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Early in my career I was blessed to work in a job that I enjoyed for a company I believed in. I worked in employee relations in a plant that manufactured piston ring castings for the automotive industry. Our plant was considered world class. Our 300 or so employees were all salaried, and our employee relations practices were beyond leading edge. Our metrics and culture were the envy of all who studied us.
 
We were often benchmarked by other companies, and those of us involved were in a never-ending learning loop, as we challenged ourselves to do our jobs better each day. Like nearly every other employee in the company, I loved my job. I was truly on the right bus in the right seat, totally energized by my work.
 
And then one day my boss decided to loan me out to the accounting department for an unspecified period of time to cover for a colleague taking a leave of absence. It seemed like a good idea, and I was certainly willing to learn something new. I was trained straightaway and turned loose to calculate. The job required me to work with numbers eight hours a day. Keeping my head down, punching numbers into a calculator day after day with no end in sight finally got to me. I became extremely unhappy and grouchy. My work friends began to avoid me for good cause. In short order, I had transformed from a tuned-in, turned-on engaged employee to an extremely unhappy, disengaged employee. I was apparently so unpleasant to be around that I wasn't even invited to my own surprise birthday party.
 
What happened to the good employee? I was just as mystified as everyone else. My bosses were concerned but chalked it up to my turning a year older in a most ungraceful and ungrateful way. Soon enough my bad attitude began spilling over onto anyone who came within 12 feet. It wasn't pretty and I wasn't proud of it. I had come to hate my job even though I knew it was temporary. Eventually the accounting assistant returned to her calculator and I returned to my job in employee relations. It took a while but I got back in the groove and became a good and productive employee once again. What the heck happened here?
 
In the 1999 best seller “First, Break All the Rules,” The Gallup Organization revealed how to fully engage employees. A sequel, “12 Elements of Great Managing,” was published in 2006. The third element to fully engaging employees is entitled "The Opportunity to Do What I Do Best." Rewind to my personal case study. My skill set and work style were clearly a bad match for the temporary job and a great match for my regular job. In my regular job, I had the opportunity every day to do what I did best. I had the opportunity to succeed, and I like to think I seized it. I was poorly matched for my temporary job and became a high maintenance employee.
 
Mismatching employee talent with job requirements is a leading cause of employee disengagement. In today's workplace, these mismatches are avoidable given the right screening tools.
 
Great managers inspire top performance, generate enthusiasm and unite disparate work styles toward common goals while tapping into the individual talents of each member on their team. Their team members have the opportunity to do what they do best because their talents are intentionally matched to the needs of the work.
 
“12 Elements of Great Managing” cited a study indicating that organizations focused on maximizing the natural talents of their employees increased engagement levels by an average of 33% a year, equating to an average of $5.4 million in productivity over enterprises using traditional management methods. Apparently, matching employee strengths to job requirements can really pay off.

Jeanne Gladden

Born to be in business, Jeanne Gladden is a business coach, consultant and educator.

 

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