: “A ‘Fit Test Point’ is a tool to carefully consider the best interests of an employee. Is this person in product development really better served finding a position as an industry or market researcher, or is that analyst, who can clearly make the next two rungs of the management track ball mill, better served making a switch in her career now, given the opportunity cost of time?”
He adds: “We all know situations where instincts and experience alerted us that a job was not the best fit for someone, yet we let the person continue because they filled a short-term need or because we lacked the courage to have the honest ‘Fit Test’ conversation Raymond mill.” As business leaders we should see how we can realize the full potential of each employee and help those who are not right for the business find other jobs where they can be more productive and happier.
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