When it comes to choosing talent, many organisational leaders tend to take a secondary school PE class approach – line everyone up and try to pick out the best players before the competition gets their dirty hands on them.
So, when it comes to our existing teams, we like to think we have the very best people in place already. People that are innovative, forward-thinking and bursting with creativity; yet hands-on, collaborative and pragmatic.
But how would you feel about having someone on your team that works reasonably hard, gets along with everyone, and generally does what is expected of them (but that’s about it) - and as soon as the clock strikes five, the only thing left of them is a trail of dust leading out the door?
Chances are, you probably already do. Within your organisation only a select few will have shown high-potential (and a select few would have shown absolutely none) – the remainder of your employees will fall somewhere in the middle.
Which raises the question – is it okay to accept ‘average’ employees on your team?
Passion is better than productivity.
While we might not always like it, there’s something stable about ‘average’ employees – they get the bare bones of the job done and, technically, they’re doing what’s been asked of them. Plus, finding new talent is tough, and can quickly backfire if you get someone in who’s even worse.
Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, right?
In reality, a lethargic attitude is infectious. If the rest of your team see average performing employees getting away with doing next to nothing without so much as a slap on the wrist, don’t be surprised when motivation levels start to plummet.
That’s why organisations should focus less attention on skills and experience, which can easily be trained and gained, and more on mindset when hiring new talent. Even if they don’t tick all the boxes, taking on board someone with a positive, hardworking attitude, a desire to learn, and a passion for your organisation, will be a much better asset in the long-run than someone lacking in enthusiasm.
But that’s not to say all hope is lost for ‘average’ employees. As a leader, it is a part of your job to try and raise the overall profile of your team – so, here’s how to encourage your ‘average’ employees to be a little less…well…‘average’:
1) Give them a push in the right direction.
The thing with average-performing employees is, while they might know that they’re not performing to their very best, they’re probably unaware that you’ve thrown in the ‘average’ category.
Chances are, they might even want to do well and achieve - they just need a little push in the right direction. Show them what success looks like in their role. Spend some time with them to explain in detail, and be specific about what it is you actually want them to achieve - and ask them what they want to achieve too.
According to Deloitte, only 35% of workers (and only 38% of highly-engaged workers) had the disposition to seek out challenges. Show your team that you want them to develop by encouraging them to take on new challenges and expand their skillsets. This way, not only will they be more engaged, they could make their way up into the high-performing category before you know it.
2) Help them find their purpose.
If you went around and asked your team members to detail what it is they want from work, and from their careers in general, very few of them would reply: “To be a high-performing member of this team”.
That’s because, while work plays an important role in our lives, it can never compete with our personal agendas, such as our family and friends (well, it shouldn’t anyway).
Encourage your employees to consider their personal purpose - what motivates them and drives them forward? And work with them to better understand how your organisation can help them pursue their purpose.
3) Pair average employees up with high-potentials.
Take a look at how your team is currently structured. Who does what? How do they work together? And are their roles connected in some way?
Then consider if a flatter, more agile team structure - where everyone works collaboratively in project teams towards achieving a common goal – would be appropriate. This approach will keep all your team members engaged, as they’ll have the freedom to pick up new skills and learn new experiences.
Or another worthwhile idea to consider pairing your ‘average’ performers up with your high performers in order to demonstrate the standard you’re looking for, and how they can successfully do it.
It’s always difficult having people on your team who don’t share the same enthusiasm as you, or who aren’t as dedicated to achieving the same result as the rest of your team, but spending some time with them to talk frankly about how to improve their overall engagement can be a good approach to take.