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Unleash the Hidden Talents of Your Employees

by Jul 7, 2009, 5:12 am ET

Imagine being able to unleash the hidden talents and untapped skills of every single one of your employees?

Imagine if every single one of your employees, from front-line staff to senior management, was 100% engaged, doing the work they were cut out for, contributing to the success of your organization by focusing on their core competencies.

Can you envision the collective power you would unleash? No laggards … just a company filled with rising stars. Absenteeism would drop instantly, worker defections to your competitors would cease entirely. Entire departments would start exceeding quotas.

You would become a preferred employer, and employee recruitment would be an exercise in picking the talent you wanted. Better yet, what if I told you this can be achieved and without the tremendous cost and resource drain of investing in hard-to-measure training programs? That long-sought-after seat at the management table would suddenly materialize for you.

Does this sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not. There is a beautifully simple tool called a “human capital development audit” that you can implement immediately to achieve these results.

Here’s how it works: For each employee in your organization, you match the roles and responsibilities of the job they are employed in with their skills, core competencies, and experience. Be as expansive and broad as possible in identifying their skills. Consider their academic training, software skills, certifications, professional development, leadership, cultural diversity … everything!

The diagram above illustrates a human capital audit conducted for the fictitious customer service rep Jessica Rivera. After identifying all the roles and responsibilities she is tasked with accomplishing, you then detail her skills. Use a spreadsheet and simply line up the roles and skills along one another in facing columns.

These should be obtained through interviews with Jessica, her current (and any past) managers, her coaches/mentors, peers she has worked with, etc.

After that is accomplished you drill down to identify which skill sets that she possesses that are not being used. In order to maximize the positive impact to your organization from an ROI perspective, you should prioritize those skills that she is not currently using, based on her ability to generate revenues, reduce costs, improve your organization’s processes, etc.

Next, you must develop an action plan for all of the highest priority non-leveraged skills that Jessica possesses. For each untapped skill, set a time frame for completion and any contingencies, or potential barriers, that would prevent her (and her manager) from making those untapped skills part of her newly redesigned job description.

In Jessica’s case, she is adept at using her persuasive, good-natured personality to suggest complimentary products to cross-upsell to her company’s existing clients. It’s her nature to take care of her clients, and she naturally knows how to ask probing questions. She also has an uncanny knack for being a leader on her team. She’s the one who other customer service reps in her unit turn to for advice, even before they engage their own line managers. These are powerful skills to have in a customer care manager and yet, in this scenario, they are not being used.

For this human capital audit to work, it has to be embraced by your senior management, owned by human resources, and conducted for all departments and levels of your organization. It should be reviewed quarterly, and merit-based compensation plans should be developed for employees that integrate untapped core competencies into their new roles and responsibilities.

Having said that, most HR professionals that I work with and lecture indicate this is not possible. They claim it is a big-time commitment, and doesn’t seem to be something that can be quantified, in terms of impact to the organization.

I would offer that, in this challenging economic environment, even if you only achieve a 50% increase in each employee’s productivity, the positive potential impact to your company would be great. I guarantee that a 50% increase in your entire organization’s productivity will force senior management to take notice of human resource’s role as a strategic partner in driving value through the organization.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • http://www.lrcassoc.net Lawrence Cassidy

    Fantastic article!

    I have told employers this for years. Starting my business during the “Blue-Collar Recession” in 1982, I focused on gaining multi-talented people who were lucky to utilize 20-30% of their abilities. My clients realized these people were needed if they wanted to survive during a recession. The hidden talents ignored by previous employers were unleashed and had an impact on those they had contact with throughout the work day. Eventually retrieving the hidden talent in those engaging in change, survival, and restructure their work practices through plant-wide engagement. This enabling my client to be 2-3 years ahead of their competitors by the time the economy recovered. It’s ironic how my business is busy during recession, such as now. Companies become more pro-active when our nation is in a economic crisis, and management lowers the guard and begins listening to employees. Let’s face it, most managers may only have 5-10 years in their environment, never taking into account they have 200, 400, even more years of combined talent among their employees. And yet, their knowledge, suggestions, are shot down enough times for resume’;s to begin circulating.
    I see revolving doors escalate due to management holding people down. In many instances, it could very well be based on personal threats felt by supervisors/managers who fear the strength of their employees’ abilities/knowledge.
    HR and other top Management should observe what’s transpiring when multiple people are leaving particular departments throughout the year. Many never perform “Exit Interviews” to gain valuable information on the needs to fine tune business practices. Many I’ve talked to don’t take into account the cost of their employees’ separation from their company, which is much more than what they’re saving on one’s pay structure, benefits, etc.
    In 2005 the figure of people separating from employers, due to not getting along with their immediate supervisors was at 60% and had risen to as high as 70% in 2007.
    Does anyone know what those figures are today during this present recession – higher or lower than 70%?

