Nobody wants to be told they are average. It has become a negative connotation in our vernacular, and deservedly so in some ways. But when we start force ranking people we put 70% of our employees into that space. We tell them they are average. We give them a standard 3% raise and then pay them no attention. Because we just assume that they will keep chugging away, running the engine and making things happen.
In most places, those in the 70% go unnoticed. They become your grinders, but they are not your “superstars”. But for those sitting on the fence, all they need is a little love. So find a way to give it to them. It is typical in our society to focus on the highs and the lows; we tend to ignore the middle. Which makes your plight even harder if you are feeling like you are stuck in the middle. It is tough to get people to pay attention to you. If you are someone in a position to do something about the 70% it is time to start working on it.
This group may not be your bench strength right now, but they straddle the fence between being ready for more and for becoming disengaged. Organizations have a responsibility to work with this group to make sure that they’re headed in the right direction. If you can bring part of this group up, and get them the experiences and skills that are important to your organization, you can start to move the needle in positive direction to address your talent shortage.
This type of work takes time and obviously scale. You can’t do everything for everyone. But, you can and you should start to offer targeted solutions to the fence sitters. Here’s some ways to get at them:
1. Create a mentoring program
2. Build coaching circles
3. Host informal lunch and learns
4. Put job swaps in play
5. Get your managers up-skilled in coaching
It does not have to be done on a grand scale, but it all needs to be well thought out and consistent. If you can get these valuable employees off the fence, then you can get them engaged. All it takes is just some time, attention, and coaxing.