Hidden skills of your staff and co-workers

Do you know all the non-task oriented skills and abilities of the people on your team?
Does someone in accounting has an undergraduate degree in English? Is your administrative assistant fluent in French and Spanish? Do your human resources representative fix computers on the weekend for extra money? Is the new writer just hired into the marketing department also an accomplished artist or photographer?
As a manager, these questions and questions like them can dramatically increase your department’s success, if you can find innovative ways to take advantage of these hidden skills.
Using an example from above, as the marketing the manager responsible for the company’s website, having someone on your the team who is an accomplished amateur photographer may provide the opportunity to save the company money. Asking the person on your team to take headshots of the senior executives for the website’s “About” page, rather than hiring an expensive external photography agency.
As a second example, if you have an English major turned accountant in your midst, this person may be able to help you proofread department presentations before presenting them to customers and/or senior management.
Being aware of your team members’ hidden skills has a number of advantages for both you and those working for you. Let’s begin with the advantages for your team:
1. Allows employees to illustrate greater value to the company
2. Provides the employees the opportunity for multiple potential career paths
3. Gives employees a way to expand their professional accomplishments
4. Allows employees to enhance their expertise in currently unused skills
5. Increases the group’s morale and job satisfaction by allowing them to use a wider range of their skills
6. Allows employees to use/practice their hobbies (ex. photography) at the office
The advantages for you, as the department manager, are:
1. Allows you to get greater value out of your staff
2. Reduces employee attrition by increasing employee morale and job satisfaction
3. Provides a way to help you grow your staff professionally
4. Helps foster innovation by bringing additional skills to the business table
5. Helps you personally build your professional brand as a manager who encourages his/her team members to move ahead professionally
6. Enhance your department’s productivity and effectiveness
My next question is, do you, your peers, your staff or your manager have any hidden skills or hobbies in common? If so, this is a great way to create close professional connections with other people at your company. For example, say you, your manager and vice president of sales are all musicians. Coming together as an ad hoc band to play at the company’s annual holiday party could not only be fun but also create long-term “of the organization chart” connections between you and your fellow musicians. These connections could potentially provide you with additional internal candidates to hire or career opportunities for you personally.
My last question is directed to you personally. What hidden skills do you have that could be of value to your manager, your company, or companies in other industries? Finding a way to incorporate your hidden skills into the job can help you accelerate your career. For example, if you are an accounting manager by day and follow the stock market at night, you may be perfectly positioned to combine your the accounting profession and your stock market hobby by transferring into your company’s treasury group or finding a job within the portfolio the accounting function of an asset management firm.
Until next time, work hard, work smart, manage well, and continue to build your professional brand.

Eric P. Bloom, of Hopkinton, is executive director of IT Management and Leadership Institute in Hopkinton. He can be reached at www.itmlinstitute.org.
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