Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hiring Excess Capacity in an Over Qualified Employee

Should QSI hire Sal? (cont.)

Look at the pros and cons. If QSI hired Sal with experience well beyond their own and beyond their expectations a number of different outcomes might occur:
• Sal becomes frustrated by the lower level work that is requested and/or by leadership that is not looking for something larger than their current status quo. Sal keeps looking and within a few months or years moves on to a position that has a better match.
• Sal works quietly to assist other learning, quality and documentation specialists inside of QSI to build their skills.
• QSI and Sal look for projects that match Sal’s capabilities and raise the bar on their customers’ expectations.
• QSI recognizes Sal’s expertise and within a few months, provides Sal with leadership opportunities. • QSI leadership recognizes that Sal’s expertise is greater than theirs. They work with Sal to build the new methods and processes they have wanted to create as part of this new initiative and they work together to build their internal team’s skills. Sal provides weekly lunch-and-learns, brings in books and articles and mentors the less experienced learning team members (and, indirectly, the learning leadership who also need to build learning skills and knowledge.) Sal brings in peers from other organizations to demonstrate different techniques, etc. Sal’s talents bring the whole team and organize to an unexpected level.
• QSI find Sal to be a disturbing influence – always trying to exceed the reach and vision of this emerging organization – so they move into performance problem territory telling Sal that others feel “put down”, “judged as beubg inadequate” or “feeling inferior”. Sal must change these interactions or suffer the consequences. Sal starts looking for another employer. If another employer with a good match is not available, Sal is likely to be terminated with a bad rap.

Any and all of these are possible; it all depends on the individuals involved and how they deal with the imbalance of knowledge, skill and organizational power. However, an organization that avoids hiring excess capacity misses the opportunity to grow exponentially by managing their excess capacity. This could be the shot of hot-air that get their balloon aloft.

Think of a consulting organization that suddenly finds themselves with 20% of their consulting staff “on the bench” (not assigned to client work and not earning revenue for the company). This is excess capacity. They are “over-qualified” for the work that is currently booked.

There may be many reasons for the excess. The reasons are worth exploring. The root cause of a problem is always worth considering and is the most common of all performance improvement efforts. However, for our purposes, let’s say that there is a team assigned to solving the cause of the excess capacity. In the mean time, the organization needs to put these employees to work on something or lay off the “excess talent” in order to save money.

What might be possible uses of this talent that will build the organization’s capabilities? These individuals might be assigned alternative opportunities such as:
• Filling empty positions while the hiring process is being executed – a useful way to provide extra work in divisions of the organization that may be experiencing difficulty in hiring qualified talent while also identifying development and work process issues within that division (e.g., call centers often experience significant turn-over, placing consultants on phones and debriefing them about that experience will provide information about what is not working well in the call center processes)
• Internal consulting aimed at improving processes and quality for internal divisions that could use some process improvement, quality assurance or needs assessments – accounting, property management, IT, marketing, sales, training all experience the need for consulting services but often can not afford the cost of external consultants
• Training and/or coaching other consultants (assuming, of course, that those “on the bench” have a history of top quality work).
• Shadowing more expert consultants, leaders, sales or marketing could provide consultants with extended skills that would pay off in the future
• Community outreach to schools and non-profits as speakers and/or short-term consultants focused on those organization’s needs
• Put them together on a special project as an innovation team(s) charged with re-visioning an aging product or service line.

Excess capacity is an opportunity in disguise; it takes great leadership to see beyond the excess and the potential for a problem. It takes greatness to use the tools at hand to create a new world that they themselves have not envisioned – to allow others to use their talents to identify issues and opportunities and open doors for innovations and a future that is different from those in which leadership has personal investment.

The Performance PI

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