Strength-based Approach to Talent Development: What, Why and How
Are you someone who writes down a list of things and always sticks to them? Do you tend to be sceptical until given some proof? Do you always stick to your lane while driving, or do you tend to pick someone to race against?
These were some of the questions that opened the webinar session on a strengths-based approach to talent development moderated by Puneet Pratap Singh, Regional Director-Research & Analytics, APAC, Gallup. The webinar featured HR industry leaders, including John K. John, Vice President - Learning and Development, Reliance Industries Limited; Krishnan Unni, Chief People Officer, Mega Lifesciences; and Manavi Pathak, Head - Learning and Organizational, Samsung R&D Institute India, as panellists.
Puneet set the context for the discussion on strengths by explaining that "Talent is like a fertile piece of land, a naturally recurring pattern of thought, feelings, or behaviours that can be productively applied. And strengths are the crops that grow from it, representing one’s ability to deliver near-perfect performance in a specific task consistently." But should companies focus on strengths in the first place?
“The proverbial question for most talent and HR managers is how to bring the best out of the employee,” John noted. Strengths as an approach focuses on the uniqueness of people, It highlights how you differ from everyone else without limiting yourself.
Krishnan pointed out that just as one understands themselves, a strengths-based framework within the organisation helps understand individuals better. The framework is used to nurture their skills and knowledge, ensuring that employees can spend most of their time developing and fortifying their strengths.
A strengths-based approach to talent management is based on the premise that people's talents are unique and enduring. "The idea is that individuals should develop their talents into strengths, and their greatest room for growth lies in their area of strength," explained Manvi.
A strengths-based organisation nurtures a culture of positive feedback and prioritises the well-being and development of its employees. It encourages leaders to embody strengths-based behaviour and implements a performance management system that utilises employee strengths. It also upholds critical values such as collaboration, diversity, and continuous learning.
Imagine a manager who is working with a colleague who needs to improve certain skills and knowledge that do not come naturally to them. "In such a case, you would have to push and follow up with them to make progress, but on the other hand, if you focus on developing their strengths, they are more likely to be motivated," Krishnan explained. By taking a strengths-based approach, individuals are given the freedom and independence to perform, which allows them to become more efficient and productive.
While using a strengths-based approach, it is often thought that weaknesses are neglected in favour of strengths. However, according to Manvi, this is not the case. Instead, the individual is viewed as a whole, recognising their unique strengths and weaknesses. For example, successful salespeople don't necessarily have to be brash or arrogant, John noted. While some sales professionals excel in relationship building, others may be more outspoken or extroverted. In essence, there are multiple pathways to reach the desired outcome.
“What a strength-based focus does is that it moves away from a deficit paradigm that is incapable of generating the kind of high performance that organisations need,” Manvi added.
However, there will continue to be areas or skills that are critical for a particular job that may not be a natural strength for employees. It could be a compliance-related requirement or a minimum threshold of skill that you need to develop for that job.
But the key question in front of organisations today is this: How can they transition from a traditional performance evaluation methods to a dynamic, strengths-based approach?
The challenge of scale
To bring about a lasting transformation, companies must start from the top – strong executive sponsorship can help embed a growth mindset in the company’s culture, vision, mission, values, and processes. John also emphasised on the importance of executive buy-in, stating that without it, success would be difficult to achieve.
Managers need to be empowered and aligned to ensure these initiatives are successful. At Mega, managers are called "boundary spanners" since they act as intermediaries between management and teams. “To ensure success, having the right manager in place is crucial. Once the right manager is selected, the next step is to assist them in identifying and utilising their strengths effectively,” Krishnan added.
One effective way to ensure success with a strengths-based approach is to conduct pilot programs and identify managers who are already utilising their strengths, according to the expert. This approach can provide the necessary leverage and momentum to drive the initiative forward.
"While there may be various methods to measure engagement," Puneet noted, "organisations can benefit from using sophisticated tools to drive engagement beyond meeting basic requirements. This includes fostering enthusiasm, curiosity, learning, growth, and sustainable team performance."
It is important to note that while certain practices may not motivate people in the long term, a strengths-based approach can help encourage continuous growth and development, leading to excellence. Therefore, it is crucial to examine these factors within the organisation.
Watch the complete conversation below: