Home Best Practices Put the right people on the bus . . .

Put the right people on the bus . . .

This is the third installment of a series on developing an “engaged” workforce . . . that is, a workforce that energetically supports your company and its goals.

In the first installment, we talked about the importance of clearly communicating the company’s mission, vision, values, and culture.  Essentially, those four things (with apologies to business guru Jim Collins) describe the bus we’re on . . . a metaphor for your company.  They tell us what the bus does, where it’s going, and how the people on it (your employees) are expected to behave.

In the second installment, we talked about the vital role leadership plays as you strive to have your workforce internalize and embrace your mission, vision, values, and culture.

Now we want to talk about how to put the people on your bus into the right seats.  That is, how do we position people so that they are able to do what they do best, and do the things they are most passionate about?  After all, if the object is to develop an “engaged” workforce, what better way to do it than have people coming to work each day to do something they enjoy and are excited about doing?  For more on this, please read below.

Put the right people on the bus, then put them in the right seats.
Get your workforce engaged! (103)

Research shows only 20% of employees report that they have an opportunity to do what they do best every day.  This research is validated by many employees spread over many companies in many industries and in many countries.  It’s not a fluke, it’s real.  So what does that say about the other 80%?  Well, they may be on the right bus in the sense that they are a good “fit” for the company’s mission, vision, values, and culture, but clearly, they are not seated where their work can have the most impact.  And while the 80% may do their work competently, how much more productive, creative, and energetic would they be if they were doing something that takes advantage of their best talents and that they really enjoy doing?

So how have we gotten so upside down with the vast majority of our employees placed in jobs they don’t particularly care about?  Lots of ways.  Hiring managers may not screen applicants as carefully as they should, or maybe they’re so desperate to fill a job that they’ll accept anyone who has a pulse and can fog a mirror.  From an employee’s vantage point, he or she may take a job that is less than an optimal fit with his or her talents because it does provide a paycheck, or because the company has a good benefits package, or because it’s close to home.

OK, so for whatever reason, most of the people on our bus are in seats that are not ideally suited for them.  What do we do about it?  In the short term, probably not much.  Obviously, we can’t fire 80% of our workforce and hope to replace them (quickly) with people who have real talents for the jobs we have available. If we’re lucky, we may be able to shuffle the deck a bit and put at least a few people into jobs that are right for them.  But in most cases, getting the right people in the right seats will be a long term, evolutionary process.

I would argue that there’s a difference between a talent and a skill.  A talent is a natural gift about which we are passionate and have developed to a high level over time.  A skill is something that can be learned and practiced with a certain amount of proficiency.  For instance, consider a bookkeeper who has a real talent for financial analysis . . . loves to dive into financial statements looking for inconsistencies, anomalies, or trends.  Sure, he or she has the skill to enter all the debits and credits correctly and produce an accurate financial statement, but that’s not where the talent lies, nor the passion.  For the most part, when we’re hiring, we do a pretty good job of identifying the skills an applicant would bring to the job.  Not so the talents.

So the key here is to do a better job of incorporating talents into our position descriptions, and into our screening and interviewing processes.  If we do that, and do it well, we will gradually put more of our people into the right seats.   Will we ever have 100% of our people in the right seats?  Not likely.  But each person we do put in the right seat has the potential to be a game changer for us, and the more people we have in the right seats, the more “engaged” our workforce will become.


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