Do You Know Which Skills Your Team Members Really Want to Use?

BY Kathy Crosett
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In the past few months, we’ve highlighted more than one survey that revealed why people move from one company to another. Departing employees usually said the managers were the problem. It’s easy to take that information at face value and throw more training at managers. This action, senior execs figure, will keep staff turnover to a manageable level. Companies that dig deeper to get at the root cause of employee departure may be in for a surprise.

Facebook execs certainly were surprised. The company is known for having awesome managers, but the execs needed to learn what was causing employee unhappiness. Several execs, along with a Wharton professor, recently looked into staff attrition and summarized their findings in a Harvard Business Review article.

The employee discontent had to do with job enjoyment. Like most folks, Facebook employees didn’t study at college to become an associate at one of the world’s most popular social media companies. They had bigger aspirations. Maybe they studied music or communications. When it came time to pay the bills, the prospective employees signed on with the company that made them the best financial offer. They didn't think about details. For example — how they were going to feel after a year of removing objectionable content from a website.

Here’s where the manager part comes in.  Managers should be regularly checking in with your team members to discuss what they enjoy about their work. More importantly, find out what they don’t enjoy. Is there something else they long to do? Your customer service agents may be aces at keeping clients happy. But what if what they really want to do is write?

Obviously, you can’t give them work time to produce the great American novel. You could experiment with their job assignments a bit. Would it help to develop a blog populated by posts from customer service agents? Maybe they could spend an hour a day writing on frequently encountered problems and suggested resolutions. This kind of a solution could be a win for your agents, your clients and your company.

As a result of their investigation into why people were leaving the company, Facebook managers began to create new kinds of jobs for team members. As a manager at your company, you can initiate the same kind of action. It won’t be easy. It will require time and effort. But, it’s worth investing in redesigned job descriptions to give your team members the chance to use their best skills at work.