Don’t Force-Fit Your Employees’ Assignments

Don’t put a square peg in a round hole.

We’ve all heard this adage describe many different scenarios, but think of how it applies to your workforce. Do you have to assign certain employees tasks that are outside their core competencies? Have you wasted time, energy, and money redoing someone’s work?

Forcing employees to complete projects outside their skill sets doesn’t make sense from a management standpoint. What’s worse, it’s a poor strategic use of your (always limited) resources, and it can have far-reaching implications.

Mismatched assignments often result in poorer-quality work that takes much longer to complete, which significantly damages your company’s productivity — particularly if more time and resources must be exhausted to fix mistakes.

What’s more, employees assigned to projects they don’t like are also apt to lower your firm’s morale. You don’t want your employees to dread coming to work or feel frustrated that they aren’t fulfilling their potential. The key is carefully selecting assignments based on your employees’ interests or even seeking outside help when your manpower won’t suffice.

Signs of a Poor Fit

EmployeeBefore you can match assignments to your employees, you have to identify when an employee isn’t a good match. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to spot. Here are three indicators that reveal an employee isn’t up to a specific task:

  • He is reluctant to seek help. It’s an especially clear sign if he refuses help when offered.
  • His task takes significantly longer to complete than anticipated.
  • Large amounts of internal resources (far beyond what was budgeted) are required to help him complete the project.

Other factors may come into play, of course, but these three are very common and often readily apparent. Think about it this way: You wouldn’t hand your car keys to an untrained 12-year-old driver, would you?

Of course not — that’s dangerous!

For the same reason — but for your business’s well-being — you shouldn’t hand an assignment to an employee who isn’t equipped with the appropriate skills. If you let someone handle an important project without the necessary skill set, it could have huge ramifications for your business. Here are three key techniques for assigning projects in your company:

  • Have a good feel for your employees’ strengths and interests. As often as you can, assign your employees projects based around their passions. If an employee is naturally interested in a project, she’ll likely put more effort into the project, which will be reflected in the final result.
  • Ask for self-evaluations. After a project is complete, ask your employees to self-evaluate their work, and tailor future assignments around this information. Reviewing each employee’s past work is another way to confirm the feedback.
  • Implement a strong onboarding program. Gauging your new employees’ talents and interests as part of this forum is essential. Training new staff up front can alleviate potential headaches down the road.

Seek Outside Help

Simply implementing these strategies doesn’t guarantee success. Sometimes, you just don’t have the manpower necessary for certain tasks. If you’ve determined that no one on your team is capable of handling a project, it might be time to consider seeking outside help. Take these steps to find third-party support that fits your needs and culture:

  1. Understand and articulate your needs. This makes searching for a company easier, and ultimately, it will lead to better results. When an outside company knows exactly what you want, it will be better equipped to deliver. Clearly identify the project’s core goals and how the company can fulfill those.
  2. Research. Always check out the background of the person or group you want to hire before you make any binding agreements. Doing this will ensure that your choice has the expertise and experience needed to complete the project at hand. Be sure to elicit feedback from the consultant’s previous clients as well.
  3. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask about the firm’s proposed approach to the project. The work this consultant will perform could drastically affect your business’s health, so you have the right to ask detailed questions.

Running a successful small business means fiercely protecting your firm’s manpower and financial resources. Wasting any of these can be detrimental (and even fatal) to your organization. Properly assigning work to your employees is one way to skillfully execute leadership. But identifying those who struggle with certain tasks and seeking outside assistance to properly complete the job is a safeguard against diminished productivity, employee frustration, and wasted resources.

About the Author

Rob Biederman is the co-founder and CEO of HourlyNerd, a service that connects businesses to top MBA students and alumni to solve critical business problems at affordable prices.