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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: Uber Images/Shutterstock

A worker can only be so great in a position that doesn't suit them. No matter how talented or intelligent an employee may be, if they aren't in a job that allows them to leverage their personal skills and attributions, they won't meet their full potential or their employer's needs.

While employers would like to believe they always make the right hire, a recent report by Right Management found that 1 in 5 workers are in the wrong job, leaving them feeling unmotivated, disengaged and unproductive.

But the wrong role doesn't always mean the wrong business, said Phyllis Millikan, senior vice president for career management at Right Management.

"The right person may have been hired, but in today's work environment where skills are changing rapidly … employees who aren't encouraged to continually learn and develop may find the right role quickly becomes the wrong fit," she said.

This can have a negative impact on the company across the board. Millikan noted that there is a 4 percent increase in revenue growth and a 10 percent increase in customer satisfaction in dealings with employees who feel content in their roles versus ones who don't.

"Helping people develop skills, gain experience and manage their careers is vital to keep them engaged and productive," she said.

Here's how to handle employees who need a role change, and how to avoid the issue in the future.

If an employee isn't as well suited to a role as you thought, don't automatically write them off. Before making any decisions, speak with the employee, encouraging them to be open about what they expect from their role in the company.

"Ask your employees questions and discuss how they want to learn and develop," said Millikan. "Not only is this critical to engaging an individual in your workforce and ensuring they're content in their role, it also helps teams work more productively together."

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

Angie Nuttle, CEO of talent and organizational development consulting firm Corporate Talent Institute, suggested giving the employee feedback on what they are doing well and finding ways to maximize it.

The transition from one role to another doesn't have to be difficult, and it shouldn't feel like an inconvenience to you or your employees.

"Employers can facilitate the natural progression and movement of talented individuals by opening up channels to facilitate the redeployment of staff," said Millikan, "offering easy access to open internal positions and opportunities for career mobility within their organization."

Nuttle noted that it's important to give employees some control over the situation too – don't let them feel like it's something being done to them.

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

Work with your employee as a team, and make sure they understand that you are on their side and want them to stay with the company.

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

The best way to manage a potential issue is by preventing it. In this case, employers need to ensure they're hiring individuals who truly fit the position they're interviewing for.

"This not only improves retention and engagement, but it also reduces hiring costs," said Millikan. "To do this, we recommend a blend of art and science to assess skills, abilities and knowledge gaps, enabling an employer to attract and develop the best talent."

Hiring managers should keep in mind the environment they want for their company. Choose applicants who will encourage a more agile workforce and progressive culture, said Millikan.

"Talented individuals know that, to remain employable throughout their career, they must be willing to continually learn and upskill," Millikan said. "They understand that employability depends less on what you already know and more on the ability to learn, apply and adapt."

Additional reporting by Brittney Morgan. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela is a recent graduate of Rowan University, where she majored in writing arts and minored in journalism. She currently works as a Purch B2B staff writer while working on her first novel in her free time. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.