What to Do When You Hire the Right Person for the Wrong Position

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Director for Corporate Relations at Erickson Coaching International.
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A common issue companies face is a constantly changing staff. The average length of employment is four years. For millennials, it’s a staggering two years.

A recent study by LinkedIn found the top reason people left their jobs was because they wanted greater opportunities for advancement. And while 69 percent of HR managers were aware of internal mobility programs, or the ability for employees to move across departments or positions, only 25 percent of departing staff actually knew about them.

This is a problem: Companies are losing talented employees simply because no one is communicating about opportunities and needs. The solution of rewarding talented staff by reallocating them is a step in the right direction but you need to do so strategically. Have a clear understanding of what their goals and working styles are and move them accordingly.

One way to do this is through coaching, which is an ideal framework to facilitate this type of conversation because it places the employee's needs at the center. It uses open-ended questions that foster an authentic dialogue and relies on the ability of the manager to listen for particular responses that may offer subtle insight into how to help the employee. (If you simply ask questions without knowing what to listen for or even what to do with the responses they give will ultimately lead you nowhere.)

Related: Join the League of Extraordinary Bosses: 4 Habits to Cultivate

Here are a few questions (and the types of responses to look for) that will help you start the conversation:

What do you want from the organization? A broader question that asks what the employee wants from the company will reveal what’s been missing from her current position and what they are seeking from the next opportunity.

If they respond with action-oriented answers like “to play a bigger role in developing strategy,” it shows the person is looking for opportunities that allow her to take initiative, suggesting that she may be ready for a promotion. More passive and analytical responses like, “I’ve been considering the possibility of developing my skills in…” show that they may be seeking opportunities where they can play a supporting role and further develop themselves.

These sorts of questions (and answers) help decide if reallocation is the solution. If the company can’t give them what they want, then perhaps it’s time to part ways.

Why did you decide to work at this company? This will reveal what it is about the company that appeals to the employee and what you can do to carve out an opportunity that leverages what attracted him in the first place.

Related: Train and Retain: How to Attract and Motivate a Capable Staff

Answers that state qualities or benefits like, “For the chance to play a pivotal role in the success of Project X,” show he is motivated by possibility. He is looking for opportunities that challenge him creatively and require more "blue sky" thinking. Responses that involve a sequential story like, “After I got hired on, my responsibilities were XYZ, and now I’m interested in…” show that he is motivated by procedures and is likely looking for opportunities that are more stable and consistent.

How do you know if you’ve succeeded? This question offers the opportunity to discuss career opportunities with your employee and responses will help you ascertain the type of environment she will succeed in. 

If she answers with responses that draw on her own feelings or experiences like, “When I’m satisfied with the end result,” she gauges success based on her own standard of judgment. Reallocate her to a position that offers independence and the ability to set her own goals. 

Responses that draw on the opinions and thoughts of others like “When my clients are satisfied,” suggest the person relies on her external environment to gauge success. People like these often need feedback from management and colleagues. So set them up for success by making them part of a collaborative work environment.

Mitigate the challenges of employee turnover by engaging in coaching conversations that better communicate with your team and reassure them you’re truly listening to what they want from you, the company and their careers. It may be the case that they have been placed in a position or team that is simply not a fit anymore and instead of letting them go, start the conversation and move them to where they will succeed. You’ll both be the better for it.

Related: Signs You Might Be a Terrible Leader (Yes, You)

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