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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

If an employee needs a new role, here’s how to find the right fit

If a team member exhibits low performance but high potential, it may be time to pivot them toward a different position.

If an employee needs a new role, here’s how to find the right fit
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

Sometimes when a team member isn’t performing well, it’s not because of their work ethic or skills. Rather, the team member may simply be in the wrong position.

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A good leader understands that a hard-working employee is valuable and worth keeping, and if that’s the case, it’s important to find the right fit for them. To help you do this, a panel of Fast Company Executive Board members shares some key things a leader can do to find the right fit for such an employee.

1. HAVE A DIALOGUE.

There is no better tool than a trusting dialogue about strengths and growth areas. The leader needs to connect the business objectives with the ability and, ideally, the passion of the employee. Actually, appointing the right person to the position is the main task of the leader. But this will work only if the employee himself is willing and ready to change. – Yura Lazebnikov, TECHIIA holding

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2. HELP THEM CHANNEL THEIR ENTHUSIASM AND DEVOTION ELSEWHERE.

Enthusiasm and devotion to the company’s mission are priceless. These are traits that are much harder to find than the basic skills that are usually the focus of the hiring manager. Give these stars a chance to try out other roles in the business and you will often find that their energy is best applied in a way you did not initially anticipate. – Alex Husted, HELPSY

3. FIND THE SOURCE OF THE ISSUE.

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Listen and explore what is going on to ensure they understand the source of the issue. Is it the role? Their manager? A development need? Confidence? A personal issue getting in the way of being their best self at work? Don’t assume. Engage the team member to get to an answer in a way that demonstrates your commitment to them. – Amy Radin, Pragmatic Innovation Partners LLC

4. SEE HOW THEY COLLABORATE ACROSS DEPARTMENTS.

Observe their collaborations with other departments. They will likely shine extra brightly in their collaboration with the department where they actually belong. Make sure to hang on to them because great people are your most valuable asset. – Esther Kestenbaum Prozan, Ruby Has Fulfillment

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5. INVITE THEM TO AN OPEN CONVERSATION.

Every leader will one day manage a “right person, wrong job” situation. Likely, the employee knows they are not doing well and an open conversation will be a relief. Taking a positive, proactive, and direct stance is the only option. By partnering, all parties can determine a path that works in the company or outside. Through mutual discussion, the employee can feel valued, no matter what the outcome. – Kermit Randa

6. ASK THEM TO WRITE THEIR OWN JOB DESCRIPTION.

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We’re big on empowering unique talent. Unique talent doesn’t always fit together with our mapped organizational structure. I ask that person to write their own job description based on where they believe they can add the most value. – Meagan Bowman, STOPWATCH

7. LET THEM TRY A DIFFERENT DEPARTMENT.

Assign your team to other departments for a small period of time, cross-function and cross-collaboration allow you to measure important aspects about individuals. If it’s something related to skills you can always teach them and train them. But if it’s about the attitude, they will fail in your department in another department, and in life because “attitude is not teachable.” That is why cross assignment works. – Fernando Anzures, EXMA Global

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8. TELL THEM YOU’RE ON THEIR SIDE.

Make sure the team member knows you are on their side and that you are there for their success. Start with an informal dialogue that looks at the intersection of three circles: purpose, passion, and core competencies—and then see how that aligns with the organization’s vision and needs. Above all, ensure the right attitude is there, as over time this is arguable the key success factor. – Marc Inzelstein, Indiggo – Return on Leadership

9. USE A PERSONALITY ASSESSMENT.

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I have found a lot of value in using leadership and personality assessments. Many are inexpensive and easy to take, yet provide rich insights about an employee’s personality, motivations, interests, and values. Reviewing the assessment results together can get the two of you unstuck. A more data-driven, fact-based conversation will take the guesswork and shame out of underperformance. – Steve Dion, Dion Leadership

10. HELP THEM FIND THEIR PURPOSE.

Help the employee find their purpose and key strengths. Employees that leverage their strengths at work have higher engagement levels than those that do not and that fuels their productivity and creativity. When you add a clear personal purpose, which helps the employee understand how they can do what they love while having a positive impact on others, motivation and performance skyrockets. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

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11. INTRODUCE THE SHIFT AS A POSITIVE THING.

Find an assessment tool (there is a great one called MyInnerGenius) that can measure and predict what position fits the employee’s natural skills, abilities, and personality. If introduced in a positive way to the employee—framed that this will help us find the best way to support your growth in the company—the propensity of them, to be honest, will be high. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

12. ASK THEIR COLLEAGUES.

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Speak with several employees who work directly with that team member. Ask them to share examples of when this person has excelled at work, their greatest strengths, and areas needed for improvement. Then, work with your HR Manager to identify career development opportunities and if it’s possible to increase their job responsibilities in areas where they thrive.  – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

13. MOVE THE EMPLOYEE AROUND.

Some people take time to find their roles. In such cases, your best move is to move them around. Talk to the employee first and ask them to join and work in different teams. Also, ask them to do online courses for skills they might do well in. Eventually, they’ll find a job or a team that works for them and they’ll do their best work. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

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14. ESTABLISH A CONNECTION AND COMMUNICATE.

One way is by having genuine communication with the member of the team. Communication goes beyond just having small talk. It may sound simple but it takes time and attention to establish a connection and create openness. By that, you, as a leader can digest what can be happening and can come up with a solution that fits the member. – Lane Kawaoka, SimplePassiveCashflow.com

15. CONDUCT AN EDUCATIONAL EXPERIMENT.

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Expose the employee to other departments within the organization as part of an educational experiment to see where the team member piques a keen interest. Learn about their personal interests which often can coincide with their professional passions and book recurring touchpoints to hear their feedback on exposure to the various new departments. Ask a lot of probing questions and listen for cues. – Amanda Dorenberg, COMMB

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