Finding “hidden” talent on your team

Everyone wants “top talent,” but many struggle with properly evaluating and developing it. Like most other aspects of management, discovering talent is part skill and part, well, talent.

Finding talent requires a certain openness and willingness to steer clear of traditional thinking about what makes someone good at what they do.

Let’s take the hiring process, for example. Far too often we buy into the myth of the “charismatic” employee whose gift for articulation and self-promotion naturally indicates superior skills and ability. They are so confident and upbeat; they must be talented, right? Um…wrong.

Or, perhaps through lack of time and energy, we assume that someone who’s been responsible for performing certain tasks in the past will competently perform those tasks in the future. We don’t stop to ask ourselves (or the job candidate) how well the job was done. This mindset packs a double negative whammy. It provides a false self of who’s right for the role and encourages us to dismiss others who would be right, if only we had considered that transferrable skills can be as valid as past experience.

Post hire, it becomes far too easy to stop paying attention to what’s working with the new employee and instead focus on what’s not. Sadly, however, that’s a sure way to lose sight of the individual’s strengths, taking for granted that a task is simple because a skilled employee makes it look that way.

Putting this all together, it’s a safe assumption that the people on your team possess their share of “hidden” talents that either weren’t detected during the hiring process (everyone was too busy matching trait for trait to the job description) or haven’t been appreciated (since everyone is too busy trying to fix the employee’s “flaws.”) What a waste! Instead of the status quo, how can you draw your employees’ underappreciated abilities to the forefront, and in so doing create a win-win for the organization and the staff?

#1. Get Your Worldview in Order

What we do is a direct result of what we believe, and if you believe that anyone can be taught to do anything, you’ll be bent on remediating employee “weaknesses” rather than focusing on employee strengths that could be developed for the betterment of the organization.

Example: John B. is a branch manager. John was an MSR in a previous life and knows everything worth knowing about the credit union business. He’s also affable, dependable, and wholly trustworthy. However, John’s boss is often critical of the one thing John isn’t so good at — paperwork. One time John’s boss got so frustrated he complained to HR. Paula in HR heard the boss out. She knows John and is very familiar with his reputation as a hard and effective worker. She wonders aloud whether John’s administrative duties shouldn’t be delegated to someone else, leaving John more time to concentrate on what he does best. But the boss doesn’t like that idea. He’s insistent that paperwork is a part of the job, and John needs to get better at it. He recommends the company send John to time management training. Paula just shakes her head.

The bottom line. Everyone isn’t naturally good at everything. People have innate talents. Better to exploit those than over-rely on training to fix “flaws.”

#2. Mind Your Employee’s Motivation

What makes your employees tick? Why do they work for your company and not someone else’s?

Most people need a paycheck, that’s a given. However, money alone doesn’t motivate. Once an employee’s basic financial needs are met, people look for much more from work – such as affinity with mission as well as validation, community, intellectual stimulation, and even power. Knowing what drives your employees can help guide them to better performance. Omnia’s behavioral assessments are an excellent and objective way to solicit this valuable information.

Example: Nancy K. is an MSR. Nancy has a “helping personality” and enjoys answering member queries and generally working with people to solve their problems. She has been with the company several years and understands how things work. Recently, Nancy was told by her manager that customer service reps will soon be expected to add “upselling” to their repertoire. In fact, each rep will be responsible for meeting a monthly sales quota. On the plus side, workers who exceed goal will be eligible for a cash bonus. Nancy likes the idea of a bonus, but she’s terrified she won’t be able to meet her quota, and she hates the idea of “pushing” product on members. She’s heartbroken at the thought that she may have to quit (or be removed from) a job she’s enjoyed for so long.

The bottom line. This new initiative is sure to fail if Nancy’s employer doesn’t figure out that Nancy is motivated by the opportunity to assist customers rather than the prospect of earning additional cash. What’s more, Nancy views upselling as counter to helping members. Now imagine if the boss understood all that? Instead of a set up for failure, Nancy could be coached to view upselling as an additional way to help members by exposing them to services they need but may be unaware of.

To sum things up, your employees probably have talents you haven’t discovered yet. However, bringing these “hidden talents” out and into the light is entirely possible if you keep an open mind and your eye on what motivates your staff.

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, is the SVP at The Omnia Group.  She offers clients advice on how to manage more effectively and gain insight into employee strengths, weaknesses ... Web: Details