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

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May 2012
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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Strengths OR Competencies – or – Strengths AND Competencies?

Posted by: Gurpal Minhas

 

With more and more organisations adopting strengths-based recruitment, we’re often asked, “Does adopting a strengths-based approach to selection mean we have to lose our competency framework?”

 

The answer is no. Absolutely not. Or, at least, not unless you want it to. 

 

What’s the difference between a strength and a competency?

 

Strengths are the things that we do well and find energising. We may use our strengths to a greater or lesser extent – sometimes without even realising that we’re using them. In comparison, a competency typically looks to understand what somebody has done in the past, rather than what they do well and find energising. As a result, competencies risk getting ‘good enough’ rather than ‘high performing’.

 

Competencies are everyday practice

 

In many businesses, competency frameworks have been used to define the types of skills and attributes that employees are required to demonstrate. The intention of competency frameworks was that they would define high performance, consistently across the organisation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen often enough in practice.

 

Where the problems start

 

Despite the intention of competencies in principle, the challenges of their application in practice include:

 

  • Competence not excellence - assessing and developing employees in line with a set of company-wide competencies often leads to average behaviour rather than high performance

 

  • Competence not motivation – it’s straightforward to assess competence, but harder to assess genuine energy and motivation

 

  • All talk, no action – in order to demonstrate core competencies at interview and at work, employees learn the competency catchphrases and recite them as needed

 

  • Lack of individuality - being assessed for the same competencies across all roles means that candidates look very similar and can’t be properly differentiated

 

  • The (sometimes) unnecessary blockage of past experience – people can be penalised if they don’t have the necessary experience, even if they have the ability. As a result, competencies can miss future potential.

 

Integrating strengths with your competency framework

 

At Capp, we often integrate the benefits of strengths-based assessment and development with the competency frameworks that our clients have worked hard to develop.

 

This works by using strengths as the more specific behavioural indicators that sit under the more generic competency framework of the organisation.

 

These are some of the benefits that integrating strengths with competency frameworks delivers in practice:

 

  • Future proof – because strengths assessments aren’t constrained by what people have done before, they are ideally suited for assessing people for the future in times of change

 

  • Candidate differentiation – managers and recruiters talk about how they have really got to know the person, rather than just hearing their scripted responses

 

  • Increased granularity – strengths assessments give a level of subtlety and specificity that competencies alone just can’t reach

 

  • Efficient and effective – strengths assessments tie in to the specific requirements of the role, providing realistic job previews and avoiding generic questions that don’t predict performance

 

  • Development of shared language – employees celebrate their strengths as their personal characteristics, sharing them with pride, as distinct from the impersonal organisational language of competencies

 

  • Increased diversity – building on people’s strengths allows organisations to make the most of ‘spiky profiles’, while still ensuring that people meet the minimum requirements that are needed in the job.

 

 

Where next for your organisation with competencies and strengths?

 

If you’re considering how to integrate strengths as a way of improving your existing competency framework, start by asking yourself these three questions:

 

1. What do employees need to be energised by, as well as perform well, to meet our future organisational requirements?

 

2. Does our existing competency framework help us to differentiate high and low performers on this basis?

 

3. If not, how will the granularity and specificity of the strengths approach most help us?

 

 

Share your organisational experiences of strengths and competencies on The Capp Blog, using the Comment section below.

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Helping Managers Focus on the Positive

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

“My manager is always focusing on what I have done wrong, rather than helping me see what I can do to be better. Why is he always stuck on the negative?”

 

This is a question I have heard many times throughout my career. It is also a question I have posed to many conference audiences and organisational groups with whom I have worked. So what’s the answer?

 

First, let’s dispel some myths. We don’t focus on the negative because we are pessimists, because we work in HR, because we are Scottish, or because of the so-called British “stiff upper lip” (these are all suggestions that have been put to me by people from each of these groups). Neither is it because of the negativity of the organisational culture in which we might think we work, nor because of the apparent negativity of the news media that surround us.

 

No, the truth is that we can find ourselves – and other people – stuck on the negative because we’re human.

 

As human beings, we have evolved to pay attention to what’s wrong, to what isn’t working, to what’s broken. This “negativity bias” permeates how we think and what we pay attention to – and with good reason, for if we didn’t, we would be dead. Paying attention to the negative, to threat, to pain, has been a key part of our evolution as a species, something that we therefore carry with us still today, hard-coded into our DNA.

 

But just because we have evolved to have this negativity bias, that doesn’t mean that we have to allow it to dominate our lives.

