Suppose you have a new employee named Susan. She come in every day with an incredibly positive attitude: eager to learn, and open to anything you throw her way. As a customer support rep, she has a rather narrowly defined role of responding to customer inquiries online. However, she is constantly seeking new tasks to take on. It almost seems like her plate is never full.
Employees like Susan are incredibly assets to your organization. They become “utility players” who can be thrown into a diverse set of projects and always give it their all. The challenge can be that these new projects can begin to feel like a distraction to their primary role. It often seems like they’d prefer to ditch their primary role for something totally new.
How do you balance keeping these eager employees engaged while also ensuring they can deliver on their current commitments?
1. Identify areas for new responsibility
Your organization likely has gaps in some areas. For example, you are launching a CRM and need additional project management support, or the support reps keep getting a series of very complex cases that need a domain expert. When you identify an employee who is always coming back for more, look in the organization for these areas where she may be able to jump in, learn more, get fulfillment and add value. Often this is outside her primary department.
2. Give them “soft opportunities” for leadership
Even if the employee is an individual contributor right now, always look for ways to let them dip their toes into leadership. This can be as simple as leading a project team. If they do well, the next time there is an opening to be a manager of a couple of people, they get on the short list. From your perspective, this also serves as a “trial period” to see how they perform as leader before giving them any permanent leadership responsibilities.