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Ian Ferguson: Uncovering The Hidden Talents Of Your Workers

In large organisations and government agencies, we often run into the challenge of viewing team members as a number or ‘fish’ swimming in a large ocean. Sometimes our companies become so large and impersonal that people - and their talents and gifts - get lost in the fray. I understand this all too well, as I have in many cases felt undervalued in various companies I have served, both socially and corporately.

There is grave danger in failing to recognise, utilise and laud the extraordinary talent in each employee. An employee often remains in employment search-mode, and never really settles to deliver the kind of contribution they are capable of making. In extremely repressive work environments, the team member is so emotionally beaten that they begin to believe that they are mundane and average, and the boundless potential and talent they possess comes to naught.

Sometimes, there is a ‘more sinister plot’ afoot in turning a blind eye to the gifted employee. I have heard leaders declare publicly that too much praise leads to haughty and high-minded behaviour. I have also witnessed the silent evidence of insecurity by managers who, feeling threatened, keep gifted employees engaged in as many menial tasks as possible to ensure the ‘glory spotlight’ constantly stays on them - the inept overlord.

For the purposes of this article, we make the assumption that most of the failure to know - and celebrate - the worth of each team member is as a result of not personalising the engagement with each worker. Imagine a table of senior executives planning, in isolation, a memorial service for a deceased member of staff, and contracting the services of musicians, sound and light technicians, and a chapel. They do this not knowing the janitor is a local pastor with a beautiful church building that could easily accommodate the service; a junior administrative assistant is a gifted musician and choir director; and the maintenance guy facilitates sound and lighting contracts for gospel concerts.

While this example takes us out of the corporate realm, such situations are quite common, as senior leaders frequently form opinions (often without true and objective assessment) about members of their team.

Here, then, is the question every senior executive must ask: How do I know and value the worth of every member of my team?

  • Have them update their resume for you using a template that you design, so as to capture all the information you desire to know.

The resume tells a story about where the employee has been and what they have been exposed to. Every few years this should be redone, as employees will be constantly upgrading their skills and talents.

I recently encouraged my entire staff to enroll in a project management certificate course. Everyone completing this programme, and earning the certificate, has a new line to place on the resume, giving them new opportunities to use these project management skills.

  • Talk often to your staff, casually, about their jobs and personal lives. Sometimes we limit our understanding of employees to what they do in the workplace, discounting as irrelevant what they are called to do in their homes and community.

Many of these skills are transferable and must be counted for something. A housewife of 14 years, and mother of seven healthy children, has amassed great undocumented skills in the execution of her home duties.

  • Use the performance appraisal to develop the team member’s documenting and assessment of their skills. In a professional setting, the assessment document must be used to leverage the acquired skills of each employee, and provide the main forum of conversation between the leader and the employee.

  • Delegate responsibility, and allow team members to stretch. Perhaps the best possible way to know and understand the true value of each team member is to give them an opportunity to deliver the goods. Have the conversation, empower them with the resources, and give them the reins to manage the process. You might be pleasantly surprised that you have a treasure of gifting in your organisation still unharnessed.

The final word of admonition is simple…DO NOT assume you know the measure of the man based on what you have seen or heard. Engage them deliberately, and be intentional in knowing what resources you have at your company’s disposal.

• NB: Ian R. Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@coralwave.com.

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