 

Parminder Basran, who I interviewed when writing Average to A+, gives hope to us all, sharing his experience of how he learned to overcome this negativity bias:

 

Is it in everybody’s make up to look at the negative side in people? You really have to train yourself as a leader and a manager to work in this [more positive] way…A lot more often now, I catch myself slipping into focusing on the negative, on what someone hasn’t done well. But at least I have caught myself and done something about it – it bothers me to think what things would be like if I didn’t catch myself, and I guess that is a challenge that all of us will have to overcome.”

 

Parminder’s secret is that he learned how to use his negativity bias like a volume control – turning it up when he needed to, but also recognising that he could turn it right down low when he didn’t.

 

Managers are human beings, subject to the same negativity bias we all are. When we learn to treat our negativity bias like a volume control, we put ourselves back in control, rather than being at the mercy of our evolution.

 

There is a time and a place for focusing on the negative – but it certainly isn’t constant or continuous. For example, we know that human beings flourish with a 3:1 ratio of positive emotions to negative emotions, and that high performing business teams take this further, with 6:1 positive interactions to negative interactions.

 

Clearly, success comes to people who have learned to dial up and down the negativity, rather than having it as their default setting.

 

What experiences have you had in your own career and life with the negativity bias? Share your experiences on The Capp Blog using the Comment section below.

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Lessons Learned on Leadership

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

Last week I delivered a talk for a Leadership Seminar at the University of Warwick.  I was invited to do so as I graduated from Warwick with my PhD in 2004, and of course, Capp is based on the University of Warwick Science Park, so we are a local business to the university. David Carter, Strategic Director of Warwickshire County Council – and another Warwick graduate – was also a speaker.

 

Our talks were for PhD students drawn from across the different faculties at Warwick, who were interested in developing their leadership capability as they think about their future careers.

 

My objective in my talk was to share some of the lessons I had learned on leadership, drawing from both my academic learning and particularly my experience of being a leader, and developing leaders, at Capp. The 10 points I shared are included below for readers of The Capp Blog.

 

1. Be yourself – positively and with authenticity

You can only lead by being yourself. Build on your strengths, act with authenticity, look to develop the positive in any opportunity.

 

2. Build trust and demonstrate integrity

You will be judged on the extent to which your people can trust you – to keep your word, to take responsibility, but above all, to act with integrity and to protect their interests as far as you reasonably can.

 

3. Inspire through a higher purpose and vision

Share your vision so that people will buy into it with their heart and soul, not just their heads. Emotion, more than reason, drives motivation and commitment.

 

4. Set the values and define the culture

What you do matters much more than what you say. As the leader, you are responsible for the values you hold dear and the culture you create.

 

5. Give strategic clarity with practical actions

Ensure people know what you want them to do and why. Make strategy a series of steps to your desired future state. Show people the role they play, with practical actions they should take.

 

6. Make the right decisions

Above everything, you will be judged by your decisions. You don’t have to get every decision right, but you do have to learn from it when you don’t. Fail early, fail fast, recover quickly.

 

7. Encourage diversity (especially of perspective)

Groupthink can kill an organisation’s ability to adapt in a rapidly evolving world. Encourage and celebrate diversity in gender, age, ethnicity, experience, expertise – and above all – perspective, to ensure you have all bases covered.

 

8. Wedge open doors for emerging talent

You should always be looking to raise the “mean level of intelligence” of the organisation. Recruit people who are better than you are. The organisation – and you – will be better for it.

 

9. It’s not all about me – create complementary teams

Nobody is good at everything, and no leader can do everything the organisation requires. Create complementary teams to leverage and harness the strengths of the leadership team as a whole.

 

10. It can be lonely at the top

Leadership is lonely. Tough decisions rest on your shoulders alone, often in the quiet hours of the middle of the night. Be prepared to stand tall and firm, but alone. Have support outside of the politics and personalities of your organisation.

 

Would you argue the case for anything different that I have not included in my 10 leadership lessons above? Let us know by posting your Comments on The Capp Blog.

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The Intersection of Strengths, Strategy and Situation

Posted by: Alex Linley & Nicky Garcea

 

We’re delighted to give you a sneak preview into our forthcoming chapter in Coaching for Leadership (3rd ed.), edited by Marshall Goldsmith, Laurence S. Lyons and Sarah McArthur, which publishes tomorrow!

 

In our chapter, “Three Types of Hi-Po and the Realise2 4M Model: Coaching at the Intersection of Strengths, Strategy and Situation”, we examine the question of “what else” is needed for strengths to be truly successful and deliver performance, as well as exploring three types of hi-po that we have come across in our work on top talent (more on the three types of hi-po in a later blog post).

 

As a reader of The Capp Blog, you’re likely to know that using your strengths will help you to be successful. Correct. But for real and sustainable success, we argue in our Coaching for Leadership chapter that we need to go further.

 

To explain this, we developed the 3S-P Model, which shows how Strengths need to be used in service of Strategy, while also having an awareness of Situation (the “3S” part), which then make it much more likely that we will deliver performance (hence the “3S-P” in the model).

 

Think about it like this:

 

Strengths used in the absence of context (i.e., Situation) and direction (i.e., Strategy) are just hobbies. They are things that we do well and enjoy doing, but they might not really make a great difference if what we are doing is wrong for our environment, or doesn’t fit with what we want to achieve.

 

Strategy in the absence of environmental awareness (i.e., Situation) and an understanding of the capabilities to deliver it (i.e., Strengths) is just a wish upon a star. We might know where we want to get to, but if we don’t know where we are at the moment, or the capabilities that we have to help us get to our future destination, we’re unlikely to reach our goal.

 

Situation knowledge provides context, but in the absence of a direction of travel (i.e., Strategy) and a means to get there (i.e., Strengths), it is just wallpaper – providing a nice backdrop to what is going on around us. We know where we are, but we don’t have enough about us to be clear on where we want to get to, or how we will get there.

 

Yet, when we bring these three factors together, we get each of the necessary foundation blocks: an understanding of where we are now  (Situation), where we want to get to and the direction of travel to get us there (Strategy) and the capability to help us make the journey (Strengths). These three together help us deliver Performance. In this way, we define the 3S-P Model.

 

So, when you’re working on how to achieve what matters to you, remember the secrets of the 3S-P Model. Understand your Situation, be clear on your Strategy, and harness your Strengths to get there. At the intersection of Strengths, Strategy and Situation is where Performance lies.

 

Check out our chapter in Coaching for Leadership to read more about the 3S-P Model and to explore the three types of hi-po (and watch out for our future blog post on this as well!).

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Have You Heard of the Progress Principle?

Posted by: Emma Trenier

 

Have you heard of the progress principle?

 

Regardless of incentives and recognition, the degree of accomplishment that we experience day-to-day has been highlighted as the #1 factor in high performance. So claim Teresa Amabile and Stephen Kramer, in their new book The Progress Principle.

 

It makes sense that we are more productive when we make daily progress, but the thing that strikes me is that so often when we make progress, we don’t notice or stop to acknowledge it, because we just don’t appreciate the value of each small step. You’re probably aware of Capp’s research showing that when people use their strengths they are more likely to achieve their goals. That is, they are more likely to experience that motivating feeling of accomplishment spurring them on to keep going, or to achieve the next thing.

 

So, my question to you is ‘How can we use our strengths to accomplish our daily tasks?’

 

Here are some reflections from the Capp team:

 

1. Use Your Strengths to Plan Your Day

Be clear on what needs to be done by the end of the day. If you are creative, draw a mind map. If you are ordered, write a list. If you have reconfiguration as a strength, use a set of post it notes.

 

2. Strength Checks

As you begin a task stop for ten seconds and think about the strengths that you can bring to it. Are you going to handle it using your Improver strength? Or perhaps your Enabler?

 

3. Pat on the Back

When you accomplish one of your tasks, however small, give yourself a pat on the back and take notice of the strengths you used to get there. You might even make a note of your achievement if you think this will help you to believe it.

 

4. Notice Your Energy

Time passes quickly when we are in flow, so you may not often think about what you’re doing when you enjoy these moments. When time has disappeared and you’ve barely noticed what you’ve been doing, notice the strengths that you were using and how they contributed to your progress.

 

5. Make Your Own Meaning

For those unappealing tasks use your imagination to find your own unique way of accomplishing them. This might mean creating a tea-making spreadsheet or competing with yourself to enter data but, using your strengths, it will lead to quicker accomplishment.

 

Perhaps it’s an uncontroversial speculation, but it’s one with a highly under-estimated impact: using our strengths to achieve the minutiae of daily tasks is one of the smallest things we can do to make the biggest difference – both to how we feel and to how effective we are.

 

Go and use your strengths to make progress today!

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GRIT and Goal Attainment

Posted by: Gurpal Minhas

 

The result for Chelsea against Barcelona last Wednesday night (27 April 2012) hit headlines across the world. There were plaudits for the Chelsea manager on a sterling performance by his side. How did the team with 10 men reach the biggest final of their careers against a team repeatedly called “the best club side in the world”?  Some say Barcelona had a bad day at the office. Chelsea midfielder, Frank Lampard, described how his team “dug-deep and never gave up.” This form of bounceback is often seen on the sports pitch, but do HR professionals and managers working in their respective fields recognise this ability in the workplace?

