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Lead Your Team Managing

Right Employee, Wrong Job? Here's What to Do

Right Employee, Wrong Job? Here's What to Do
Credit: Treenoot/Shutterstock

Hiring great employees is no easy task, but hiring the right person for the right job is even harder. No matter how many job applicants a company gets, it's difficult to find someone with a great work ethic and personality who fits the company culture, aligns with your goals, and is skilled and trained to do the job you're looking to fill. As a result, you're bound to make a few hiring mistakes along the way.

Sometimes, you end up hiring the right person for the business, but not for the right position. Maybe, a few months into the person's employment, you realize he or she has the right attitude but is not a good fit for that particular job. If that's the case, it may be time to rethink this employee's responsibilities.

What are some signs that you may have the right employee in the wrong job? Angie Nuttle, CEO of talent and organizational development consulting firm Corporate OD Strategies, said there are three ways you can tell.

The first sign? These employees aren't passionate about their work, and it's clear in the way they talk about it. People who are engaged with their jobs will speak and act with passion, Nuttle said, so if the flame is dwindling, some new responsibilities may rekindle their love for their position.

Another sign Nuttle said to look out for is that the employee is bored or isn't being challenged enough.

"When people are finishing the job quickly, then they have too much time on their hands and are nonverbally telling you they need something meatier to work on," Nuttle said.

On the other hand, people who are too obsessed with their jobs could also be in need of some job restructuring. The ability to deal with change and ambiguity is very important in today's business world, Nuttle said, but some employees get obsessive over every detail and don't want to change.

Christian Muntean, principal at leadership consulting company Vantage Consulting, provided some other signs to look out for:

  • The employee demonstrates a pattern of weakness in a particular area.
  • The employee expresses frustration about one responsibility or role in particular.
  • The employee has a certain set of tasks or duties that they always seem to put off.
  • Other employees or managers tell you that the job doesn't seem to be a good fit.

And, of course, if the employee tells you the job may not be the best fit, you should listen. Muntean said that sometimes, employers ignore these statements and try to remain encouraging or tough on employees.

But just because your employee exhibits these signs, it doesn't always mean that you need to change the employee's job entirely.

"Sometimes, the answer isn't a complete reassignment," Muntean said.

If the employee is otherwise competent in the role with your company, you could keep the person in that role but make some adjustments to his or her responsibilities, Muntean suggested. You could also explore options like additional training and coaching, Muntean said. [Employees Want Education Perks at Work ]

In any case, if you have an employee you think could benefit from a role change, you should approach the person the right way, confirm that the employee wants to change roles and make the transition as smooth as possible, experts agree.

Finding the right role

So, how do you achieve that smooth transition?

"It boils down to identifying the role that encompasses what the employee's interests are and where those intersect with [the company's] needs and their skill set," said Amal Zahri, managing director and overseer of talent acquisition at DriveTime.

This means you need to talk to your employees about what would better suit them and how they feel about their jobs.

Jennifer Martin, principal business consultant at Zest Business Consulting, said you should ask these employees if they have a skill or talent that is being underutilized in their position. This means more than just asking if there's something they'd rather be doing, Martin noted. Rather, you should ask if the company is getting their best work, and how they could put their skills to better use.

And make sure to clarify that you have your employee's best interests in mind. Nuttle suggested giving the employee feedback on what he or she is doing well and find ways to maximize it. For example, tell employees that they're doing a great job in a certain field and that it makes you think they can step up and do more meaningful work in another way, Nuttle said.

"Let them know your goal is to help them develop to their most full potential and capacity, and mean it," Nuttle said.

Of course, you don't have to avoid talking about the needs of the company, but you should also keep the focus on the employee's needs and goals.

"Whenever possible, keep the conversation about the employee's long-term career goals, where they see themselves heading within the company and identifying the role that pairs their aspirations with overall business needs," Zahri said.  

And most important, give employees some control over the situation — don't let them feel like it's something being done to them, Nuttle said.

Making the transition

When it comes to actually making the transition, there are a few important steps to follow, Martin said.

First, consider the input from both angles — make sure that management and the staff member both agree that there should be changes, Martin said.

Then, if everyone agrees, talk to the employee about what the transition will entail, including job title and assigned duties.

Finally, Martin noted, if employees are taking on more responsibility, they may not have time to get everything in their job description completed to the best of their ability. To avoid this scenario, have the employee write down a list of his or her job responsibilities in a given month, and then see which tasks can be delegated, and to whom, Martin said.

If you're willing to make the change and you approach it the right way, it can only help your business, Muntean said.

"If the change is done well, it will nearly always result in improved morale and productivity," Muntean said. "Not just for that employee, but often for anyone else whose work was impacted by that employee's responsibilities." 

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