Performance management principles: nurturing expertise in the workplace
As the famous quote goes, “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. This quote has been attributed to a wide range of leaders over the years, but it’s one of the most important principles in management and leadership. Being a strong leader isn’t about having the most knowledge, it’s about making the most of the knowledge and expertise around you.
Last week, we looked at the importance of spotting and nurturing potential in your workforce. This week, it’s time to take a look at expertise.
What does expertise mean?
According to a trusty Google search, expertise is defined as “expert skill or knowledge in a particular field”. So, at what point does knowledge cross over from general interest to expert?
The answer lies in research.
Where does expert knowledge/skill come from?
Throughout your career, in your personal life, and across a wide range of media, you will likely encounter people who claim to be experts in a specific field. Perhaps they have a PhD, have devoted years of their life to collecting memorabilia, or they may simply have a particular fascination with something a little niche.
Ultimately, expertise comes from learning. Learning will always be a vital part of performance and development in the workplace at every level of an organisation. Here at Kallidus for example, we believe that we cannot teach if we are not willing to learn.
Why should you look for expertise?
When it comes to managing performance in the workplace, spotting expertise (and the potential for expertise) is a pivotal factor in growing a successful team.
An important thing to remember is that not everyone is, or wants to be, an expert in any particular field. And again, just as with potential, this is OK. Experts are specialised and regardless of intent or a prevailing want to learn, there will always be people around you at work who know things that you don’t. Cherish this, because their knowledge will only make you stronger.
Expertise and power dynamics
In terms of interpersonal and working relationships, expertise is one of the most interesting aspects to look at. As a manager or leader within an organisation, it is important to recognise the expertise of others as a valuable asset, and not something to be threatened by.
No one person can know everything, so being able to step back and let your resident expert take centre stage is hugely important to their growth as an employee and the growth of your organisation. It does mean that in certain situations, your resident expert will have more control and power over certain outcomes than you do, but this is no bad thing.
Someone doesn’t have to have been in their field for 20 years to be an expert. Whether you’re looking to a senior software developer of a junior architect, expertise come from all levels of seniority. As a manager or leader, you are the sum of the strengths of your team members. Spotting, using, and rewarding expertise will only make you all stronger.
Managing the performance of an expert in the workplace
There isn’t one blanket answer for this; everyone is motivated in different ways depending on a wide range of things like personality types (a popular choice is Myers Briggs), workplace drivers, career ambitions, and the context of their wider life. Not everything can be answered by a survey, but there are a number of ways you can begin to understand the needs of your workforce.
When it comes to managing the performance of your resident experts, we would recommend a combination of the following:
- Encouragement: it’s important to encourage your experts to keep on learning and give them time within the working day to expand their knowledge and their skillset. Employees become experts through a desire to learn.
- Recognition: how to manage this will be different for different people. Some will be motivated best by public acknowledgement and others by a quiet thank you.
- Involvement: experts hold value to an organisation beyond their expertise. A key way to keep hold of your experts is to make sure they feel the option to get involved and be included outside of the realm of their specialisms
- Goals: set them goals and objectives to do with their current specialisms and area of expertise, allowing them the space to decide the direction they wish to take thing
- Communication: if someone has become an expert in something, there is the possibility they may get bored if lacking mental stimulation, so keep communication open and have regular check-ins to make sure they stay on the path of curiosity, wherever it may lead them
Expertise in the workplace are extremely valuable and should never been seen as a threat. A huge part of job satisfaction and morale is feeling recognised and valued, so make sure your performance management strategy reflects this. Experts need room to flourish and are a key part of a culture on continuous learning in the workplace – so give them space to learn new things and be open to new areas of research or even new job roles they may wish to move into.
Think you’ve spotted some experts in your workplace? Take a look at our performance management template to help them reach their potential.