Q: I was just given responsibility for two teams, with a mandate to recraft the staffing structure to meet both current and emerging business needs. Unfortunately, among the nine people I’m now supervising, only three actually have the skills that are needed. What do I do to get my team where it’s supposed to be?
Ty, 40, technology manager
A: Realistically, you can’t pull off a two-thirds staffing transition all at once, and it probably wouldn’t be in your interest anyway. Instead, plan a phased transition that manages current work while building for the future.
Make a map of your current and future needs. Then consider whether the skills needed for your emerging business needs are really different from your current environment.
Also, assess the strengths and gaps each person has. My hunch is that you will have your top three, some who are more marginal, and then those who are the weakest fit. If your weaker people are already low performers, your path seems fairly clear. If they haven’t met current job requirements, you are not doing the team [or them] any favors by keeping them on.
It’s also obvious that you will keep your three stars. However, you may want to consider exactly how they are deployed.
For example, you may want give them responsibility for development and mentoring.
If they currently don’t have management experience and would like to grow in that direction, it gives them a chance to acquire new skills while strengthening the team.
Also find tangible ways to send a message that they are valued; think raises, bonuses, etc. Transition times can lead to flight, especially among strong performers who may not be sure they will have a good place in the new world, and who are well equipped to find a new position elsewhere.
Now to the trickiest part: the bunch in the middle. It’s clear from your question that you don’t feel like they cut it. Take the time to think about whether their shortcomings are driven by:
• Capacity: The skills are simply too advanced for them to reasonably acquire.
• Attitude: They are resistant to change or have some other attitudinal limitation that holds them back.
• Opportunity: They haven’t had the chance to learn the skills they will need, but it would be feasible with training and support. These are your “keepers.”
You will now have created some openings for new hires. Be very strategic here, zeroing in on your biggest skill gaps, and bringing on people who buy into the vision for the team.
Let’s say all this is complete, and you have your newly configured team of nine in place.
You still have a lot of work to do in building a performance-based culture, helping the new team create chemistry and a positive group dynamic, and continuing to get the day-to-day work done while you build to the future.
You can accomplish this by providing plenty of opportunity for communication.
Include some face-to-face meetings; this is especially important in the beginning if you have remote employees.
Give people the training they need, and provide in the moment feedback so that people can be motivated to excel.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.