Capp’s five-step approach to strengths-based recruitment

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February 2012
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Monthly Archives: February 2012

On How to Write

Posted by: Alex Linley (we’ve introduced this since we realised that the email update doesn’t include the names of our blog posters…)

 

As someone who has written and published consistently across my career, I’m often asked for advice on how to write. Usually, this question is prompted by a person who has a plan to write something (a report, a proposal, a dissertation, an article, a book), yet they can’t seem to get started.

 

Here are the five key things I have learned along the way that help me to find my muse and overcome my lizard brain. They are written especially for two friends who have a vitally important book to write and need to get started:

 

1. Write in a medium that works for you. I often start these blogs in an email, since, like many people, I write hundreds of emails a week. Doing what I do naturally means that I am straight into it and don’t get hung up by being faced with a blank page, the cursor blinking at me…For you it might be pen and paper, the notepad on your iPad, the Evernote app, or speaking into your Dictaphone. Whatever works for you – use it.

 

2. Write even if it’s wrong. Whenever I start to write, it’s never perfect first time. Certainly, it gets easier and better with practice, but I have never written something that was perfect first time. It just doesn’t happen. Instead, I often find that I need to write garbage and get it out of my system, then the good stuff starts to flow. Don’t be held back by thinking you need to be perfect first time. You won’t be.

 

3. Write notes, not novels. You’re unlikely to sit down and write whatever you are writing from start to finish without a plan, without notes or sketches or mind maps to refer back to. Capture your thoughts and ideas as you go, then rearrange them into your plan before you start to write again – if you even need a plan, that is. Sometimes it’s better just to write, then edit and re-organise as you go.

 

4. Write every day. A number of years back a friend and I met famous psychologist Roy Baumeister at the International Positive Psychology Summit in Washington DC. My friend, Meliksah, asked him, “How have you written so much in your career?” “I write every day”, was his simple answer. Every day he made progress against his writing goals. Of course, this is the man who brought us the excellent Willpower: Rediscovering our Greatest Strength. (You might remember this from my post on The Decision Toll of Being The Decider on The Capp Blog).

 

5. Write or do nothing. Author Raymond Chandler is cited in Willpower as saying that he is productive because he sets himself the task to “write or do nothing”. No emails, no web surfing, no phoning a friend for a chat. If he is committed to write, he writes or does nothing. As he explains it, when you have this stark choice, you’d be surprised how quickly you get down to writing.

 

Knowing – and practicing – these five tips will make a more productive writer of anyone. If you’re still struggling, and want to understand why, then discover what you need to do to overcome the lizard brain that lurks to distract all of us. Overcome the lizard brain with Seth Godin’s excellent Linchpin.

 

Have you found these writing tips useful? Are there others you’d like to share? Comment on The Capp Blog.

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Reflections on Strengths and Competencies in Organisations

Working with competencies for all of my career to date, immersion into the world of strengths since joining Capp has been eye-opening. I can’t help but reflect on my experiences: What is the real difference between competencies and strengths? Can they work in harmony? What does a strengths-based approach add to that of a competency-based approach?

 

Having used competencies in recruitment and selection, training, performance management, reorganisation and culture change, I am familiar with their value. However, I have also encountered many of the problems my contemporaries and clients have faced: in recruitment and selection, candidates are familiar with competencies and can prepare for (and therefore unjustly score highly in) a competency-based assessment process.

 

In performance management, organisations rate KPIs and behaviour, drilling everybody towards a rounded average. In training, there isn’t enough detail from competencies around which to build high impact programmes, and people can often lack the motivation to develop their competencies anyway.

 

Since joining Capp, I have seen first hand the implementation of a strengths-based approach and can see clear benefits. In recruitment and selection, we create processes that truly test a candidate beyond the shield of preparation, and into the incisive assessment of their capability and potential.

 

In performance management, we use strengths as the vehicle for helping people to achieve their objectives, improving simplicity and performance. In training, we use the granular level of detail provided by a strengths matrix to define targeted training interventions, delivering training that people are motivated to undertake because it helps them to build on more of what they do better, thereby improving their engagement and performance as a result.

 

Do I see strengths as working only by replacing competencies though? No, not at all. I’ve seen competency frameworks that work really well, organisations with excellent people processes anchored on them, and stakeholders that are fully bought in. However, there is a wealth of value to be had by introducing and embedding strengths into  the language and the culture of an organisation.

 

It’s about changing the mentality, and this is something that can begin by using a hybrid approach, layering a strengths philosophy into an established competency framework. In this way, the organisation doesn’t have to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’, but can still start to achieve some of the many benefits that have been shown to come through making the most of people’s strengths.

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Strengths-based Graduate Recruitment Coverage

Delighted to share with you more coverage of the EY-Capp Student Strengths Survey that has been picked up right across the general, HR, and graduate recruitment media, including coverage in Personnel Today, GradPlus, TargetJobs, Prospects, RecruitingBlogs, FreshBusinessThinking and the Evening Standard (no link – print only).

