Talk to any business owner about their business, and it won’t be long before the conversation turns to the problem of finding talent and keeping it. It’s a key issue in the marketplace. Those who do that well, succeed. Moreover, those who don’t, well, they end up having a hard time.
They all know that employee engagement means more productivity, better quality and ultimately, higher profits. The best of them usually want to learn how to tap into the “hidden talents” of employees.
The amount of “hidden talent” in most businesses is near zero.
The best definition of talent I know is “the ability of a person to perform a duty or action.” If it’s a natural ability, they were “born to do it.” It’s innate. If It’s something they’ve learned, then they have picked up this skill over time, moving from “conscious incompetence” to “unconscious competence.” A learned skill becomes a talent when it’s so ingrained that you can’t tell whether they were born with it or not.
People have an awfully hard time hiding something that they do unconsciously… because it’s unconscious. Only in dysfunctional circumstances will people attempt to hide their talents.
However, employees often display talents that are not recognized; an employee’s fundamental aptitude may not be at the core of his responsibilities, but he’ll leverage it wherever he can use it.
This “Hidden-ness” We Talk About is Really Three Things:
- Our inability as business owners to recognize employee talents when displayed. It’s there, but we don’t see it;
- A lack of processes to develop and deploy talent when it is recognized. We see it, but don’t know how to use it;
- A “cultural deficit” that intentionally ignores or hinders the expression of talents not specific to the employee’s current position. We see it, but sorry, we’ve already defined you.
RECOGNIZING EMPLOYEE TALENTS
Recognizing talent is a talent itself. Moreover, it can be learned. Some keys:
- Employee interaction should exceed the transaction. When interacting with employees, make sure it’s not just about the work or problem at hand. Be present and observe the way they think and how they deal with the issue at hand. Business owners who are wearing too many hats often find themselves moving from transaction to transaction and not taking time to see the whole picture. Observation is something we do intentionally.
- Know the personality type of your employees and which types are most likely to perform best in each position. Position everyone to be successful. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins calls this getting the employee “in the right seat on the bus.
- What compliment does your employee dismiss? What is the underlying trait of the excellent performance? You could be observing their most natural talent (it comes easily to them).
- Learn why they like what they like. Understanding what part of the job an employee likes is good. Better still; understand the reason why the employee likes it. Is it their natural organization skill? Is it interaction with people? Is it working on a team?
- Ask for volunteers. Employees who volunteer are often “playing to their strengths.”
- Get to know your people! What are their hobbies, passions interests? What are they hoping to accomplish?
CREATE PROCESSES THAT DEVELOP AND DEPLOY TALENT
Performance and talent management systems may sound like “big company” solutions, but every business needs a system it can trust to develop employees.
You need to have a method for noting what you learn in the office or on the shop floor so that you can consistently develop people and fully utilize their skills.
ADDRESS CULTURAL DEFICITS
Every business can improve their culture. As the business owner, your people will need to trust your leadership to bring their whole selves to work.
One method that works well is the practice of Appreciative Inquiry. This change management process stems from the proposition that “systems develop in the direction of the questions that you ask.” What single thing can you do today, to recognize the talents your employees display? What simple process can you use to manage better how your employees develop? What needs to change in your culture so that you more fully know the potential of your workforce?
At Cogent Analytics, we never stop looking for ways to improve your business and neither should you. So, check out some of our other posts for helpful business information: