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First developed over 20 years ago, strengths-based assessments have been growing in popularity in recent decades among people leaders, coaches, and consultants. This is hardly surprising given the considerable benefits they offer organizations across virtually every stage of the talent lifecycle. Studies show that when organizations incorporate strengths-based assessment and development practices into their people strategy, they can achieve significant gains in both people and business outcomes. The ROI of strengths tests includes improvements in hiring outcomes, performance, engagement and retention, employee development, career progression, teamwork, well-being, and financial results.

Strengths and talent assessments are essentially measuring the same thing. They are both performance-based measures of the underlying qualities that energize people and enable them to do their best work. The main difference is that assessments describing themselves as “talent assessments” recognize an important distinction between talents and strengths that is often overlooked. One’s talents need to be optimized through skill building and experience to deliver value to the organization and be regarded as strengths by others. For example, one of my top 5 talents on the TalentPredix™ profile (which measures 20 critical work-related talents) is Leading. This means I am energized by inspiring and guiding people to achieve shared goals. However, over the years, I have had to develop a lot of skills, behaviours, and agility in the way I use this talent so that it is used effectively, creates a positive impact and is considered a valuable strength by others. At TalentPredix, we therefore talk about strengths being “fully optimized talents”.

Unlike popular personality tests such as MBTI and DISC, strengths-based assessments don’t pigeonhole people into oversimplified, and sometimes imprecise, personality types and categories. Instead, they focus on understanding what’s unique and different about people’s talents and behaviours and how people can bring the best of themselves to their job and career. Even when people have similar talents and strengths, strengths assessments recognize that people will apply them in different ways, depending on their aspirations, motivations, values, and background.

After 2 decades of use around the world by all types of organizations, strengths assessments must now evolve and adapt to the fast-changing needs of a modern workplace. Yet, in recent years, we have seen very little evolution of strengths-based assessments. Like many well-established personality tests, it appears that strengths tests have been slow to adapt and embrace innovation. To move strengths assessments into the new world of work, our team has created a next-generation strengths assessment that examines how combinations of talents, values and motivations can help people achieve higher levels of performance, career thriving and well-being at work. To reflect the fast-changing, volatile world we now live in, one of our four talent zones measures “Navigating Change”, which we define as “navigating and responding effectively to change”. Surprisingly, none of the other strengths assessments on the market today measures this vital strength area in such a targeted way. Uniquely, our assessment also examines the specific behaviours that show up when people overuse their strengths, in other words, when they use them too much or in the wrong way. For example, when one of my strengths, “Creativity”, is overused it can lead to me coming up with ideas that are unrealistic and unworkable

Yet there is plenty of work still to do by strengths test publishers and strengths practitioners to keep these assessments relevant and value-adding in future. Some of the opportunities for further research and innovation include:

  1. How do different combinations of strengths help us predict important employee outcomes, including job performance, engagement, readiness for progression, well-being, etc.?
  2. How do strengths combine with values, motivations, abilities, and other key human success factors to predict job success and other important employee outcomes?
  3. How can strengths assessment and development help employers bridge critical skills gaps in the workforce and support upskilling and reskilling so they are fit for the future?
  4. How can strengths-based approaches help employers create more flexible and motivating career options and pathways for employees?
  5. How can teams combine and leverage diverse strengths to generate better team cohesion and results?
  6. How can different strengths enable people to navigate major transitions (incl. onboarding, career changes, promotions, redundancies, retirement, etc.) effectively in ways that are meaningful to them?
  7. How do overused strengths (and combinations of strengths) impact performance and relationships and which pose greater career derailment risks for leaders and other employees?

There is another important opportunity where we believe strengths-based assessment and development tools could play a vital role in future. We would love to see other strengths test publishers, HR and L&D practitioners, and voluntary sector organizations working more closely together to bring the enormous benefits of this approach to the growing numbers of disadvantaged and marginalized job seekers and employees. A strengths-based hiring and development approach can help these people by empowering them to present their strengths, skills, and other standout qualities to employers in the best possible light. Moreover, by valuing and developing their strengths, disadvantaged job seekers and employees will develop self-confidence, agility and resilience, vital attributes to secure meaningful employment and progression. There are dozens of ways to help these groups. For example, TalentPredix provides significant discounts to companies in the voluntary sector and contributes a percentage of our sales revenue to charities helping disadvantaged job seekers.

