Tapping into your employees’ hidden skillsets

Benjamin Kluwgant · 13 Jan

Most employees’ skillsets reach far beyond what their job descriptions require them to do. Managers who create opportunities for employees to utilise their broader talents bring a new level of meaning and job satisfaction to the entire workplace.

Of course, all positions within a company have their own unique sets of core capabilities and expertise that the person who holds the role needs to possess in order to perform adequately.

For instance, payroll officers should ideally be familiar with the various payroll systems and accounting principles, while sales representatives should have strong interpersonal skills and know how to navigate their way around a CRM.

This is all covered in the interview process before you hire someone. However, after an individual has been hired, as you get to know them more you’ll find they have skills beyond their role.

If a manager wants to truly maximise their employee’s working potential, they need to think more abstractly about their employees’ hidden strengths, hobbies, and interests.

READ: How to test for logical reasoning during the interview process

Looking beneath the surface

As important as it is for employees to possess those specific skillsets and qualities, what managers often forget is that an employee’s capabilities can actually be far broader than what their jobs require them to do – and most of those other capabilities have little to no direct relevance to what they’ve been hired to do.

But just because those broader capabilities aren’t directly related to the day-to-day activities listed on the employee’s position description, that doesn’t mean that they are useless.

If a manager views their subordinates as one-dimensional cogs that are simply there to do a specific job within a predefined framework, not only are they risking their staff feeling underutilised, but are also missing out on enjoying the benefits of having access to additional skillsets.

By tapping into those broader abilities, managers open up more possibilities for success through innovation, and can meet that growing need for meaning to the employees, themselves and the entire organisation as a whole.

A theoretical case study

The HR manager of a tech company was given the task to hire a number of developers to build a new technology platform. A few months after hiring these developers, the HR manager sent out an employee feedback survey and learned that one of the team members was highly rated by their peers for their presentations and communication skills.

READ: Three ways to help your employees beat survey fatigue

The HR manager identified that these were highly useful skills that would benefit the entire team and asked the employee to run an informal training session for the whole company about how to present and speak in public.

This developer was thrilled with the idea, grabbed the opportunity with both hands and ran a session on it. The rest of the team said they found the session helpful and there was a noticeable lift in communication and cooperation afterwards.

A positive impact on all levels of the organisation

While the above case may only be theoretical, it highlights the impact that such an emphasis can have on virtually all of the parties involved.

From the employee’s perspective, being able to change things up and provide value to the business in more ways than one brings them a much deeper level of job satisfaction.

Tapping into this diverse skillset also impacts the rest of the team. Being offered access to high quality extracurricular activities at work boosts happiness and productivity and gives them additional reasons to show up to work and perform well.

READ: Showing your team the appreciation they deserve

A well performing team then reflects positively on the team leader, keeping them inspired to continue their good work in managing their team and driving positive results. When there are positive results, the entire organisation thrives and flourishes.

Accessing broader skillsets means more collaboration

One of the attributes of high quality team leaders is that they know how to bring groups and teams together and create a collaborative spirit in the workplace.

Learning about and tapping into broader skillsets is a great way to foster an environment that encourages collaboration in the workplace.  

For example, if the HR manager of an airline learns that some of its pilots also know how to write code, they can arrange for the pilots to spend some of their down time working with the airline tech development team instead of not working at all.

Aside from maximising employee utilisation and bringing more hands on deck, knowing staff’s ‘bonus’ skills brings different teams together and provides them with the opportunity to get to know each other better. When this happens, it creates a sense of comradery and true belonging at work.

Keeping communication channels open

After working through and understanding the significance of tapping into broader skillsets, it’s important for HR managers to keep in mind that the only way to learn about the underutilised talents their employees possess is by ensuring that communication is always flowing in the workplace.

In the theoretical example above, the HR manager put out an employee feedback survey, which is a great way to learn about your workers – but it isn’t the only way.

Having regular conversations with employees about their likes and interests and creating an environment where they feel comfortable enough to share that information with you is key to getting to know employees well enough to tap into their broader talents and capabilities.