How to make sure your workers’ skills are being fully utilized

Lois Melbourne

Lois Melbourne, Co-founder and CEO, Aquire

As a company leader, you are often confronted with nagging work-force-related questions.

First, are you prepared for your future work force? To prepare for the future, you must start with your current employees. To develop a solid work force and company, you must consistently re-evaluate your employees’ skills and make sure those skills are used properly.

Perhaps you’ve invested in talent management initiatives and training. But are the right people benefitting from those initiatives? If you want your company to continue to grow and be successful, you must retain and promote your best performers.

Size up new talent

When you hire employees, ask them how they heard about the company, where they received their degree and how long they were at previous jobs. This data will help you benchmark your best employees and predict how long your staff will stay with the organization.

If you start seeing turnover early within your new recruits, you can use this data to channel recruiting efforts toward employee profiles with longer staying power. Tracking and interpreting this data is crucial to effective recruitment.

Assess exiting workers

When people leave the organization, assess their demographic profile to enable you to better track trends. For example, employees who keep the same job title for more than three years have the highest rate of voluntary turnover. However, if the trends are skewing in a more unfavorable way, you’ll need to evaluate the situation and find the root of the problem.

You may find that your highest performers are leaving the company at a faster rate than your average or poor performers. If so, you should locate the red flags and take steps to improve unfavorable trends. You may discover that the feedback you provide isn’t enough to let them know they are appreciated.

Match skills to tasks

Make sure you always pay attention to the job attributes of those employees you consider key, high performers or high potentials. When you consider moving an employee into a different role or department, make sure your executives are aware of the job attributes of that employee to avoid shuffling poor performers on to a different department while hogging pet employees.

To show your top employees that there are opportunities for them to grow outside of their core function, break down the silos and allow them to grow elsewhere. Even when faced with uncertainty, the return typically outweighs the risk, and it’s a best practice that will benefit the entire organization and help you retain your skilled employees.

According to recent research (see DeVry University’s Career Advisory Board Job Preparedness Research at, hiring managers at top U.S. companies perceive a large skills gap in job applicants who make it to the interview stage. Often all it takes is re-evaluation.

Challenge managers on why they have not developed those skills among current employees to fill the positions they have open. You may find that managers have not given employees the training time, or your managers may not even be aware of the possibilities the current work force brings to the table.

Promote your people

Movement across departments or job functions doesn’t have to be lateral. Managers can challenge the perspective that their staff should only be promoted within their chain of command.

Remember that an employee is an asset to the entire organization. A high-performing employee who seeks upward mobility may not have an available opportunity for promotion. Rather than risk losing the employee altogether, find a way to make upward movement available even if it’s outside their department.

Monitor mobility

You can only manage all of these areas through proper measurement of your talent pipeline. Monitor investments toward employee and manager development, employee retention, employee engagement, and better hiring.

With every development in your work force, it’s a best practice to see it through until the objective is met. After all, you’re dealing with your company’s most valuable asset.

Lois Melbourne is co-founder and CEO of Aquire, a work force planning and analytics solutions company based in Irving, Texas. Visit for more information.