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How to Retain Valued Employees Even Though They're Not a Good Fit for Their Current Position

Jo Eisenhart •  December 13, 2016 | Business and Careers

MI24084-JeffOne of the most important responsibilities for leaders is to make sure you’ve got the right people doing the right job. Most of the time, finding a good fit is fairly straightforward, especially if the hiring process has been thorough: A great writer joins the marketing team; a numbers cruncher analyzes sales data; and the articulate, thoughtful personality manages customer communications.

Save Smarter: The Truth About Your 401(k)But what happens when the person hired to design graphics turns out to be better at developing strategy than executing someone else’s vision? Or when the programmer’s job evolves in a way that no longer plays to her strengths?

Through no fault of your own, you might find yourself with a great employee in the wrong job. But if he or she is someone you believe can continue to make valuable contributions to the company in some other capacity, here’s how to help that employee find a better fit within the organization.

1. Acknowledge the issue. You’re probably not the only one who recognizes that there’s a gap between the skills you need and the skills he has. Your employee knows it, too. So address the situation openly with him, and ask if he’s interested in staying on in some other capacity.  

2. Get clear on her strengths and skills gaps. I’d come right out and say, “Although you may no longer be a good fit for what this job entails today, let’s talk about what you do well, what you enjoy doing and where the company might be able to use your skills.” Not only will you be helping her zero in on her strengths and weaknesses, you’ll become better prepared to share—when asked—why you think the employee is someone the company should try to retain.

3. Give him responsibility for identifying new opportunities. Resist the temptation to actively participate in finding him a new position. You might casually tell a colleague, “Hey, I’ve got this guy who may have skills you’re looking for.” But make sure the employee understands that he owns his career. It’s his responsibility to identify and pursue opportunities within the organization for which he thinks he’ll be a good fit.  

If your employees can find a better fit within the company, everybody wins. They will likely feel more committed to the company for being given the opportunity to reinvent themselves. The company benefits because it hasn’t had to spend the time and cost to recruit for the position they filled (or assume the risk that comes with hiring an unknown). And if you believe your role as a leader is to develop people, you’ll probably feel a great sense of satisfaction for helping these valued employees find new ways to contribute. 


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