Recruitment & Retention Articles

After you've spent resources onboarding your new employees, the true task becomes retaining them. Finding top talent and keeping them around is what makes most growing businesses competitive. New technology and the changing workforce is shifting the age-old processes HR managers have relied on.

Employee Talent: Right Person, Wrong Place?

20 May 2017
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A large part of employee communications is finding the right talent for the right job. What happens when you get the right person in the wrong position?

Sydney Smith in On the Conduct of the Understanding, one of a series of lectures on moral philosophy he delivered at the Royal Institution in the early 1800s, coined the idiomatic expression “a square peg in a round hole.” It’s a metaphor that can be used in every aspect of life, from the professional to the personal. It’s still in use in the 21st century, and often describes someone who is the right person in the wrong job. The square peg can be jammed into the round hole, but inevitably, there will be damage to both parts.

Employee Talent: Finding the Round Peg for the Round Hole

Every company, from the largest to the smallest, can run into “square and circle” issues with employees. It can happen during the hiring process. Or it can happen with a current employee. The person may share the organization’s vision and goals, but doesn’t have the skill set necessary to accomplish the task at hand. Or the skills are impressive, but the individual doesn’t fit into the corporate culture. And organizations can mistake someone for a genuine asset because “s/he looked good on paper.”

There are warning signs in the recruiting phase of employee hiring. They include a candidate’s lack of knowledge about the company and the position, an undistinguished or absent track record of achievements, arrogance, supplied references that are not from former supervisors or managers, and a gut feeling that the candidate isn’t right for a job. Paying attention to both concrete and intuitive reactions to a person can stop damage to the company before it starts.

Employee Hiring & Retention: The Good, the Bad, and the Terribly Ugly


Coach Phil Crosby noted “Selecting the right person for the right job is the largest part of coaching.” Human resources personnel function as the talent scouts of the business world. Similar to scouts in professional sports, they take a look at who’s available in the current roster of employees, and what is needed. Sometimes, it’s a simple redirection of assets.

Perhaps a computer programmer has shown a tremendous knack in designing layouts for Web pages. It might be time to have a conversation with that person, and move him/her into the design arena. Hand-in-hand with senior management, HR scopes out employee talent within the ranks, as well as the gaps in the company’s infrastructure.

Sadly, underperformance may define an individual’s relationship to both a company and its culture. So what are the warning signs that Employee A, or potential Employee A is more of a liability than an asset? In an article by Brittney Helmrich for Business News Daily , Christian Muntean, a principal at Vantage Consulting, cites four red flags every HR and departmental manager should look for.

  • The employee demonstrates a pattern of weakness in a particular area.
  • The employee expresses frustration about one responsibility or role in particular.
  • The employee has a certain set of tasks or duties that they always seem to put off.
  • Other employees or managers tell you that the job doesn't seem to be a good fit.

These are issues that are potentially solvable. The person’s manager and the company’s HR director can sit down and discuss both the merits and minuses an individual brings to a position. The managerial role can be a step up in the company, but everyone who wants that role isn’t necessarily good in that role. For example, a hands-on person could very easily tip into the arena of micro-managing, which can lead to frustration and annoyance among team members.

Lawrence Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell International noted, “I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies.” So find the round peg for the round hole, and the square peg for the square hole.

Joetta L. Wagner

Joetta L. Wagner is a researcher, writer and editor extraordinaire with over 20 years' experience. She absorbs information like a sponge absorbs water, and has been known to dazzle cocktail party patrons with an endless array of collected factoids. Her ruthlessness as an editor is an acquired skill.

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