Strengths assessments are now widely adopted by organizations in the UK and globally for numerous talent applications, including hiring, employee development, team building, creating great places to work and career progression. However, after two successful decades, strengths test publishers and practitioners need to adapt and innovate their tools and practices to meet the changing needs of the modern workplace.

Click here to discover how we help organizations unleash exceptional talent and thriving workplaces.

We are currently experiencing a crisis of trust in leadership. This is patently obvious in the political arena; however, it is just as apparent in the business world. The decisions leaders take and how they choose to implement them impact the trust relationship with their workforce, not just in the short term, but for months and even years to come.

There are numerous reasons for declining trust in leaders in recent decades including corporate cronyism, offshore tax havens and tax dodging, prioritizing short-term profitability over sustainable growth and environmental responsibility and a growing income disparity between top executive pay and other pay grades.

Shifting demographics and generational differences are also impacting on workplace trust. Millennials and other younger employees aren’t willing to blindly follow and trust leaders anymore. In fact, studies suggest they are developing an ever-growing mistrust of authority figures and trust their peers more than the leaders in their company. This is, at least in part, because of the breakdown of the traditional ‘psychological contract’, or set of beliefs, perceptions, and informal obligations governing the relationship between an employer and an employee. Most employers can no longer offer secure work and career progression, so this ‘contract’ is breaking down. This is likely to be exacerbated in the coming years as the pace and extent of automation and digitization of the workplace accelerates, leaving many people unemployed or having to fight for temporary work as part of the fast-growing “gig economy”. Many millennials have already seen their parents made redundant which has made them wary of giving their unfettered loyalty and trust to organizations and their leaders.

Below are 5 steps leaders can take to strengthen trust with their people:

Pursue a higher purpose beyond profit

Recent history is full of examples where leaders have placed greed and short-term shareholder returns over creating sustainable value for customers, employees, and society. Many companies are still turning a blind eye to the impact of their short-term and exploitative practices, including paying employees (and others in the supply chain) below the minimum wage, using questionable employment practices, and awarding top executives disproportionately high pay increases and bonuses. Awareness of these practices among employees, customers and the public is growing because of increased transparency and growing global connectedness resulting from rapid advances in online media and social networks that bypass traditional borders and boundaries.

To build greater trust, business leaders should invite their people to shape a greater purpose for their organization that contributes to a better and more sustainable future for all. This involves establishing a compelling purpose, ideally one that benefits all stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, and society. By taking a multi-stakeholder perspective rather than a narrow shareholder one, positive leaders leverage additional perspectives, ideas and commitment for positive change and innovation that benefits everyone, not just the owners and C-suite. There are a growing number of organizations that are seeing the financial and non-financial benefits of building strong purpose-based companies. Most integrate sustainability goals into their purpose, not as a token act of “greenwashing”, but to ensure their business is prepared for the era of green energy and sustainability we are entering. Studies clearly show the value of creating business that are a force for good in the world. Great examples include Unilever, Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals and Patagonia.

Ensure transparent and human-centred people practices

Social media has immense power to expose people and companies which are engaging in exploitative, potentially unlawful, or irresponsible behaviour. By ensuring all their actions and decisions are ethical, fit for public scrutiny and transparent, leaders can build a culture of openness, integrity and trust.

When taking a decision that is potentially risky or damaging to one or more groups of stakeholders, leader can ask questions such as: “Would I be happy for my friends and family to see this decision, and the consequences, reported on a major social media platform like Twitter?” As well as measuring themselves against this type of standard, the best leaders ensure their employees are held accountable to similar standards, reducing the risks of unethical behaviour or a poor decision that can undermine trust, reputation, and customer loyalty.

Bridge the gap between words and actions

It is imperative that leaders’ words are matched by consistent and reliable follow-through so people can trust they will do what they say. If leaders don’t follow through on their commitments, people will quickly lose trust and respect in them. Even little discrepancies between promises and actions can undermine trust as it is a fragile bond, especially when a leader is new in role and they are still building up connections and trust with their people.

Tackle misinformation and fake news

One of the downsides of pervasive social media is that it amplifies fake news and misinformation. It is important for leaders to understand and tackle untruths and misinformation decisively by highlighting inaccuracies, especially if they pose a risk to staff or the business. They should ensure people have good access to reliable, fact-checked sources of information they can count on.

