Are You Putting Your Great Talent in the Wrong Roles?

Even the most talented employees will ultimately fail if they're a bad fit with their job.
By: | May 29, 2019 • 4 min read

You may have hired the right person but have them in the wrong position if any of the following scenarios sound familiar to you:

Someone who seemed to have a lot of potential when they were first hired, but now they’re not meeting expectations. A person who’s good at the secondary task requirements of a role, but not the primary ones. An employee who’s a great fit with the company culture, but isn’t performing well in their role. Someone who’s a natural leader within a team, but has mediocre performance on the key result areas. Employees frequently complain about a particular manager’s “style.” There is a higher than desired turnover rate due to employees not being a “good fit” for the team or organization.

The right person may have been hired, but in today’s ever-changing work environment, the required skills also need to change or be developed. The employees who aren’t encouraged to continually develop their skills and learn more about their role end up being the wrong fit for the position.

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So what should you do to ensure that you have the right employee in the right role?

Read on to learn what can be done to help avoid any of these scenarios, assist your employees in meeting their full potential and create a more successful business.

Competencies to Match

There may not be anything wrong with the company, individual or the team—other than you possibly having the right person hired for the wrong position. If this is the case, it’s just a matter of finding the best role for each individual that allows them to leverage their personal skills and attributes. The goal is to align the competencies needed to be successful with the person who’s naturally strong in those competencies. You should strive to provide proper alignment of not just competencies, but of the skills or values that are desired within the company.

If someone is important to the organization, it’s crucial to focus on matching the person’s natural desires and strengths to your company’s values, its organizational climate or what is needed to achieve the company’s goals. Some examples of the type of competencies to match are Service Focus, Adaptability, Global Mindset and Safety Focus.

Teams or departments have their own sub-climates, which are usually stronger than that of the organization. Therefore, it’s important to match a person to certain aspects of the team. An individual could be very successful within the organization, so long as their own competencies align with what’s needed or expected within a given team or department. If you’re looking to match an individual to a sub-group, the following are examples of competencies you might focus on: Scientific Acumen, Quality Focus, Accountability, and Comfort with Ambiguity and Adaptability.

For individual contributor roles, the ideal is having someone who’s internally motivated instead of relying on others to help or motivate them. Achievement Motivation and Perseverance, Initiating Action, and Accountability are areas to consider for anyone within an individual contributor role.

For some people, providing advice, motivation and leadership skills comes naturally. If a person is identified as having these traits and is still in an individual contributor role, it may be a good idea to consider them for a management role. The types of competencies to look for here are Team Building, Coaching and Developing Others, Driving Results, Conflict Management, Leading Change and Generating, and Expressing Enthusiasm.

Team Roles

Team roles differ from assigned tasks. Each team member within your company has their own set of responsibilities, but the outcome of how well they perform affects the health and success of your company. In order to be as successful as possible, it’s important for teams to have diversity among their roles and people with different natural skill sets. Four roles that are measured in our Team Roles Report are Champion, Creator, Implementer and Facilitator.

Champions – People who promote ideas and a vision, rally the team and push for change. Champions tend to focus on the big-picture goals, and without them, teams would lack vision and direction.

Creators – People who come up with ideas, design solutions and take on creative challenges. They tend to synthesize information, assess risks and calculate action steps. Teams would struggle to deliver innovation without creators.

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Implementers – People who are executors, handle daily work activities, and oversee tasks that are detail intensive or require you to go into the weeds. Things would fall apart without an implementer.

Facilitators – People who hold everything together, especially with the different mindsets and approaches of people on a team. They manage the team’s relationships, internally and externally, and make sure the needed support is provided.

By taking the time to define team roles within your company, you’ll be taking the right steps to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your team.

Individual Contributor vs. Leadership Position

In some cases, people have been promoted to management positions because they were good producers or individual contributors in regards to their responsibilities and duties. They were rewarded by getting a promotion with the primary purpose of not wanting to lose them. However, failing to ascertain whether the individual has the competencies necessary to be successful in an individual contributor versus manager role can cause a plethora of issues. There are different sets of competencies and skills that are needed for an individual contributor role versus a management position.

General Competencies for an Effective Individual Contributor Role:

  • Accountability
  • Extended Task Focus
  • Initiating Action
  • Service Focus
  • Compliance
  • Applying Standard Practices

General Competencies for a Successful Management Position:

  • Leadership Communication
  • Conflict Management
  • Driving Results
  • Leading Change
  • Coaching and Developing Others
  • Delegating
  • Team Building

Helping employees expand their skill set, get more experience and control their careers is essential to keeping them engaged and productive.

Trevor Shylock is an industrial/organizational psychology consultant at Caliper.