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How to Identify, Approach and Succeed in Moving an Employee within Your Organization

Good employees are often hard to find. And, once you find them, you don’t want to let them go. After all, you’ve invested time and resources into their onboarding and development, and your team members have forged positive, professional relationships with them. But, the reality is, some people are on the right bus, but may be in the wrong seat. Read on for how you can identify this scenario and make changes that will ensure both the employee and your organization are satisfied and set up for success.

How do you know?

One telltale sign an employee may be in the right company but the wrong job is their interest in the “extra-curriculars.” If they seem more engaged in volunteering for a committee or offering to help with projects outside of their role, this could be a red flag. These behaviors can be their way of saying, “I am committed to this company but maybe not to this particular job.”

How do you approach them?

Whenever possible the most senior person who has a strong relationship with the employee should have the conversation about changing roles. Imagine your direct manager asking if you want to leave? It may feel like a betrayal. But, if the boss’ boss says, “We really appreciate your talents and contributions, but it seems like you might like a different role within the company,” it may go over much better. The executive can value the person without being territorial about the group the employee may be leaving. If your organizational structure doesn’t lend itself to this approach, a higher level HR contact can be helpful.

How do you handle it?

When you are talking with the person about the possibility of switching roles, it’s crucial to make sure it’s a two-way conversation, and you are not telling them why they are bad at one job and may be good at another. Play up the person’s strengths, tell them some of your ideas and see how they react. If you make it seem punitive or like they don’t have a say, you may end up offending and even losing the employee.

How do you announce it?

Culturally, it is important the change be supported at all levels, whether higher, lower or lateral. The move should be treated like you would a promotion, with the same fanfare. When communicated and handled respectfully, it will enable other employees who may want to make a change to approach you, instead of looking outside your organization.

When an employee is talented, committed and engaged with your organization, but not necessarily in the right role, it’s worth the time and attention to determine if there might be a more suitable position in the company. When the transition is handled correctly, the person will feel better about his or her career and both your organization and the employee will benefit.

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