The rise of strengths-based recruitment and how to make it work

As I attended a conference yesterday focused on strengths int the workplace, I was reminded of the benefits of strengths based recruitment, but also some of its challenges.

There is growing evidence to suggest that there are huge benefits to organisations when their employees get to use their strengths in the workplace. Being able to do so increases engagement, creativity, meaning and overall job satisfaction. Unsurprisingly, the end result is lower staff turnover and general absenteeism.

It therefore makes sense to test a candidate’s strengths before deciding whether or not to hire them. After all, how many times has someone looked great on paper and excelled themselves during the interview process but when it came down to it, just didn’t work out?

Strengths based recruitment gets out values and motivation

An example of how this approach is being utilised across some of the largest organisations in the UK is in the NHS. Problems associated with mid Staffordshire NHS Trust had raised questions about the quality of care being provided, patient safety and the abilities and attitudes of the nurses.

Chief Nurse at UCLH, Katherine Fenton, decided to take a fresh approach and brought in a strengths-based recruitment consultancy, Engaging Minds. Their brief was to identify who would be the great performers in the role. After spending time with the existing nurses who were performing well, a profile was created detailing all of their strengths, values and motivations.

This allowed the agency to review the attraction and selection process and re-write job adverts so that they had a focus on describing the kind of person who would excel in the role. Fenton commented:

“Though it is at an early stage in the implementation process, recent appointments used the profile and have shown a focus on compassion-centred patient care. In summary, we believe that creating a profile of what makes a ‘great ward sister’ to help recruit the best people has the potential to transform care in the NHS and restore faith in the nursing profession.

Strengths based recruitment is cost effective

Whilst the results of this process are yet to be determined, other studies have been carried out and conclude that strengths-based recruitment is in fact cost-effective, leads to reduced staff turnover and can deliver happier and more engaged employees. Among the results was a healthcare provider which witnessed a 50% fall in staff turnover and a financial services company that reported a 20% rise in productivity.

But it is challenging to do. So when is it best to use strengths recruitment

However, the process is not without its challenges. If we say everyone has their own unique strengths which they bring to the role, then how on earth do you choose the best candidate for a role (when all strengths are valid). I see strengths as particularly effective in at least two areas:

  • Graduate recruitment when individuals are not being recruited into a particular job but rather a fit with the organisation (strengths are great for identifying potential)
  • Or for ‘rounding out a team’ (do we need a creative boost in the team? Or could we do with someone who is energised by working within a team?).

You might also argue the case for ‘turn around’ roles. Turn around Headteachers have a role in radically improving standards in failing schools. It takes a particular type and strengths might be a way of identifying the type who will relish rather than struggle in such an environment.

Prioritise certain strengths

To help differentiate between candidates, it may be appropriate for organisations to prioritise certain groups of strengths over others, depending on the values of the organisation, or the particular challenges in the roles the individuals are likely to take on. Such an approach was adopted by Mid Staffordshire Trust. In the case of the ‘turn around Headteacher’ you would prioritise someone who is energised by taking on a leadership role, decisive and self confident.

Whilst there are challenges in making strengths based recruitment work, they are not beyond the wit of of humankind. The critical thing with strengths is to differentiate where individuals ‘get their energy from’ and to ask appropriate questions to draw this out.

If you would like to find out more information about strengths-based recruitment and how it can improve your recruitment process and in the long-run, reduce costs, please feel free to contact Chiswick Consulting for more information.