    Lawrence Cassidy, Sr. Technical Recruiter
    “Helping to Build Corporations Snce 1982″

  • http://www.thechazingroup.com ethan chazin

    Lawrence,
    You raise alot of points in your post. The one I’d take the most exception to is your observation that: “Companies become more pro-active when our nation is in a economic crisis, and management lowers the guard and begins listening to employees.” Not sure how you can quantify this claim. Anecdotally through my discussions with hundreds of organizations they are NOT being proactive in unleashing their people’s talents. I have found that most are taking the opposite approach. They first cut hiring, then slash training programs and professional development, then stop backfilling open positions, cut back employee benefits, and lastly initiate across-the-board staff reductions. Check out my website (www.thechazingroup.com) for more informaton on this.

  • http://www.lrcassoc.net Lawrence Cassidy

    Ethan,
    You are absolutely right when looking at the overall norm of human capital, and the emotional impacts downsizing has on the majority of corporations – large and small. Today, they’re cutting people, benefits, and numerous other costs
    to survive. Many of today’s practices stem from the banking issues, the Dow plunging before the election, mortgage crisis and banks not providing operating capital.
    The majority with these practices are also under the scope since they are public traded companies reporting to their shareholders. In their cases, cutting an executive at the cost of $250K, doesn’t phase them as much as it would a privately held company incapable of passing that hidden cost on to their clients. Similar to our automotive industries until the bubble bursted with no cars being sold to offset their mismanagement of funds. This is definately a different era than ever experienced in our nation’s manufacturing history.
    The exceptions, a small minority of businesses, do everything to retain their people in order to avoid hiring new people when the economy recovers. I’ve had clients cut bonuses, take salary reduction in order to obtain their shop floor employees and take advantage of the slow times, by cross-training their people, even if it means pulling new talent from outside to launch new business practices throughout the entire plants. As many, with vision, realize they have to do if they wish to survive. These are the types of companies I deal with. Diversify your product lines, you’d better get top talent who carries the expertise instead of allowing your current staff to try it on their own. Like the companies I had to gain Quality professionals for in order to take them into ISO certification modes. Many companies asked for these people during a recession, to train their employees on these practices in order to be ahead of their competitors. Many of people became Plant or Operations Manager due to their rapport and trust they established with all people while implementing these crucial quality programs. The companies wanting my help, and told me they had no further need for my candidates’ expertise once they received their banners, never saw my candidates’ resume’s. I am very selective on people and companies I’ll represent. I’m not in the numbers and quotas game. I want positive results to help companies and their people grow.
    When our heavy vehicular industries took a blow due to new emission standards being levied on them by Congress in 2007, I was asked to gain new Advanced Manufdacturing Engineers, HR /LR Managers and Industria Engineers capable of transitioning the way their plants had operated for decades. People came together, (Management-Union Employees), Lean practices previously implemented but never practiced were placed in motion. Time Studies, Methods and Standards were practiced for the first time in 7 years. I recruited Baby Boomers out of retirement as full-time employees, (not consulting gigs), to put these practices into motion. My HR/LR Manager who retired after having 5 seperate automotive plants under his leadership, literally transitioned the Management/Labor practices, and after getting rid of all temp help, enabling others to take retirement packages, was successful in saving these plants from being shut down. I needed his expertise to pull this off due to the threat we’re facing if the Employee Free Chice Act is ever voted in.
    Your point of observation is so true about most management
    styles. The majority fear they could be cut, and do everything to protect their own interest. BUT, that small group of companies, such as the one I just mentioned, realize you can truly take advantage of recessionary periods, cross-train your people, spend more time retreiving their hidden talents with open communication.
    Many companies only speak Team Concept and never realize what it truly is until someone, (normally professional HR, Plant, Operations Managers), come together to establish
    plantwide practices.
    I pulled a CEO out of retirement 3 times after his retiring from a NYSE traded corporation. First when the “White-Collar Recession” occured in 1990. He called a few months ago since I had a question for him. At 72 years old, he was pulled out of retirement, again to restrucutre 5 union plants which literally crippled our automotive industries from building cars after July of 2008. The supplier went on strike last February. When everything was analyzed, (wages, manpower, raw materials, scrap, utilities, etc),3 of 5 plants were shut and qualified employees, union/non were offered to tansfer.
    I feel with emtions high during any crisis, only outsiders can see thing more objectively and literally transition the way companies should and can operate. Many are going to conform to change much easier when they have no alternative, no other companies to go to work for, begin accepting new ideas and finally accepting other input, or hidden talents. Retrieiving hidden talents is all about boosting internal morale, and re-building a company, during economic booms or recessions.
    Those with vision, take advantage of recessions implemntn these practiceswhile their competitors rest onb the side line waiting for the economy to recover.

    How many people, companies took advantage of the stock market when it took a dive in 2008? I’ll bet the percentage is similar to companies who re-structure their business during these eras. Some think out of the box, while others have too many meetings and never reach conclusions to execute. Which ones do you think have the desire to retrieve their hiddent talent?