One of my clients works for a major U.S. company.  Recently he saw a position posted in his organization by his supervisor.  The position was more senior than the one he currently holds.  My client was very interested in this role, and believed he possessed the requisite skills identified in the job posting.  After discussing with me how to address this issue my client summoned up the nerve to speak to his boss about his candidacy.

He approached the issue subtlety, and waited for the right moment in the conversation.  He indicated that he saw the posting, and mentioned that he believed he possessed all the skill requirements. He then asked his boss if he saw any skill deficiencies that might limit his candidacy. His boss indicated two, both of which were experience based.  What the boss didn’t realize however was that my client did, in fact, have these two skills….in fact, a lot of experience acquired in both areas prior to joining his present employer.

A Common Complaint

Why wasn’t my client’s supervisor aware of his qualifications?  Is there a disconnect?  Perhaps.  Was it an oversight or an honest mistake?  Maybe.  Was it an anomaly?  Sadly, no.

My client is an extremely bright, talented individual. Not only is he very well educated, personable and talented but he is a super star in his field.  He has a rare and highly specialized skill set, and works in an industry sector where finding people of his calibre is an ongoing challenge.  At the same time my client was considering applying internally a colleague of his residing in another part of the United States connected with him via e-mail to apprise him of a similar opening in her firm.

Why would an employer risk losing such a talented employee?  Why would a supervisor not fully comprehend the skills, talents and experience of people working for them?


Supervisors have an important role to play in the war for talent.

Supervisors who understand the skills, talents and abilities of their team, and who leverage opportunities on their behalf, help in promoting employee retenton (Photo by fauxels courtesy of Pexels)

Getting to Know You

The following are list of possible reasons as to why this situation might occur:

  1. The supervisor is comparatively new to the company.  Newly hired or promoted supervisors may just be getting comfortable in their role, and may not have had a chance to meet with their team members to identify their skills and aptitudes.
  2. The supervisor inherited their team following a reorganization, merger or acquisition.  Perhaps the supervisor did not hire their team members.  Maybe they have never actually reviewed their employees’ resumes.  Maybe the issue of an employee’s background has never surfaced in previous conversations.
  3. The supervisor is physically distant from their team members.  Sometimes, supervisors inherit employees who may be physically based in a different city, region or country.  It is possible they may not have physically met their team members.
  4. The supervisor never reviewed their employees’ files.  Perhaps the supervisor never inherited the files of persons reporting to them.  Or, maybe there is no employee file containing their employee’s resume.  In essence, maybe they are starting from scratch.
  5. The supervisor never asked about the background, education, experience or skills of the team.  It is highly probable that the issue has never surfaced in a previous conversation.  Maybe the conversations have always been about the “here and now” rather than what an employee may have done prior to joining their present organization.

No Excuses Please

If you have direct reports then you have a moral obligation to know the members of your team.  Period.  Full stop.

That may seem like a sweeping generalization.  Perhaps it is.  However, in the situation involving my client, his employer was marching ahead full steam ready to embark on a major recruitment initiative to recruit someone with skills that were already in existence within their company.  The company was gearing up to post the position externally, spend hours vetting and interviewing candidates, and possibly even engaging an external search firm to source credible candidates.  Sorry, but that not only borders on irresponsible but it could even be described as stupid.

If you have team members reporting to you then the following should be immediate priorities:

  1. Get their employee files and review them.  Find out about your employees’ background, experience, education and certifications.
  2. Read previous performance reviews.  Identify the strengths, development areas and interests of each of your team members.
  3. Ask, don’t presume to know.  Take the time to meet personally with each team member.  Ask them to outline their background.  Find out what motivates them, and particularly, what they like and dislike.
  4. Speak with your peers. Ask them for their perceptions of each of your team members.

A Final Thought…

While the economy is currently in a depressed state the fact is that it will soon rebound.  When it does, Round 2 of the War for Talent will begin anew.  Those organizations that understand their employees, are aware of their skills and aptitudes, and provide meaningful opportunities for growth and development, will be well positioned to make gains.  Those that don’t had better gear up for a major recruitment drive as their high performers head for the exit door in search of better opportunities.