Staff management: what's your staff's talent?

Get the full potential from your staff

Staff management is one of the hardest things to do. However, the staff is the flesh and blood of your company. There are three variables to this equation: the managers, the staff, and the tools you use. All these are strongly interconnected, and they all revolve around the most important thing of all: your staff's natural talents.

Tools to keep things in check

The manager is the person responsible of making sure that things do happen. He or she couldn't do it without the aid of software specifically designed to do that. In a small project with say 9 people working on things, you need to be able to know exactly what has been done, what's left to do, and what is everybody doing. You can use a piece of software like Apollo project management to make things easier: the software will allow you to keep track of what is going on within the company. Apollo's considered "Agile", meaning that it won't give you all the functionalities of more complex project management systems. However, it's very powerful and it will allow you to know what projects are currently going on, who is doing what, who has done what, what milestones have been met, and how much time each member of staff has spent on individual tasks. This will give the project manager great insight on the staff's workload and your projects' status.

The managers themselves

Having the right tool is only the first step: the second important step is having the right managers actually looking over projects and making sure that everything is going according to plan regardless of problems and adverse events. So, what skills does a manager need?

Your staff

Your staff is the most important part of your company. Your staff is what will ultimately determine the success of your company. There is no such thing as a "bad" staff member: each person is an individual with their strengths and weaknesses.

Everybody's natural instinct is to focus on your staff's weaknesses -- it's the most natural reaction. However, finding and focussing on their strengths ias much better outcomes. The most important thing is manage their strengths, rather than trying to alleviate their weak spots. Your company won't find greatness by disciplinary actions. Instead, it's important to determine abilities and talent, and focus on developing them. This will stimulate them positively and will lead to their professional development.

When managers become proficient at assessing their staff's natural talent and chose to spend time teaching staff members who need direction, the company ends up with staff with high fidelity and pride, and enthusiastic about their work and are happy to invest their carreers with the company. On the contrary, not recognising their talents and strength will lead to poor staff retention and reduced productivity. Even though this is clear, assessing ypour staff's talent is a skill often undervalued and undeveloped among managers.

Finding a worker's natural talents is not about simple praising. It's an effective way that managers should use to help their staff discover their personal dreams, and it offers a path to pave the way to the company's success. This needs to happen at a very basic level: using these principles, managers can organise positions in such a way so that their workers can use their natural talents and excel. The company itself, following these principles, can make available courses and training resources while anagers can check on their staff's progress and offer useful feedback.

However, applying these principles requires work.

Where do you go from there?

Staff management is a sort of an art: it's not something managers are normally trained for. However, it's extremely important to have these skills in order to be an effective leader. Amongst all of the tasks carried out by managers every day, staff management seem to be the least intuitive and the most complex at the same time.

A crucial skill in staff management is to have the ability to find your staff's natural talents and strengths. Assessing those potentials, you will need to quantify three important variables:

While it's easy to objectively assess a worker's experience and (to a lesser extent) behaviours, when it comes to aptitude things are more difficult as they seem to rise only after a while. This is a problem, since Aptitude is the most crucial of the three variables while assessing your staff's strengths.

What is aptitude?

An aptitude is one of the components of an ability to do a specific class of work at a specific level, which is often compared to "talent". Note that aptitude is not about prior knowledge and learned/acquired abiities. So, in simple words, it's a person's natural ability towards a specific action, the willingness to learn and the "raw talent" to fulfill a specific role.

Aptitude required three foundation abilities:

How do you categorise your staff?

Managers should be able to understand a worker's aptitude by looking at their history. The main thing to look out is how quickly the worker mastered new, more obscure jobs in their recent past; or, also, how they handled unpredictable changes. If a person has the right abtitude, they will be able to learn the skills that wil be needed for their next task. If a worker shows a lack of aptitude for a specific job, there is no point in investing time and money with training and directing, in the hope that that person will imprive. The most important thing, instead, is to find out the type of aptitude required by a specific job.

For example an outgoing person who enjoys other people's company, interacting with others and are good at carrying a conversation would probably be most talented at sales jobs. At the same time, a person who like working on their own and doesn't like being distracted and tend to check their own work several times would probably be most suitable to work in accounting.

While finding out your staff's talent, managers often make the mistake of using a staff member's experience as the main parameter while trying to judge their aptitude. It's a mistake because it assumes that workers are alredy working at their full potential and that they are happy with the job they do, since they know how to do it.

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