If you care about high-performing teams I urge you to read a Gallup article titled “What’s More Important: Talent or Engagement?” When I first read the title, I concluded that the answer was (c) both of the above. If I had a really engaged person with no talent, how would that help me? Similarly, if I had a very talented person who wasn’t engaged how would that help me? So my first conclusion was that both were necessary and I thought of the quadrants this way:
Gallup says “companies cannot maximize performance without engaging their employees.” In my experience this means companies:
- Spend tremendous time and energy trying to hire talented people. They draft job requirements documents and perhaps train managers on how to hire.
- Invest in employee engagement programs with surveys, three point plans, and town hall meetings. Done well these programs improve corporate alignment. Done poorly they provide Dilbertesque fodder to the rank and file.
If these efforts fail and if job performance isn’t adequate, managers typically resort to one tool – performance improvement plans. If you aren’t a jackpot employee, you’re a dud.
Perhaps the initial reaction of “engaged but untalented” and “talented but unengaged” lacks the notion of job fit. What if, by changing the job role, we placed an engaged employee in a role where their talents shine through? Or what would happen if, by changing job role, the talented employee would self-engage and tap into their inherent drive? Suddenly the quadrants look like this:
When fit is good, employees engage themselves (!) which is where the true power comes from when considering talent vs. engagement. By re-thinking our assumptions about talent and engagement and by viewing them through the lens of job fit we have a much larger opportunity to:
- Aid in employee engagement thus
- Improve corporate profitability
(Those doubting this linkage should review this article.)
The pivot point is that no amount of engagement or talent can overcome a poor fit so now my conclusion is that “companies can maximize performance by placing talented people in the right role.” The next time you think you have a productivity problem don’t ask whether you’ve got a talent problem or an engagement problem, ask if the wrong fit is impacting the engagement of the talented person you hired.
One other thing: just like the fit of your favorite blue jeans, job fit rarely remains constant. Be on the lookout for opportunities to find better fits for your team members.