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chris griffiths

If you have employees who are not flourishing in their current jobs the way they hoped they would, and the way your business needs them to, it is only prudent to look for alternative positions that may be better suited.

However, avoid taking it too far by creating positions that may suit them, but don't address your business's needs. That will eventually come back to haunt you both.

You might be surprised by how many employers force-fit positions to keep employees happy, but aren't actually serving their business's needs well.

I have worked with a lot of business owners who try hard to make every worker thrive in the position to which they are assigned.

This is very important for all parties. The business needs the productivity and workers want to feel productive and be successful in their assignments. They want to know and witness how their hard work and dedication contributes to the business. For them, like you, just getting a pay cheque is not fulfilling enough.

Not surprisingly, things don't always work out this way, in spite of everyone's best intentions.

Instead of throwing your hands up in despair and dismissing a worker who is not fitting well in his or her role, you owe it to that employee, yourself and your business to look for alternative positions.

I experienced this first-hand in a manufacturing business I owned. A hard-working, conscientious employee was having a miserable time in my woodworking department. He was doing his best but just couldn't keep up in efficiency or quality. It wasn't his fault, but, having tried him in every position in that department, I was running out of options and was considering letting him go.

Around that time, a vacancy opened up in the sanding department. He and I both agreed it was worth giving it a shot. He took the position and flourished – and I do mean flourished. He didn't just keep up with productivity and quality; he led the team in both metrics within a couple of weeks of signing on.

I learned an important lesson: Be patient and invest time in trying to find the right fit.

This can be taken too far, however. I often witness entrepreneurs compromise their businesses by creating a position they think might be better for a worker, but doesn't actually suit the business's need.

In one instance, a small-business owner hired a junior bookkeeper, mostly for data entry. As the business grew, the books became more complicated. Though the owner offered to pay for training, it was clear his worker couldn't grow into the position the way the business needed.

The owner's response was to create a sales position for the individual, to avoid a layoff. Everyone's heart was in the right place. The worker accepted, no doubt in need of the income. The sales position certainly wasn't ideal for her either, but she did contribute.

The problem? This manufacturing company was already facing back orders and couldn't handle the extra sales!

The irony is obvious, as it was to the entrepreneur when I pointed it out. The truth is, I see this a lot.

The owner was overwhelmed, as many are, by the thought of having to let someone go for whom a position could not be practically assigned. A layoff is heart-wrenching for all parties.

But compromising your small business by burdening it with a salary it doesn't need creates risks for your company that could, in the extreme, eventually lead to jeopardizing its financial stability and, in turn everyone's job, including your own.

The delicate balance then, is to work with your employees to find the right fit, based on positions that the business needs.

You are trying to find the right person for the right job – not create a job for a good person.

Chris Griffiths is the Toronto-based director of fine tune consulting, a boutique management consulting practice. Over the past 20 years, he has started or acquired and exited seven businesses.

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