According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings are up 45 percent since the official end of the recession in July 2009. While this is good news for the U.S. economy, the increase in job opportunities also makes it more challenging to hold on to high-performing, talented employees.
To help ensure that “high potential” individuals remain engaged and motivated, it’s important for business leaders and managers to examine their talent practices and sweep away poor habits. This is particularly effective as the fall weather kicks in, energizing employees after the long, hot summer and making it an ideal time to rid the workplace of practices that threaten talent growth and sustainability.
To help managers optimize talent, below are five practices destructive to talent and ways to eliminate them from the workplace.
- The “Hide and Seek” Game
The “hide and seek” game occurs when a manager “hides” the skills and contributions of a talented performer in order to advance his or her own agenda. As the employee continually gets passed up for advancement within the company, he or she begins to feel trapped, underappreciated and disengaged—thereby more likely to leave the company.
Solution: In order to maintain employee engagement and productivity, it’s important for managers to make a conscious effort to recognize talented individuals, cross-promote successes within departments and provide new challenges for employees.
- The “Buried Alive” Test
This practice consists of shoveling huge amounts of work to already overwhelmed employees. Whether it’s because the manager is overwhelmed with his or her own workload or they believe giving a talented performer more work than he or she can handle is an appropriate development tool, it ultimately leads to burnout and turnover.
Solution: In order to advance talent and secure positive business outcomes, managers should plan ahead in order to coach employees. Having career development discussions and ensuring that the assignments delegated take into account employees’ aspirations as well as company objectives can significantly impact employee engagement and productivity.
- The “Public Flogging” Lesson – Although feedback-rich workplaces are conducive to employee engagement, negative reinforcement and feedback can hinder performance. Many managers rely on this technique when they find themselves receiving negative feedback from their managers or when they feel like failures, and it creates an environment fraught with unintentional integrity issues.
Solution: To maximize on-the-job learning and development, managers should make sure their feedback is frequent, balanced and aligned to the career aspirations of the individual and company objectives. Additionally, by focusing on leveraging employee strengths and developing weaknesses, managers can boost workplace morale and productivity.
- “Be Like Me” Mentoring – Although well-intentioned, teaching subordinates the way the managers themselves were taught results in employees with similar skill sets and leadership styles. While this can have positive and negative effects, amid today’s fluid, fast-changing nature of business, that type of leadership homogeneity stifles innovation and makes it difficult for an organization or team to quickly meet evolving market needs.
Solution: Diversity of thought, in addition to backgrounds and skill sets, is a critical competitive advantage for organizations. In order to support diverse thinking, managers should have open, transparent dialogues with team members and encourage constructive debates to solve challenging business problems.
- The “Never Look Up” Trap – When talented employees master certain tasks, managers often delegate more of the same tasks. However, this causes the employee to be typecast for what he or she can do better than anyone else, instead of challenged to look up from their tactical work to gain new experiences and opportunities.
Solution: In order to encourage broader leadership skills, managers should include employees in more strategic tasks, such as leading a brainstorming session or special project—assignments that strengthen employee talent, business acumen and team building skills.
Maximizing Employee Engagement
Fall is a great time to recharge and improve employee training and development processes. Although managing teams isn’t always easy, the key is to focus on initiatives that enhance talent, benefit the employee and improve the bottom line. Rather than rely on traditional methods for employee development and engagement, managers should consider taking a fresh approach. Effective strategies include peer-to-peer mentoring, company networking events and robust learning and development programs. Initiatives that are customized for employees or encourage regular interaction with peers and senior executives can help make talent a strategic, competitive advantage for companies.
Dr. Paul H. Eccher is the co-founder and principal of The Vaya Group, a boutique talent management consultancy that applies science and precision to the art of talent assessment and development. He is also the co-author of Optimizing Talent: What Every Leader and Manager Needs to Know to Sustain the Ultimate Workforce. For more information, please visit www.vayapath.com.
Written for TrainingIndustry.com