How to handle overqualified people

An overqualified and talented person should not be given a chance to regret taking up the role

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Dissatisfaction from one’s work is a common phenomenon which professionals from almost all fields experience sometime in their career. However, a particularly interesting case popped up recently when in conversation with an actuarial science professional. The decently-qualified person had two to three years of experience in the field, and had switched from a smaller scale organisation to an MNC. Working for that organisation had been his ambition for a while. However, when an opening in the company presented itself, it was for a lower position. Still, he took the opportunity. However, he now regrets his decision, as he is unsatisfied working a job he is overqualified for, saying it is too routine and under-stimulating.

Not surprisingly though, this person’s dilemma is not new, but a widespread occurrence. A recent global survey conducted by International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that only about half of the workers hold jobs that match their level of education. The survey drew upon labour force survey data on the level of education and occupations of all employed workers in over 130 countries. For a country such as India, where the pandemic also ousted many people from their jobs, the issue is more intense.

“An overqualified person can be better utilised if the job at hand is challenging enough”

Rajorshi Ganguli, president and global HR head, Alkem Laboratories

Dealing with employees, who are overqualified or overexperienced for their jobs, puts forth a different set of challenges for HR professionals.

Speaking with HRKatha, Praveer Priyadarshi, former CPO, Jindal Stainless, highlighted that such issues are prevalent where job profiles are open for application and is not a relevant issue for corporates. In his experience, he feels that more technical and research-oriented fields pose such issues. “Hiring of overqualified and over-experienced personnel is more prevalent in research and development roles, where the industry is growing and hiring strategies are more fluid. Also, people with higher qualifications also settle for government jobs, where the job security aspect is unparalleled,” he points out.

Priyadarshi also says that in such fields, having a person who is settling for a job lower than their stature could be an asset to the company, but only if the company realises their potential and works on them.

A person who is more qualified than what his job role demands is more often than not in possession of a higher intellectual capability. Managers need to identify this and nurture their progression with the company. At times, however, even the managers may be underqualified or junior to such hires, who may be settling for such jobs due to a hiring crunch. “I believe that giving such talent due recognition and an environment which helps them maximize their potential would be essential to keep them engaged in the role,” Priyadarshi opines.

Constant recalibration is essential

Rajorshi Ganguli, president and global HR head, Alkem Laboratories, believes that an overqualified person can be better utilised if the job at hand is challenging enough.

“One has to recalibrate their role. This doesn’t happen at the time of recruitment, but after they become part of the organization. The HR team and line managers have to continuously calibrate according to the output of the person they have deployed,” Ganguli tells HRKatha.

“Constant engagement and dialogue is the only way to make them grow and become greater assets for the company. Eventually, I’d want them for higher roles”

Viekas K Khoka, head of human resources, Dhanuka Agritech

Ganguli also believes that the educational background is not as relevant when a person works a job. The competency people demonstrate while handling the work is what makes them shine. If they appear to have a greater potential than the role they are deployed in, recalibration of their role is essential to keep them engaged.

“One hires as per requirement. As an organisation grows, roles don’t get recalibrated as often. Multiple risks are involved if due thought isn’t given. Unless the person’s skills and experiences are not commensurate with the job, one would be underutilising their talent,” says Ganguli.

He further adds that by not recalibrating roles frequently, companies risk attrition, as the person disengages with the role quickly.

Grooming talent for future leadership roles

Viekas K Khoka, head of human resources, Dhanuka Agritech, shares that while hiring people for roles smaller than their competency, companies have to pay due diligence in fostering their talent and grooming them for future leadership roles. He recently hired managers for certain crop markets, and is grooming these new hires for future leadership positions.

The major input required from HR in such cases, is constant interaction. “Constant engagement and dialogue is the only way to make them grow and become greater assets for the company. Eventually, I’d want them for higher roles. They should be on my high-potential radar. They could be my future leaders,” he declares.

“I believe that giving such talent due recognition and an environment which helps them maximize their potential would be essential to keep them engaged in the role”

Praveer Priyadarshi, former CPO, Jindal Stainless

Khoka says that in a situation where the applicant turns out to be more than capable for the job, one should hire them with the future in mind. He feels that putting them under high-performing managers or mentors is a great option to keep them constantly engaged with their jobs. If they disengage from work, chances are that they will grab the next best opportunity that comes their way. Therefore, the HR needs to keep constant track of their performance and give them a career path for growth, synchronous with the company’s goal.

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