Unleashing talents Featured

8:00pm EDT August 25, 2005
The typical workplace serves as a melting pot of various ideas, philosophies, ambitions and goals. In such an environment, the theories of strategic and organizational behavior can help to maximize the strengths of each individual while enabling the group to achieve common goals.

Yael Hellman, Ed.D.,a professor in organizational leadership at Woodbury University, says that proper communication is the key to an archetypical workplace environment.

“Ultimately, communicating where the direction of the company is going is what gets you the buy-in from the employees,” she says.

Hellman spoke with Smart Business about how to best unleash the talents of your employees.

What problems can come from having the wrong people in leadership positions within a company?

It’s important for a company to have the right person. That person must have the respect, trust and buy-in for their vision and their abilities.

If not, it leads to low morale, low employee productivity and poor performance, as well as decreased motivation in the employees. There may be high absenteeism, a high turnover rate and the group process or teamwork could become very chaotic unless someone else can emerge as the leader.

This is very expensive for the company — the new hiring of employees and counseling that comes with it.

How do you develop a strategic plan that puts the right people in the right places?

In the strategic planning process, what you’re looking for is to know your product and the market niche. It involves finding out who you are as a company, what you want in terms of market share, operational strategy and financial health.

In order to achieve those goals, a company needs to hire the right people. It means knowing what your company needs are, the personalities that work well in the company’s culture, knowing your employees’ strengths and weaknesses and the employees’ interests and goals.

Why is this critical to a company’s ability to grow or operate efficiently?

Very simply, the right people in the right places are the right people with the right training. You can always train people if they’re not in the right places or maybe not working to their potential. Once you offer that, you get happy employees.

Happy employees book successful results for the organization.

How do you determine employees’ strengths and weaknesses?

I think the first and foremost method is to ask the employees. They’ll be honest.

What is their strength? What is their weakness? They will tell you what they like to do.

Next would be observation, evaluations and feedback. Some companies do testing and a history of past performance.

How do you put that data into action?

You can use it for offering training to assist in developing people’s strengths. Or you may utilize job sharing to build a person’s weaknesses and repertoire.

You may also wish to place the person in a position where they use their strengths and match them with someone to complement them.

How do you balance a manager’s ego and loyalty to the company against your need to place them in a different position?

True leaders have followers who are confident in their decisions. When you are the ultimate leader in a business it is important to recognize that you don’t manage or build a business with only one person, but rather a team.

The best managers ultimately recognize this need to leave their egos at the door. They understand that they are there to support the leader. In return, they gain the ultimate leader’s confidence. The right manager will be willing and eager to be placed in a different position. Ultimately, you can’t have an ego; it has to be a team.

What methods of compensation should be used as incentive for changes within the company?

It depends on the magnitude of the change, but ultimately, people want to know where the company is going and how they will be part of that process.

To feel they are involved in the company, being part of any planning process, being able to contribute ideas and being heard. This is a philosophy of communicating which is really the best intangible compensation.

Then you have tangible compensation, which could include opportunities for creativity, training and educational programs, flextime, profit-sharing, stock offerings, job-swapping and retreats.

So for companies looking to provide incentives, there are plenty of options other than salary increases?

Actually, most of the research shows that people nowadays would not prefer salary incentives. They really want the company to invest in them with more flexibility and job growth.

Yael Hellman is a professor of organizational leadership at Woodbury University. Reach her at (818) 252-5145 or yael.hellman@woodbury.edu.