 

This really shows that companies – and graduates – are looking for what they need to do differently in graduate recruitment to ensure they get the right people into the right roles.

 

After all, graduate recruitment is special. The volume of candidates, the competition for places, the impact on the future leadership and talent pipeline of the organisation, and the economic footprint on wider society. All of these combine to mean that graduate recruiters have a greater responsibility than most to get things right.

 

I am very proud that at Capp we are helping them to do exactly that.

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The Decision Toll in Being ‘The Decider’

Every one of us makes hundreds of decisions each day. Many of them are inconsequential, others may have more impact. But if you’re the CEO, or any other senior organisational leader, you’re likely to be ‘The Decider’, as George W. Bush once referred to himself. The person who makes the judgement calls, time after time after time, as the decisions fly at you incessantly.

 

These are the decisions of consequence that are rarely easy. They’re about people, strategy, operations or finance. The choices you make have an impact on many different levels, interlinked and interwoven with the other decisions you’re making simultaneously. For all of these decisions, there is rarely a ready-made, pre-mapped decision tree that you can follow. After all, deciding is what you’re paid to do.

 

There are consequences of being The Decider that are only just being unravelled, according to Roy Baumeister and John Tierney in their recent book, Willpower: Rediscovering our greatest strength.

 

Our supply of willpower is limited, and yet the same finite supply of willpower has to be used for so many different things – including making every decision we make –  throughout each and every day. Every one of these decisions, large or small, uses up glucose (the ‘power’ in ‘willpower’) and depletes the limited reserves of willpower with which we started the day.

 

As the decisions pile up, decision fatigue can set in, often without you even noticing. There are telltale signs to watch out for that indicate decisions may be taking their toll on you. For example, little things bother you more, and you find yourself more irritable and tetchy. As a result, your impulse control breaks down, and you’re more likely to snap at people or say things you shouldn’t. Then you find it hard to make a decision, and so you opt to postpone or avoid decisions. When you do take decisions, you are more easily swayed by the promise of short term gains, ignoring significantly higher delayed costs (the so-called ‘quick-but-small’ versus ‘larger-but-later’ dilemma).

 

If you feel this decision fatigue taking over you, the best thing to do is put critical decisions on hold while you restore your willpower and decision capability. The hyper short term fix is quick glucose ingestion – dextrose tablets, sugary drinks or chocolate bars. You feel better very quickly, but the glucose high rapidly drops, leaving you craving for more.

 

The sustainable short term fix is protein – meat, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts and seeds. After about an hour, the protein will have converted to glucose and you will be feeling re-charged.

 

For the medium term, sleep is the next best addition, which is one reason why things always seem better in the morning. And for the long term, add exercise into the mix, since exercise refines and improves the body’s processing systems to deliver the glucose where it’s needed in helping you make your big decisions.

 

So the next time you have a big decision to make, remember that you’re more likely to be in your best deciding mode in the morning after a good night’s sleep, having had a good breakfast, and before your willpower reserves have been depleted by making the hundreds of decisions that are required of you each day. More glucose, anyone?

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Generation F: Developing the Female Talent Pipeline for the Future

Organisations seeking to future-proof their talent pipelines are investing in developing and retaining their talented women. There is no doubt that we are moving into a new generation, where a ‘Generation F’ of female talent is being accorded greater attention and recording more successes. In the UK alone, young women outperform men in all subjects and achieve higher academic grades. Female enterprise contributes £130 billion annually to our economy. Companies with the highest level of gender diversity in top management posts outperform their sector in terms of return on equity, operating results and share price growth.

 

Regardless of these growing positive indicators, women remain under-represented at senior levels in many companies. In 2011, just 14 per cent of FTSE 100 directorships were held by women and 22 per cent of senior management positions.

 

Many people have tried to unravel the reasons behind these statistics. There are undoubtedly obvious distinctions between male and female career paths, but there are also more subtle reasons that impact female talent being nurtured, retained and promoted.

 

The first reason is organisational bias. For example, women are expected to demonstrate greater authenticity than their male colleagues, they are more likely to be placed into ‘risky’ management roles, and they are criticised if they adopt male behaviours. All of these factors seem indirectly to cause female talent to falter rather than flourish.

 

The second reason impacting female development is women’s views of themselves. Women in management roles consistently report having lower confidence about their careers. They are less likely to apply for jobs and promotions unless they believe they fully meet all the criteria. The same cannot typically be said of men in organisations.  

 

This combination of organisational bias and women’s perceptions of their capabilities all contribute to companies failing to fully harness the talent and potential of their female employees.

 

At Capp, we are committed to ensuring that we work with organisations, talent leads and emerging female leaders to overcome these barriers.

 

In our experience of working with female talent globally, strengths-based female leadership development helps women to develop their confidence and authenticity. Working with strengths also provides women with a language to define their own leadership brand. Interestingly, the women we work with also report how a strengths focus helps them “to do less, better”, as they stop trying to be good at everything and start focusing on their unique strengths, in service of their specific objectives and career ambitions. 

