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

Click here to find out more about how Strengths Selector can solve your recruitment challenges...

Subscribe by Email

Enter your email address:

 Subscribe in a reader

October 2019
« Aug    

competency frameworks

From Competencies to Strengths: A Personal Journey

Posted by: Jamie Betts, Principal Consultant, Capp


Perhaps the most remarkable thing about strengths-based assessment is that no-one thought of it sooner. But ten years ago when I was starting my career, competencies where ‘the big thing’, while strengths-based assessment was a mere glint in the eye of a few ‘crazy’ academics.


A lot can happen in a decade. Looking back on our unshakeable faith in the effectiveness of competencies now, it looks like a hazy and confused dream. Competencies became an article of faith, upon which no criticism would be brooked. Line managers huffed and puffed, feeling restricted and frustrated by competency-based interviewing and its endless probes.


OK, line managers said, so someone has done something in the past – that doesn’t mean they enjoyed doing it, won’t that impact performance? But we didn’t listen. We didn’t care – we’d seen some old research that competency-based assessment worked, and we’d be damned if we were going to be told otherwise.


Well, that was then. And much has changed. The saturation of competency-based questioning, and the tendency of organisations to all measure the same half dozen core competencies, led to the ridiculous situation where candidates reeled off fully rehearsed answers before you’d even finished the question.


Any candidate who understood the format, or had been coached in any way by a careers service, was going to simply reel off the examples – collaboration, working well under pressure, dealing with change…


And so, what started as a well-intended assessment approach (to measure people based on their past behaviour) descended into farce. Interviewing became a bizarre ritualistic act. Candidates felt frustrated at being cornered by specific past-behavioural questioning and a barrage of probes.


They lied, they acted, they rehearsed – passing a competency-based interview became a measure of how convincingly you could reel off the same half dozen stories without sounding too bored. It didn’t really matter if the stories were true or not, since you had plenty of time to rehearse them in your head and cover your bases when the inevitable probes came your way.


Thank God, then, for strengths. Just at the moment when the thought of another competency-based interview had some of us reaching for the valium, along came a methodology that just… made sense. Line managers got it. Candidates loved it. And assessment experts breathed a huge sigh of relief.


Strengths are the future of assessment. They synergy of ‘can do’ and ‘love to do’ leads to peak performance. And as competencies start to fade into the twilight, please allow a few of us to break open the champagne  – after thousands of competency-based interviews, we deserve it.


Share and Enjoy

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

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.

Share and Enjoy

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS