20% of Your Employees Are in the Wrong Roles: What Should You Do?

Our research shows that one in five people are in the wrong role within your organization. What does that mean for the bottom line, and what can be done to fix the problem?

Right Management Australia recently conducted a study of 800 candidates who had been provided with outplacement services. While we knew that approximately half changed either their industry or function following outplacement, we didn’t know what drove this change – necessity or desire. 


This initial study found that one in five people—or 20 percent—changed either their function or industry as a result of desire. They viewed their career transition as an opportunity to re-set their career and pursue their passion rather than work as a means to an end. What was most surprising about the research was that people who chose to change career direction out of personal desire were significantly more engaged. When this difference in engagement was quantified, we found that the organizational impact of having one in five people in the wrong role was 0.7% of annual revenue. 

Average Engagement Score (%) for Current and Prior Employment (n= 620)


Then, we expanded the study globally surveying more than 4000 people. The percentage of people who wanted to change roles and the financial impact was comparable to the Australian findings. Approximately one in four people pursues a new role out of personal desire, with a subsequent increase in engagement that mirrors the Australia study.

Given the magnitude of the result (0.7% to the top line of the business), it is critical that organizations ensure they are placing employees into the right roles. Here are some recommendations—for individuals and for organizations—on how to maximize fit.  

Recruitment: Research has shown that how a role is described during the interview and the reality of the job are often very different. While there is an element of marketing (on both sides) in any interview situation, there also is a need for honesty.  



  • Do your due diligence on the organization.
    • Determine why the role has become available – this may help inform you about the organizational culture
    • Speak to people who work or worked there – leverage your LinkedIn contacts if you don’t know anyone personally
  • Be clear on the role requirements and clarify anything you don’t understand.
  • Have a clearly articulated employee value proposition that states what your organization promises employees – and make sure you deliver on it
  • Clearly articulate the success profile and role requirements and ensure these are updated to reflect the current reality of the role.


Career Development: Determining what motivates an individual employee requires managers to communicate effectively with their staff. It also requires staff to be clear about where they can potentially go, and where they actually do want to go.



  • Reflect on your approach to learning – how best do you learn? What is your learning type? What is the optimal way for someone to help you develop?  
  • Don’t be afraid to initiate a conversation with your manager on career development. If they don’t take the initiative, you should – it’s your career after all.
  • Be open to lateral movements. There are less steps in the corporate ladder than there used to be, and up is not the only way forward. Being versatile and adaptable increases your internal marketability.
  • As a follow-on from the success profile development, ensure there is clarity about potential directions a role can take – both horizontally as well as vertically.
  • Clearly communicate potential movements and the associated expectations to employees. 
  • Ensure managers are adequately trained to have robust career conversations with staff and understand their personal career motivations.


Retention: It’s often said that people join organizations but leave managers. To retain talent, managers need to have an employee’s perspective at heart, yet at the same time be equipped to have tough conversations when required. 



  • Undertake an assessment or self-reflection on what you really want in your role. If the current role does not align to your natural abilities or passions, is there potential to redeploy or is it time to be looking outside the organization?
  • When starting a relationship with a new manager, ask for a discussion early regarding expectations of how you will work together.
  • Ensure your performance management process clearly articulates requirements that are aligned with the role and enables recognition and reward for high performance.
  • Equip managers to have difficult conversations. If an employee is not engaged, and there is no option to change the role or redeploy the person, have an honest discussion about what is in their best interests. It may be that they need to leave the organization. While a tough conversation to have it is often the best outcome for both parties.


Regardless of the stage of the employee life cycle (attraction, motivation or retention), the key to an employee getting the most out of their role - and the organization getting the most out of their employees – is job fit. Ensuring at every step in the life cycle that there is a strong skill and motivational fit will help decrease the number of people in the wrong role; increase employee engagement; and drive up organizational performance. 
Would you like to discuss further with a Right Management expert? Contact us at LeaderDevelopment@Right.com.

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