With unemployment still running above 9% nationally, many people are taking jobs that are lateral—or even downward—moves in their careers. As a result, many managers are supervising employees who have far more experience than the job requires.
People who lost jobs during this recession are even more likely to feel overqualified in their current positions, says a new study by the Pew Research Center.
But, these days, supervising and retaining employees who feel “above” their jobs is a key part of being a good manager.
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Overqualified employees usually perform better and can be some of the most valuable assets to an organization, studies show. But they tend to have less job satisfaction and higher turnover.
Use the following guidelines to effectively manage overqualified workers and lengthen their stay:
1. Use them as mentors. Ask the overqualified employees to conduct on-the-job training of new workers. Veteran employees will feel they are making a valued contribution while the organization mines their experience and knowledge.
2. Detail the job. Don’t assume that newly hired overqualified employees know performance expectations or will “pick it up” on their own. Detailing job duties prevents such employees from trying to unilaterally expand their roles and becoming frustrated when they can’t.
3. Combine two positions. Assign a newly created or existing position with meaningful duties and responsibilities. Such a move can challenge overqualified employees and increase department productivity.
4. Assign challenging projects. Delegate short-term or long-term projects, including those that require the employee to acquire new skills or work with another department.
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5. Value their input. Solicit ideas and be open to those that are offered voluntarily. When appropriate, ask overqualified employees to help implement their ideas.
6. Allow more autonomy. Don’t exert as much supervision or control if the employee can work independently and remain productive. Overqualified employees may bristle at what they perceive as constantly being told what they already know.
7. Don’t be paranoid. Avoid harboring notions that overqualified employees want your position. Such feelings hinder effective management.
Final tip:Remember to avoid using the word “overqualified” within earshot of employees and job candidates, and don’t use the term in writing to describe them. A rejected applicant could file an age-discrimination lawsuit claiming that the word is code for "too old."
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