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Turn employee potential into performance

Brad Wolff

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Find the right fit for the right person to increase success on the job.

Imagine on Monday, you discover that your meticulous, rule-following accountant and creative, eccentric marketing person have switched positions. How likely is this to work out? In truth, some variation of this misalignment is common in most organizations.

Many business leaders say 80 percent of the work is done by only 20 percent of the workforce. These 20 percent are the top performers. They usually produce three to four times more than the others. The main reason for their success is job alignment, not attitude or drive.

Here’s evidence: It’s common for top performers to be moved or promoted and then become poor performers. Likewise, many poor performers become top performers when moved to appropriate roles. Bottom line: Everyone can be a top or poor performer based on how well their work aligns with their innate characteristics (often referred to as natural gifts or abilities).

How do you deliberately create an organization where people’s work is aligned with their natural abilities?

Shift your mindset from focusing on skills, experience and education to innate characteristics first. It’s common for people who are great on paper to get hired and become poor performers. In that same vein, many top performers start off lacking in the required experience and education. When people’s work aligns with their innate characteristics, they can use their natural abilities and unleash their passion for their work.

Select the right assessment tool. Many organizations use personality assessments in the hope of gaining more objective information about people. However, the results are usually disappointing. This happens because what you think of as personality is often mostly surface-level, observable behaviors.

What’s a better option? Select an assessment that delves beneath the personality into what is more core or innate with people. Taylor Protocols and Predictive Index are examples of companies that have assessments to accomplish this objective.

Develop clarity on the employee's job responsibilities. It’s important to know what people do on a day-to-day basis in each job. The hiring team (direct manager and others with a major stake in the position success) meets to gain clarity on the percentage of time spent performing each job responsibility. They group together duties that are very similar in nature and estimate the percentage of time spent working on these areas.

The hiring team determines which innate characteristic is critical for each aspect of the job. They also agree on the desired range for each characteristic. For example, on a scale of 1 to 10, the range for creative thinking for this particular job would require a candidate to be between 7 and 9. Or the number for detail orientation for another job would be between 8 and 10. Now you can develop an optimal range for each critical characteristic.

Administer assessment and align employees with job functions. Assess both current employees and potential new hires and compare to the desired ranges. Take the appropriate action based on how strong the level of alignment is. Top performers almost always fit into desired ranges for each critical characteristic.

When current employees don’t align with their jobs, evaluate other positions within the company that they do align well with. Openly discuss available options with employees who are misaligned. Develop a plan to shift roles or tweak job descriptions when this is feasible. Frequently, there are other employees who’d be thrilled to trade positions or some duties that better match with their own innate characteristics.

In the end, the most important job of business owners is to put people in a position to excel rather than get by or fail. How are you doing in your most important task? 

As the managing partner for PeopleMax, based in Atlanta, Georgia, Brad Wolff specializes in workforce and personal optimization. He’s a speaker and author of “People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage.”

Contact: Brad Wolff


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