 

We are often asked whether companies should focus specifically on female talent development. The answer is yes. For us, this is not a question of positive action that counts out men, but more about understanding the differences that exist in the talent pipeline and what needs to be done to manage and overcome them.

 

Developing your emerging female talent is rapidly becoming an organisational imperative. Female leaders represent a startlingly under-developed population of talent and potential. As companies seek to change, this shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction to media commentary, but rather a sustained strategy for talent and leadership development that ensures there is an abundant pipeline of future senior female leaders for generations to come.

 

With the emergence of Generation F, the future really is female. It’s time to develop women’s leadership capability and make the most of the potential that female talent everywhere has to offer.

 

What do you think are the key changes that would help companies make the most of female talent and potential? Share your thoughts in the Comment section below.

 

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HR Magazine – Graduate Recruitment: You need a good attitude not a good degree says Ernst & Young

More coverage of the EY-Capp Students Strengths Survey, this time a nice article from David Woods at HR Magazine, giving fuller coverage to the results than has been provided elsewhere.

 

You can also comment on the article on the HR Magazine website – or use the Comment function on The Capp Blog as below.

 

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Guardian online – Graduates: Is a 2:1 the best qualification for landing a job?

Just received the link to Graham Snowdon’s article in the Guardian online. With the move towards the new Higher Education Achievement Report (Hear), it seems increasingly likely that companies will be able to make more informed judgements about the graduates applying to them – just as Ernst & Young have been doing for the last three years by using strengths-based recruitment.

 

The Hear report is also likely to mean that graduate employers start looking more broadly about what students bring with them into the world of work. Their qualifications show what they have done in the past, but their strengths give a far better indication of what they will be able to do in the future.

 

Even so, the Association of Graduate Recruiters reports that 75% of its members still use degree classifications as their primary screening tool.

 

Time for a change, I think. Let’s start paying more attention to what students are capable of doing after they join our companies – through identifying and developing their strengths – rather than just looking at what they have done in their past at university.

 

Assessing and developing strengths helps you find out about what people love to do and where they will shine. This is what any prospective employer really wants to know when judging the fit of a candidate against their role requirements and the culture of the organisation. Get the right people into the right roles, and it’s simply better for everyone.

 

What do you think? Do degree qualifications determine your career path, or do your strengths have far more to do with how you succeed in the end?

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BBC News online – Students: ‘Better at cracking jokes than taking risks’

This is the title that BBC News Online led with when they reported the results of the Student Strengths Survey we ran for Ernst & Young. We surveyed a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 students, who all completed Realise2, Capp’s online strengths assessment tool, as well as answering questions about their career aspirations.

 

The results also picked up coverage in Graham Snowdon’s article, ‘Pity the student with a third’, in the Work section of Saturday’s Guardian.

 

More to follow as further results are announced from the EY-Capp Student Strengths Survey in due course.

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Are you an entrepreneurial leader?

Delighted to share my recent interview with Natalie Cooper of Changeboard on this topic, available from this link – Are you an entrepreneurial leader?

The interview talks about the agenda for HR in the boardroom, the role of role models in these times when leadership is often compromised and called into question, and the personality strengths of great entrepreneurs – together with what you can do in practice to make the most of your talent, potential and innovation across your company. I hope you enjoy it.

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The Power of Knowing Our Strengths – Google’s Solve for X

Imagine a world where we all knew our strengths and talents. Where we could use them to greatest effect in what we did, every day of every week. We already know that there’s a raft of evidence for why strengths matter, showing that people who use their strengths more achieve their goals better, are more engaged at work, are more resilient and happier, amongst many other good things that follow from strengths use.

 

And yet, far too many of us languish through not knowing what we do best and love to do, through being constrained by the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and perhaps most fundamental of all, through not having the right language, framework or approach to talk about strengths in an impactful way.

 

To me – and I suspect many of you – this reservoir of wasted talent seems like a massive problem as well as a huge opportunity. Yesterday I read on the TechCrunch blog that Google’s Solve for X conference was established for exactly this sort of challenge: a massive problem, a breakthrough technology, a potentially radical solution.

 

lisagansky (@instigating) tweeted February 2, 2012 – Crowdsolving: reshape edu, value of work, innovation & the economy. Each of us learn abt r true talents in a changing world. #solveforx

 

This got me thinking. And as I thought it reminded me of our vision for building Realise2:

  1. To develop a shared language and vocabulary of strengths and talents
  2. To assess strengths through more than just “what you are good at”, by also including the rating of energy and how using the strength makes you feel
  3. To provide a framework that helps people to understand themselves and each other holistically, in terms of their strengths, weaknesses and learned behaviours
  4. With this understanding, to make work better, helping people to work from their strengths and lead their best lives.

It’s still early days, but with what we are now discovering about strengths, about how to use our strengths most effectively, and about the pay-offs that come from working from our strengths, it’s just possible that we might be on the way to solving this particular X. Wouldn’t that be a world worth living in!

 

Do something good today: Make the most of your strengths.

 

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