Managers need to be able to recognize talent in both new and current employees at every level. This skill is more than just reading between the lines on someone’s carefully crafted resume but also identifying and developing hidden skills and abilities possessed by direct and indirect reports. But this skill takes work; it means looking at existing employees and candidates for open positions in a new way, starting in the hiring process and continuing through the employee’s tenure.
Conventional management methods prevent managers from discovering their employees’ hidden talents. From day one, new hires and current employees are stuck within the confines of their positions that require specific skill sets and prescribe specific tasks. Their job descriptions determine their roles, and management ends up only seeing their employees or that position as this narrowly-tailored role.
Breaking through that barrier requires spending time to learn more about the employees and how they work. For example, the way they approach and work through tasks or interact with their peers, as well as how they organize (or don’t organize) their work spaces, tells a lot about what task can be added or removed from their positions and reallocated to better utilize that employee’s abilities.
It’s not necessarily the most comfortable thing for managers to interact with employees, particularly when the employees approach tasks and their jobs differently from how the manager would do it. Most people tend to avoid interacting with people who seem very different from them, but it requires stepping out of that comfort zone and identifying biases. For example, a very tidy manager may be put off by an employee who keeps a messy desk, but by spending time with her may realize that she is a great problem-solver and has a lot to offer the team.
Appreciating employees who are different helps managers find the best candidates during the hiring process and throughout everyday activities. With an open mind, managers might learn that the employee or candidate they try to avoid at every turn has the most talent.
This also applies to building teams. It might make sense on the surface to build teams filled with people who think alike or have the same work style, but introducing unlikely team members or combinations of staff, first through more informal events and then officially in teams, may help companies better solve problems. At first, keeping it informal lets everyone get to know each other in a relaxed setting before diving into projects. That messy desk employee introduced into a team of tidy folks may end up offering the solution needed for a pressing business problem.
While it may seem difficult, slowing down to appreciate current employees and candidates during the hiring process can help find the right team members, even if they approach things differently. It helps to look past what seem like weaknesses and focus on strengths, which makes it easier to find hidden talents. This also helps with employee satisfaction and retention, as employees enjoy working on tasks suited to their abilities.