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Two Easy Ways to Maximize the Hidden Talent in Your Agency

Uncovering ways to maximize hidden talent in your agency requires a certain openness and a willingness to go beyond traditional thinking. Interviews are an essential selection tool; nothing beats a face-to-face conversation. Whether the interview is live and in-person or virtual, it’s important for all parties to get to know one another through dialogue and visual connection. Of course, it’s easy to make assumptions about the strength of a candidate based on the social confi- dence exhibited in an interview. Far too often we buy into the myth of charisma — the person whose gift for expression and self-promotion makes us imagine they have superior skills and ability. They are so confident, engaging, and outgoing; they must be talented, right? Um…wrong… or rather, not necessarily.

Or, perhaps due to a lack of time and energy (do we ever have enough of those?), we assume that someone who’s been responsible for performing certain tasks in the past will competently perform those tasks in the future. We rarely stop to ask ourselves (or the candidate) how well those tasks were done. This tendency can pack a mean punch down the road. It provides a misleading sense of who’s right for the role and encourages us to dismiss others who would be right if only we had consid- ered that transferrable skills can be as valid as past experience.

There is no denying we have a lot to uncover as we attempt to select the best per- son for the job.

As it gets increasingly harder to find and, just as importantly, retain top talent, we all want to make the perfect hire every time. Or, we joke about cloning our A-players. Everyone is competing for the best workers, but often we struggle with properly evaluating the candidate pool and then cultivating that talent throughout the em- ployee lifecycle. Like most other aspects of management, discovering and develop- ing talent is part skill and part, well, talent.

Uncovering and maximizing the best talent requires a certain openness and a will- ingness to go beyond traditional thinking about what makes someone good at what they do.

It’s all about what happens after the hire.

Post-hire, it becomes far too easy to stop paying attention to what’s working with the new employee and focus on what’s not. We are constantly looking for problems to fix. Sadly, however, that’s a sure way to lose sight of the individual’s strengths.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking a task is simple because a skilled employee makes it look that way.

Putting this all together, it’s a safe assumption that the people on your team possess their share of “hidden” talents that either weren’t identified during the hiring pro- cess (we were too busy matching traits to the job description) or haven’t been ap-preciated (since we are busy trying to fix the flaws). What a shame!

Instead, ask yourself how you can draw out your employees’ underappreciated abili- ties and, in so doing, create a win-win for the agency and staff?

Maximize the Hidden Talent in Your Agency

#1. Change Your Perspective

What we do is a direct result of what we believe, and if you believe that anyone can be taught to do anything, you’ll be intent on correcting employee weaknesses rather than focusing on the strengths that could be developed for the greater good of the organization.

Example: Jake is a producer. Jake started out as a CSR and knows everything worth knowing about post-sale relationships. He’s also affable, dependable, and wholly trust- worthy. He was never a fit for service and worked hard to get his shot in sales. However, Jake’s manager is often critical of the one thing Jake isn’t so good at… paperwork. One time Jake’s boss got so frustrated he complained to HR. Paula in HR heard the manager out. She knows Jake and is familiar with his reputation as a hard and effective worker. She wonders aloud whether Jake’s administrative duties shouldn’t be delegated to some- one else, leaving Jake more time to concentrate on what he does best. But the manager doesn’t like that idea. He insists that paperwork is a part of the job, and Jake needs to get better at it. He recommends the agency send Jake to time management training. Paula just shakes her head.

The bottom line. People are not naturally good at everything. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were? We all have innate talents. Think about how much more productive it would be to maximize those talents rather than waste time trying to fix the imper- fections.

#2. Unlock the Power of Employee Motivation

What makes your employees tick? What inspires them? What keeps them at your agency and not someone else’s?

We all have basic needs to meet, and most people need a paycheck; that’s a given. There are bills to pay and food to put on the table. However, money alone doesn’t motivate or keep people fully engaged in their work. Once an employee’s basic fi-

nancial needs are met, people look for more, such as a connection to the culture, core values, and people as well as validation, recognition, intellectual stimulation, and even power. Knowing what drives your employees can help maximize their en- gagement and performance. Omnia’s behavioral assessments are an excellent, ob- jective way to uncover this valuable information.

Example: Allison is a CSR. She has a “helping personality” and enjoys answering custom- er questions, supporting the producers, and generally working with people to solve their problems. She has been with the agency for several years and understands how things work. Recently, Allison was informed by her manager that customer service reps will soon be expected to add “selling” to their role. In fact, each rep will be responsible for meeting a monthly sales quota. On the plus side, CSRs who exceed the goal will be eligible for a cash bonus. Allison likes the idea of a bonus, but she’s afraid she won’t be able to meet her quota, and she sincerely hates the idea of “pushing” products on customers. The thought of proactively asking for something from a customer creates a sense of dread. She’s devastated at the thought of having to quit (or be removed from) a job she’s en- joyed for so long.

The bottom line. This new initiative is sure to fail if Allison’s employer doesn’t figure out that Allison is motivated by the opportunity to assist customers in a reactive way rather than the prospect of earning additional cash. Allison views activities like upselling and cross-selling as the opposite of helping customers. Now imagine if the manager understood all that and found a way to change the narrative? Instead of a setup for failure, Allison could be coached to view upselling as an additional way to help customers by exposing them to services they need but may be unaware of. Also, it might be less intimidating to remove the quota and find a different metric. If service personalities wanted to work under a quota, they would be in sales.

The Bright Side

Your employees probably have a host of talents you haven’t discovered yet. Uncov- ering and maximizing these “hidden talents” is entirely possible if you keep an open mind and your eye on what motivates your team.

Author: Wendy Sheaffer – Chief Product Officer at The Omnia Group, an employee assessment firm providing the power of behavioral insight to help organizations make successful hires and develop exceptional employees. Wendy is a subject matter expert in using Omnia’s 8 col- umns as a tool to make more-informed hiring and development decisions and effectively engage staff. She works directly with clients and Omnia staff to provide a deeper under- standing of how to use personality data to meet business goals. For more information, visit us at, email or call 800.525.7117.

For more information, email or call 800.525.7117.

The Omnia Group


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