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How to Maximize and Manage Skill Diversity

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Do you ever find yourself wondering why it takes Steve twice as long as Phil to finish those reports? And why can’t Erica’s PowerPoint presentations be as engaging as Molly’s? If you’re asking these types of questions, it’s time to manage skill diversity.

As business owners, we’re constantly trying to increase productivity. We want workflow at an optimal level and expect employee performance to consistently be at its very best. However, we’ve got a lot on our plate at any given moment and, therefore, often overlook or, perhaps, don’t fully understand how to cultivate the strengths of each individual on our team.

If Molly’s PowerPoints are not up to your standards, you need to manage skill diversity: Either don’t assign Molly any PowerPoints or train her to do them in the way you prefer. You’ve hired a diverse group of people and it’s your job to create an environment in which each one has the resources and support to thrive and produce their best work.

Most managers know that their employees have individualized skill sets and varying talents, but they fail to recognize that they need to Manage Skill Diversity.

So, just how do you cultivate your employees’ strengths and increase productivity?

1.Maximize Opportunities to Excel

On every team, there are standout performers—the ones fans come out to watch. In the workplace, it’s the employees with the extensively impressive resumes who constantly think outside the box and come up with innovative ideas. These people possess skills that are impossible to ignore. While we often want to adhere to the “treat everyone equally” rule, that mentality doesn’t cultivate growth in this instance. The standout players need to be challenged and rewarded differently. And it shouldn’t be viewed as “special treatment;” it’s simply incentivizing each person through individualized direction.

Manage Skill DiversityManage Skill Diversity

On every team, there are standout performers—the ones fans come out to watch. In the workplace, it’s the employees with the extensively impressive resumes who constantly think outside the box and come up with innovative ideas. These people possess skills that are impossible to ignore. While we often want to adhere to the “treat everyone equally” rule, that mentality doesn’t cultivate growth in this instance. The standout players need to be challenged and rewarded differently. And it shouldn’t be viewed as “special treatment;” it’s simply incentivizing each person through individualized direction.

For example, Sharon might need a promotion and a heavier workload in order to keep her engaged and fulfilled at work, while Melissa is content and sufficiently challenged in her current position. It’s the same mentality that schools use by placing higher performing students in advanced classes.

Additionally, it’s important to note that, frequently; exceptional people are eccentric and can be challenging to manage. You may find that these employees like to work odd hours, need specific environmental stimuli for inspiration, and, generally, refuse to do things in a traditional way, which can often be disruptive to an organization’s flow. The upside, of course, is that they’re producing remarkable work. Thus, you need to decide how much of their unorthodox behavior is worth tolerating in exchange for the results they’re producing. While they require a certain amount of freedom to excel, they also need regulation so as not to disrupt the entire organization. It’s your job to provide an environment that encourages and enables their productivity without jeopardizing your bottom line.

Not everyone likes cake. (Hard to believe, I know!) Some people prefer pie. Or fruit. Meaning, not everyone will work harder for the same reward. Some of us are fueled by money alone, others require titles or accolades, and still others desire recognition (a simple “thank you” goes a long way). Your goal is to promote growth for the business overall, as well as in each employee because when individuals are performing well, the business is performing well. And when people feel appreciated and are incentivized accordingly, their performance reflects this.

How do you know what incentivizes people? Trial and error, perhaps. But, I suggest sitting down with employees and having a frank discussion about where they feel they excel, where they need help, what motivates them, and how you can provide the resources and support to help them grow.

Related: Do Organizations Need Creative Discipline?

2.Provide Resources and Support For Everyone

If you think about a classroom, the students who stand out (and get attention—positively or negatively) are often the overachievers and the ones who speak up/act out. We tend to remember the really good and the really bad. That’s why most Yelp reviews are either one star or five stars. This holds true for organizations. Which means, too often, our core employees get taken for granted. These are the people who come in day in and day out and consistently do their jobs well, without any issues. Think about hospitals—you really only get minimal time with doctors or surgeons. It’s usually the reliable performance of the core staff (i.e. nurses and admin workers) that ensures the organization runs smoothly and enables managers to shine.

These employees need recognition and support too. It’s easy to think “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” But that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage it to continue doing a great job and ask how you can provide the resources for continued success. Who knows? Performance may even get better than you thought possible.

3.Know When to Cut Ties

We’ve all heard that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” The most important aspect of managing varying performance levels is to recognize its existence. In some cases, we can help people who are doing below average work. Perhaps they need more training, or need to be incentivized differently, or need to be moved to a position that better suits their talents. Other times, it may be time to consider replacing an employee who isn’t working out and accepting that they aren’t a good fit. It may not be easy, especially if an employee has been with an organization for some time. In which case, you may want to consider implementing some creative problem solving. Many organizations choose to reward employees for their loyalty by creating new positions for them in which they are able to utilize their skills while still contributing to the company’s bottom line.

In every organization, there’s an infinite amount of diversity. Age, race, gender aside, each person comes from a unique background. Socio-economic status, education, and individual experiences are just a few factors that shape a person’s outlook. If we can remember that people’s actions are influenced by their past experiences, we can better understand their thought process. Once we’re able to see things from their perspective, we’re better equipped to train, motivate, and incentivize people in ways that speak to them, encourage optimal growth, and inspire excellence.

Have questions about encouraging growth within your own diverse team? You can find me at Bshlensky@startupconnection.net  or 914-632-6977

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