‘The right plant in the right place’

As a newbie gardener, I’ve been to a few classes at Star Nursery this past year. Every time I go, the teacher emphasizes the importance of the right plant in the right place. When I first heard the phrase, I didn’t take much note. However, after he repeated it several times, I started to realize the concept might be important.

Thinking back to this past summer, when some of my succulents lived while others died, I finally got what he’d been trying to express: It’s not enough to just give like plants the same amount of water, bug repellent, space and fertilizer; they need to be planted in an environment where they’ll thrive. In the case of the succulents I lost, they were getting way too much sun during the summer months.

The same goes in an office environment. Sometimes employers can make the mistake of assuming that, because an employee thrives in one position, they can thrive in any position. However, this — unfortunately — isn’t always the case. Someone who’s exceptional at customer service may not do well at, say, sales. Likewise, someone who’s excellent at sales may not do very well at managing a team of sales people.

So how do you know whether moving someone into a new position — or expanding their current job role — will be a boon or a curse? While there are no guarantees, there are a few things you can do to mitigate your risk:

  1. Talk to your employees. (And/or have them complete a survey.) Ask them what their ideal job is, where they would like to go within your company, and what their favorite part about their current position is. Keep the lines of communication open.
  2. Give each employee a StrengthsFinder or similar test. Keep the findings in mind when analyzing employees’ current successes (or failures) and consider moving those who are enthusiastic but not necessarily meeting their potential in their current roles.
  3. Consider opening up vacated or new positions to everyone, rather than “voluntelling” someone for the role. You might be surprised who applies for the position — and who doesn’t. Talk to those who you thought would be perfect for the role but didn’t apply to gain some insight into what they’re looking for, and don’t automatically exclude those who you don’t think will be capable; they might have valuable skills you just haven’t seen yet.
  4. Observe. Actions speak louder than words.

What approaches have you found effective?

Melissa Biernacinski is a writer, editor and chronic joiner who can often be found drinking coffee, petting puppies and coming up with ideas for projects she doesn’t know how to implement.

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