 

Luthans, Youssef and Avolio (2007) found that resilience (one of the four elements of psychological capital) is a notable predictor of high performance, better satisfaction and lower absenteeism in today’s working world. Likewise, Seligman (2011) defined the theory of GRIT which relates to the combination of “very high persistence and high passion for an objective.” In Chelsea’s case, it was the consistent defending alongside the passion for wanting to reach the final.

 

So how do we develop GRIT?  Typically, these individuals aren’t discouraged by setbacks, are hard workers, finish what they start and are very diligent in their output. Are there strengths that one has to have to achieve their target regardless of situation? Could individuals with the strength of Drive (people who are self-motivated to achieve what they want from life) and Growth (people who are always look for ways to grow and develop) have an advantage to remain determined?  What strengths do you have that could help develop that persistence to achieve an objective? These are questions we are asking in a current Realise2 validation study – so watch out on The Capp Blog for our results in the future!

 

To achieve a successful outcome, there often is a particular hunger for wanting to achieve a particular goal. This hunger can be represented by having a meaning- an explicit desire to want to achieve this outcome. When twinned with GRIT, the individual forms a real positive mindset. To think about the impact that meaning can have on you, can you think of the last outcome that you’ve achieved using determination that had little or no meaning to you?

 

So, as you review your personal GRIT level, how many of your colleagues show these characteristics?

 

Here are some handy tips to watch and assist in your quest to develop a workforce with more GRIT:

  • What experiences have you/they had when they’ve survived daunting projects? Can you begin to build a bank of positive experiences that you can refer back to showcasing your potential?
  • Are individuals scarred from their last experiences? Do you have any processes in place to discuss what occurred and what strengths an individual possesses to help them bounce back from this? By developing an individual’s self-awareness, can you help them recognise their abilities?
  • Can you create/develop a greater sense of meaning around a particular project?
  • Can you highlight where projects may struggle, acknowledge that you’ll need to demonstrate some of the typical GRIT behaviours?
  • How can you use your unrealised strengths to maximise the use of particular strengths to achieve those targets? Are you aware of your learned behaviours that you’ll need to moderate? What particular things drain you?

One thing we know for sure is that people are more resilient, and experience less stress, when they are using their strengths. As such, strengths use is very likely an enabler of psychological capital, and so will help us achieving our goals and building our GRIT.

 

Reference

Luthans, F., Youssef, C. M., & Avolio, B. J. (2007) Psychological capital: Developing the human competitive edge. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

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The Foundations of Excellent Selection

Posted by: Celine Jacques

 

What makes a fantastic selection process? Is it the methodologies you use? Or the scoring? Or perhaps the training of assessors and interviewers? These are all important, yes. But none are as critical as understanding what the role involves and what type of person will do great things in that role.

 

At Capp, we have supported many clients with their recruitment and selection, and the critical starting point remains the same whatever the level or sector, albeit Graduate / Board, or Retail / Legal / Financial. You have to understand what skills and behaviours are required in the role. This understanding then forms the foundation for the selection process that is designed. Whether that is a selection process based on strengths, or competencies, or both.

 

When a vacancy materialises (for a new or existing role) it is always tempting straight away to dive into defining the advert and the selection process. Do we need an application form? Do we need an interview? What exercises might we need at assessment centre? If you do this before thinking about what you need to assess in the selection process, then you enter very dangerous ground.

 

It is critical to understand what strengths, and behaviours, someone in the role needs. Some of the questions we ask our clients are:

 

What would someone ‘excellent’ in this role be like?

What behaviours would they demonstrate?

What kind of personality would they have?

Who is the person going to be working with?

Will they have any leadership responsibilities?

What decisions will they have to make?

Will they have to deal with change?

Is the content of their work  going to be ambiguous, or complex?

What forms of communication will they need to use? With whom?

What skills, qualities and behaviours will be critical to success not only in the role now, but in five or ten years time as the organisation changes?

 

Importantly, we ask a cross-section of employees and stakeholders, to get a full and rounded view. Not until we have a solid and consensual idea on the answer to these questions and more, can we really know what to assess. Without this knowledge, selection becomes a game of chance, and not of prediction. Crucially, the legal defensibility of selection decisions becomes very difficult indeed.

 

As Chuck Palahniuk (American novelist and satirist) once said: “If you don’t know what you want, you end up with a lot you don’t.”

 

The same applies for selection – if you don’t know what you are looking for, you are unlikely to find the right match!

 

The upfront work of understanding the outcomes of a role – defining success in role – really does pay off in the long run.

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