Are Your Employees No Longer The Asset They Once Were?

by Carolyn B. Thompson

Carolyn B. Thompson
Training Systems, Inc.
12 Landscape Lane
Camdenton MO 65020

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Are Your Employees No Longer The Asset They Once Were?
by: Carolyn B. Thompson

Are your employees growing, or growing bored? Are your experienced employees no longer the asset they once were? Do you have some people who seem to be stuck on dead center?

Job and career plateaus are part of the rhythm of people's lifework. For the individual, a plateau can be a vantage site from which to review one's career a time of challenge, reflection, and choice. For the organization and the individual's co-workers, the plateau can be frustrating as the employee seems to produce less both in the way of real work and contribution of ideas. Plateau occurs for many reasons. You need to know what the reason is before you respond by isolating the employee because they're "deadwood" or, if you let this go too long, firing them.

structural plateauing when there are no available positions in your organization that allow the person to move up

content plateauing when the person has mastered their job and it is no longer challenging

life plateauing when the person's life in general hasn't changed much, their routine is the same daily and nothing seems to spark much interest or joy

job extinction plateauing the job, any job, is simply no longer a good way to get work done. It is a vanishing historical artifact, a product of the Industrial Revolution and with the advent of the Information Age, it is beginning to disappear. Unfortunately many employees are not prepared for this and are therefore unsuited for many of the functions our companies need done

So which is it for your employee? The organization with a strong commitment to career development will recognize when plateauing is occurring, know what's causing it, and work with the employee to help them plan their career. Why lose a previously great employee (you've seen the statistics on how much more it costs to hire a new employee than work with an existing one to help them grow) when with your help the employee can move through the restless and dissatisfaction stages to the trials and crises of learning and new growth into success and challenge!

The first step is to help the person set some short term and long term goals. The steps taken to reach these goals will depend on the reasons for the plateauing. If the person is life plateaued the actions they take will probably be outside the organization, however, your assistance during goal setting and the organization's support during this period may not only keep the employee, but allowing him to get unplateaued may bring you back a highly productive worker this may mean giving the employee a sabbatical or part time work while they pursue their life goal.

If the person is structurally plateaued this may mean finding other skills they have for which they can take on other responsibilities thus giving them more challenge, possibly a higher salary (not all people who want to "move up" in your organization necessarily want to “supervise people” and this is usually where the dearth of opportunity lies anyway). For those who are content plateaued the actions you can help with may be similar help the person discover other interests and skills that will allow them to broaden their job. Some people may not know what they'd be interested in and your help here is vital make up rating scales for different characteristics, like persistence, then have the person send them to former bosses, co-workers, and family members to fill out anonymously. Have the employee play with the Career Values and Motivated Skills Card Sorts where they have to choose which things they value most and least and which skills they really enjoy using to those they really dislike and then decide which of all the skills they are highly proficient at and in which they are not proficient at all great fun! Another is to ask the person to list 20 lifetime experiences they loved. Or you can ask the employee to get some university catalogues and pick out the kinds of courses they'd like to take. There are also many, many books on career development that you can suggest to employees What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles, Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow by Marsha Sinetar, Do What You Love by Paul and Barbara Tieger. Some companies have seen such a value in assisting employees with their career development that they have added a career resource center with these books and assessments and many others available. After determining what the employee's interests and skills are, further training may be necessary. You may choose to send the employees out for training or use in-house training and coaching to assist the employee in refining their skills.

If the employee is plateaued because of the fact that jobs just don't look like they used to "you mean I have to make all the decisions myself?", "you mean I have to let my employees make decisions, I have to be a coach not a manager?" you can help them learn about the new world of work by providing information on organization results needed and the turbulent business environment. Help them think of their careers more like an external vendor with skills to sell "Hi my name is Mary from 'You & Co'", which requires a business plan (a career plan). A great book for all employees to read is JobShift: How to Prosper in a Workplace Without Jobs by William Bridges. Help them be prepared to shift from project to project and give them the opportunities through training to develop their team and decision making skills. Unless we begin to reeducate our workforce to the realities of our needs as organizations we are in for decades of economic chaos that will damage our organization.

Through career development, managers can help employees realize that "up" is not the only way of achieving career satisfaction, security, and commitment. By assisting our employees in understanding their motivations, needs, talents, skills, work goals, and personal values and by helping them see alternative ways of integrating these aspects of themselves with their careers, your organization can help the individual achieve a personal transformation and gain a productive employee!

Carolyn B. Thompson is the President of Training Systems, Inc., a customized training & HR consulting company that helps small and medium sized organizations enhance their ability to recruit, inspire, and retain quality employees and improve performance through training. Training Systems, Inc. also provides training design and delivery services to training companies and the training departments of large companies, and professional and trade organizations. Carolyn is an exciting, experienced, and inspirational trainer who leads people to learn, and a knowledgeable consultant in the employee recruitment, inspiration, and retention. Carolyn’s produced a two-tape audio tape set based on her radio show, Straight Talk for Employers; the worksheet, Ten Steps to Determining the Return on Your Training Investment; written & published the book, Creating Highly Interactive Training Quickly & Effectively, and written Interviewing Techniques for Managers and The Leadership Genius of George W. Bush. She’s written articles for prominent magazines, been interviewed for Chicago’s TV Channel 26, the ‘You’re Hired’ radio show, and written chapters in several books. Carolyn is also the editor of the monthly publication, Recruit, Inspire and Retain.

©Training Systems, Inc. 1999


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