Today's Organizations Waste Talent. Here's How To Change That.

Pim de Morree
Written by Pim de Morree October 07, 2018

Our research into more than 100 workplace pioneers reveals an important shift –“from job descriptions to talents and mastery”. It’s a clear differentiator between traditional and pioneering organizations.

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Traditional organizations focus on fixed job descriptions, and linear careers that move from one description to the next. Progressive organizations focus on “talents & mastery”– and craft jobs and development opportunities around the specific skills employees would love to exploit.

Ignoring talents

The terrible state of the workplace (as described in an earlier study) reveals painful facts about the absence of a talent focus in today’s workplace. Only 33% of employees felt they make optimum use of their talents at work. This means a staggering 67% (!) feel they can’t exploit their strengths.

This is even more painful when we know that exploiting our strengths is a major driver of motivation. This has consequences. Employees are 15% less likely to quit if they use their strengths daily, and are 8% more productive when they do.

Revealing hidden talents

So, how do progressive organizations build on these insights? To start, they stop ignoring the wide variety of talents in their workforce. This is one of the basic, most essential, and absolutely bare minimum things any team should do. It is so basic it sounds stupid to say so!

The terrible state of the workplace (as described in an earlier study) reveals painful facts about the absence of a talent focus in today’s workplace.
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The first step is to understand what our talents are. While this sounds so sensible—even essential—we notice in our consulting work they frequently are not, let alone exploited. The result is that employees, teams and organizations are unclear about what talents they have on board.

Mapping talents

A vital first step is to map the talents of everyone in a team. This commonly overlooked activity is a great starting point. An example makes the point:

In a workshop at a Dutch bank, we worked on “Talents & Mastery”. A young IT developer shared that he loved to use his graphic design skills as a hobby.

Although he loved graphic design, he never did any in the workplace. Then he saw how this talent could benefit both the bank and himself. He could improve user manuals that his department created. He could make them more enjoyable, memorable and understandable—a clear win-win. He now spends more of his working hours doing what he loves—and the bank benefits.

To get started, here are some ways to discover your talents.

Strength finder surveys

A good, simple step is to use a survey to reveal your talents, and then share the results across your team. Surveys can be found online. Use Google to get a list of options.

We used Gallup’s StrengthFinder in a recent offsite to on-board two new Rebels, Mireille and Ellen. It was not only valuable to get to know them (and vice versa), it was super valuable to revisit the combined talents of the existing team. It’s good to repeat these exercises once in a while. Not only for reflection, but also to check if the current distribution of tasks best matches each person’s talents.

Ask yourself

Another powerful way to better understand your talents is through self-reflection. Onno Geveke a fellow rebel in the community, shared some powerful questions:

  • What was a moment in your work when it felt very natural to do what you did?
  • When did you feel energized? When did you lose track of time?
  • What did that look like? What did you do?
  • What ‘name’ would you give that?
  • For what projects or activities is your advice regularly sought?
  • What aspect do your parents/friends highlight when talking about you?

Ask yourself these questions as leader and use them to help team members figure out their talents.

Another idea Onno shared: “Maintain a diary for a week of moments when you feel energized and not energized. The energizing moments are most likely when you are tapping into your talents.”

Ask others

Are you drawing a blank on your own talents? Would you like other perspectives? Ask friends, family and colleagues to name your best qualities. Even if you learn nothing new, at least you will get some compliments!

Once you discover your most important talents, it’s time to sit down with the team and share. Write the details on post-it notes, post, and discuss to make sure you all get the complete spectrum of strengths in the team.

And then…

Now you can consider how to put them at the center of the work you do. If you haven’t done it yet, get your team together and make sure you take this first step.

Employees are 15% less likely to quit if they use their strengths daily, and are 8% more productive when they do. However, only 33% of employees feel they make optimum use of their talents at work.
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In a future blog post we’ll dive into the next phase. We’ll discuss the process of redistributing activities and roles based on the skills in the team. For now, learn from some of our workplace pioneers, and start mapping your (and the team’s) talents.

Do you have other good ideas for mapping talents? Drop them in the comments below for the entire rebel community to get inspired.

Written by Pim de Morree
Pim de Morree
As co-founder of Corporate Rebels I focus on: researching, writing, speaking, and building our company.
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