How well do you know what your employees are capable of? After the initial hiring interviews, hands-on training, and performance reviews have passed, there may still exist a few hidden mysteries about your employees’ abilities. Aside from exhibiting competency in their normal day-to-day duties, each person in your employ perhaps holds untapped potential simply waiting to manifest itself, given the right opportunity. The question is, how do you find out about those secret talents?

Not every unique skill a person possesses will show itself on a resume or come forth during an interview, nor do people always realize exactly what they are capable of.

In truth, some of the world’s most recognizable figures may have never been discovered if they had not sought to develop skills outside of their comfort zones.

Mark Zuckerberg, a former psychology major at Harvard, started Facebook as a social experiment to satisfy his need to look into how we live. His increasing development of business and marketing skills has grown his former experiment into a multi-billion dollar company.

Actor Harrison Ford made the transition from carpenter to Hollywood A-lister while installing cabinets and doors on a film set, later making a name for himself in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.

Though your employees may never become the next Zuckerberg or Ford, they harbor a wealth of underlying potential that you can – and should – awaken.

Scientific research informs us that only 20-25% of creative ability is genetic, which means 75-80% of those abilities can be developed.

And given the right opportunities, you can help your employees continue to develop their current skill set while discovering new ones, and use those skills to your company’s advantage. While there is no single right way to do this, you can follow a few simple strategies that will give you the greatest chance of successfully tapping in to your employee’s talent reserve:

1. Invest in Formal Training or Certification Programs

If you are already somewhat familiar with the skills of an employee, you can ensure they continue to build and hone those skills by offering ongoing training and support. This could take the form of certification classes, online webinars, offsite conferences, or any other type of formal instruction to ensure their skills stay relevant.

2. Administer a Formal Skills Assessment

A standard test to assess various skills isn’t the most exciting way to get to know your employees, but it can provide a useful tool if you need to compare skills between employees, or need a quick, visual reference regarding certain skills. A formal skills assessment can test each employee on basic skills relevant to your company, as well as gather insight as to what the employee is most interested in. Formal tests may also offer analytics based on the results, which could offer additional insight as to the natural balance of your company culture.

Analyzing the results of a skills assessment can prove helpful if you need to form teams or groups for projects, ensuring each member of the team can bring diverse skills to deliver the best chance of success.

3. Consider Employee Preferences and Interests

Employees who enjoy what they do tend to invest more of themselves in their work, plus it extends the possibility of higher employee retention.

While you may not be able to alleviate all of an employee’s unwanted job duties, you can take the time to figure out what your employees like to do, as well as potential duties they might be interested in.

You can investigate these interests by having one-on-one conversations with employees, allow employees to sign up for specially created committees, host internal career days to showcase open positions within the company, or accept volunteers for special projects. Observing your employee’s response when presented with these unique opportunities can give you insight as to how you can reach their hidden potential.

4. Discover How Unused Skills Can Fit into the Current Workflow

Truthfully, some of your employees may possess strong talent in seemingly unusable areas. For instance, you may know one employee who excels at creating high quality video with a drone, yet your company does not invest in video marketing. Instead of dismissing the skill as useless, you could have the employee take drone shots of the company’s facilities or special events and use them on the corporate website.

You do not have to change an employee’s entire job description to make use of the unique skills they offer. Instead, take the opportunity to boost employee engagement by finding a rational place for their talent in your overall schema.

5. Create Test Assignments

Oftentimes, employees will never reach their full potential unless a need to unmask that potential arises. If you want to dive deep into an employee’s talent cache, hand them an offbeat assignment and watch them work. You can learn as much through the process they follow and the questions they ask as you will learn about the end result.

Every employee is good at something, but for some those talents are not quite as obvious. Sometimes all you need is a keen eye, a few resources, and enough time to evoke the skills that otherwise may never surface. And in doing so, your employees may be as pleasantly surprised as you.

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