When Employers Waste Our Talent!

When Employers Waste Our Talent!

800 371 Kamal Karanth

There is this famous verse from Sanskrit (Translated to English too)

amantramakSharaM nAsti, nAsti moolamanauShdhaM |

ayogyaH puruSho nAsti, yojakastatra durlabhaH ||

There is not a syllable which is not a spell; there is not a plant that is not a medicine; there is no person who is useless… only, the harnesser is hard to find!

Isn’t this true in every walk of life? My friend’s daughter enjoys culinary skills and is keen to pursue her education in that direction. Her parents however want her to study Mechanical Engineering first 🙂 and later study whatever she wants. I think it is a good training for her, I mean she better get used to doing what she doesn’t like early in her life as that’s what work world is all about. How many of us can truthfully admit that our talent is fully utilized by our employer? If you are one of those, hats off to you and your employer! Maybe It’s difficult to harness an employee’s true talent in midst of organisation priorities!

A few years back, we were hiring from overseas and it was our first time, we really needed this talent for our global growth strategy. We did multiple rounds of interviews, convinced him that it was worth relocating. He got excited dumped his employer in a country that he had fondly migrated to and joined us in no time. Nine months into his role the circumstances changed, we needed to pursue a different strategy. His subject matter expertise was no longer relevant to us, we asked him to do something else, though it wasn’t something out of his comfort zone, and it certainly was a 180-degree change.

He could only complain but not leave as he had moved lock stock and barrel to a faraway country, it was difficult for him to find his feet completely, he dragged around and eventually quit. Watching from a distance I felt the pain of wasting his talent. I’m sure you have heard/seen this before.

Similarly, my friend’s tale on this marketing hire resonates with me. They had a dire need to re-position/elevate their organisation brand, one such talented person was in their radar for a while, they had watched her over 3-4 years working in another industry and were sure that she was ideal for them. They approached her.

She even made a marketing plan which I believe everybody liked during her hiring process. In she came with lots of energy, brought in all her connects to impact her new employer. Everybody loved her ideas, but her boss gave her tasks to do PPTs of sales teams, run host of other internal operational work which had nothing to do with external brand positioning. Every time she proposed to do something unique to externally brand the organization, she was asked to do the pressing internal stuff, she felt wasted and unproductive to what she joined them for.Eventually one of her colleagues told her to find her calling elsewhere. Today, she is living her life as a true marketing person with another employer who is harnessing her real potential.

Now, think about some of the things we look for while hiring and promoting

  • Independent thinking and self manager (to suggest that we will give space to the person to do things on her/his own)
  • Innovative and disruptive ( we even ask examples around what new things they have done and want to accomplish)
  • Strategic (so much so that we make people do PowerPoint presentations during job interviews)
  • Team Player – so that they don’t go crazy working with the nerds we have in our organisation
  • Unique personalities: So that we can tell everybody that we got a great hire

In reality we actually want our talent to be exactly opposite, we want them to come to us for in everything. (where is the space now?). Every new idea/strategy that the person has to offer is squashed in the name of not good enough or we aren’t ready yet. When people exhibit great chemistries with their colleagues and we see them together for 2 drinks more than our liking, we subtly let them know that they need to have more professional relationship and mix with more people ( team?). When we hire people who have unique personalities, we tend to assimilate them to what we call as organisation culture, which basically means ‘do as everybody else does’.

In a nutshell, we desire to have angular personalities but we are only comfortable to deal with more rounded personalities. The so called rounded personalities are easy to manage, they don’t ask questions, you don’t have to defend their unique workstyle to your boss or peers 🙂

I agree that we can’t hire a bunch of mavericks to the organisation and let them run amok in a disciplined, sterile organisation setting 🙂 in the name of allowing them to be themselves. Organisations like unique talent during

  • Hiring
  • Promotional interviews
  • Annual fun days when you need to entertain people
  • Off sites where its OK to discover unique talent away from action area( never to bring them to work place)

If I can’t bring out the true potential of Talent, then I should rather direct lifeless objects?

Leave a Reply