Matching skills to job requirements is a fine art that few have mastered

By Ben Venter, Business Partner,  The CONFIDANT Group

Is there a connection between the inability of enterprises to deliver the plan and the emasculation of the manager’s role?

We need to clarify:

Is the manager really responsible for establishing the contribution of each role – or is that prescribed by a job description? Does the manager really determine the basis for rewarding performance – the measureable outputs of the role? Or is that determined by a once a year performance appraisal? Is the manager responsible for ensuring that the new recruit engages with the mission or is that left to an induction presentation? Is the manager accountable, and rewarded, for identifying, developing and retaining high potential people, or is that left to a policy document?

Perhaps the reason these responsibilities have been taken away is because managers were inefficient in the first place? Probably, and largely also because few companies have properly defined their role.

I believe that role was most clearly expressed by management theorist Peter Drucker, who described  management as the ability to convert effort into performance.

That can best be achieved by empowering the manager to define the talents required to succeed in a particular job, and to ensure each person is in a role that gives them the opportunity to do what they do best every day. As employees further develop their expertise by using their inherent talents, the greater chance a company has of being successful.

The first step is getting recruitment right, or redeploying existing staff to use their abilities more effectively. One simple yet highly effective way to guide that process is by using tools developed specifically for the purpose. One is the Predictive Index (PI), developed by Arnold Daniels in 1955 and is probably more necessary today than ever with the advent of that expensive resource – the knowledge worker.

This process of ensuring ‘engaged’ employees belongs to the manager who determines the key performance areas, the measurable outputs required to deliver the plan.

Software algorithms generate an accurate, and practical plan-aligned talent, or hiring, specification. It now makes sense to survey, or assess the talent available: external applicants as well as existing staff. Candidates provide the information by completing a two part questionnaire which is also computer processed.

This matching of talent available with talent required, to deliver the plan, is essential for informed management.

This is a sound management tool, not a gimmick, yet managers and CEOs are often wary of it. The reasons are not clear. The fact remains: too many square pegs in round holes means that the enterprise will not deliver the goods and services offered and the casualty will be customer loyalty.

Unfortunately most recruitment efforts focus on qualifications and experience. This implies that all engineers with 10 years’ experience are equally suitable for any role in the engineering sector. That is a fallacy.

The message is to define the talent specifications needed to match the business requirements, because having the right people in the right job is the crucial element of your ability to deliver the business plan. But somehow that essential goal seems to elude so many companies. Every appointment made should increase the capacity of the company to deliver on its plan, yet even when the correct skills exist, they may be badly managed or languishing in the wrong place. So companies should apply this same principle with existing staff and particularly during any restructuring processes.

Every member of staff is costing you money, so imagine the return on investment if each of your managers could understand the dynamics of their workers and match the talent available to the business requirements.

Operating effectiveness is achieved by a team, so once the right person is in the right job, the manager’s attention can switch to the team as a whole. Now you can combine the information about each individual to create a capacity grid that gives a picture of what’s happening in the team as a whole and see how well their talents are being used.

This dashboard facilitates better leverage of the high performers and can reduce the ‘drag’ element. It highlights where the manager can most productively spend time.

The big pay-off is that you build sustainability. At year-end when strategy is being formulated, the CEO should be able to ask his managers if they have the capability to execute on the ambitious plans being proposed. If the answer is no, then you don’t include that in your strategy.

But the norm is that the people who develop the strategy are not aware of the capacity available.

The CEO should ensure that management grids are included when operations or strategy are discussed by managers.

But that rarely happens, and grand plans are often launched only to sink through the inability to execute.

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