Be honest about bad news

Attempting to shield employees from bad news undermines trust and disempowers employees as they can’t help to tackle the problem. It is therefore imperative that leaders speak as much as possible from their heart, adopting an ‘open and honest’ policy when it comes to dealing with negative news such as layoffs, failure to secure additional funding, poor sales performance, etc. In this new digital age, the truth will quickly be outed if leaders try to hide tough messages from staff, as the rumour mill is now super-charged by online communities and social media channels. It is clearly always important to judge the timing of the communication and deliver bad news in a considered and compassionate manner. However, it is vital to be open and honest insofar as possible.

Trust is at the heart of positive leadership. However, in a dynamic, digital world characterized by information overload, misinformation, fake news and growing employee and stakeholder scrutiny, leaders are struggling to build high levels of trust and respect among employees and other stakeholders. By being open, transparent, decisive and collaborative, leaders will build stronger bonds of trust with employees to unlock their engagement, effort, and excellence.

Ask yourself these questions to assess the effectiveness of your transition to a new leader.

1. Do I understand the context and culture of my new team and organization from the perspective of key stakeholders?

2. Do I have a clear plan for the first 100 days identifying my priorities and what I intend to do, communicate, and learn?

3. Am I clear on intended outcomes and how I will measure my success?

4. How will I manage… [Download full version to read more]

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Introduction

The technological revolution and speed of innovation is transforming the workplace at a rapid rate. Within this disruptive landscape, organizations are managing myriad challenges from global supply issues, rising operational costs and inflation to a talent shortage.

1. Facing a talent and skills shortage and an economic crisis

Post-pandemic, there have been record numbers of job vacancies. This has increased competition in the job market for employers, as skilled and experienced workers can be highly selective about their next move. Offering higher pay and benefits is one tactic to secure top talent, however, it is financially unsustainable and could make existing employees feel underpaid. Compensation has a role in talent strategy, but organizations need to use different levers, other than pay to attract and retain talent. One of the most effective incentives is work that offers development and challenge as it increases workers’ value and gives them an opportunity to meaningfully improve their lives at work and beyond.
This approach can also… [Download full version to read more]

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As Liz Truss, the UK’s new Prime Minister, starts her challenging role amidst multiple crises, it is worth reflecting on the principles underpinning effective leadership transitions.
Leadership transitions are becoming increasingly common. They occur when executives or leaders move to new jobs in different organizations or when leaders are promoted in their current company. However, in today’s hyper-competitive and volatile environment, successful moves are increasingly challenging, even for the brightest and most experienced leaders. The failure rate of new leaders is high and growing. For example, McKinsey found that 27-46% of executives who transition are regarded as failures or disappointments two years later.
So, what are the key guiding principles behind successful transitions:

Start before the person joins

Onboarding programs vary in scope and effectiveness, but many start the process too late, when the leader has already joined the organization.
To accelerate integration of the leader into the organization, it is advisable to start the process before day one. Steps companies can take to do this include providing new hires with:
A thorough onboarding and transition plan for the first 3-6 months and inviting input from the leader on specific questions they have that they’d like addressed.

Clarify expectations

Leaders starting a new role, especially those who are external hires, need a clear understanding of what is expected of them by different stakeholders and constituents. To expedite this process, HR departments can provide new leaders with an up-to-date organizational chart and stakeholder map, reflecting other key stakeholders that will be crucial to the leader’s effectiveness. They should also ensure new leaders have an opportunity to meet their superiors, peers, and other key stakeholders as quickly as possible. Ideally, responsibility should be delegated to an executive assistant or senior administrator to arrange these meetings as a matter of priority.
It is also important for HR to include a 1-1 session with the leader in the first week to talk through key HR policies, the employee handbook and any implicit expectations, norms and beliefs related to the company’s culture. This will help the leader understand what is expected of them, including all the unwritten rules and standards that don’t appear in the handbook and policies.

Provide a structured journey to support effective integration

Studies show that ramp-up time for external hires is typically six to nine months. This time can be accelerated with well-designed onboarding and integration programs. But an effective integration program will also reduce costly mistakes and U-turns, minimize staff morale and turnover problems, and promote strong relationships with the leader’s new team and stakeholders. Specific areas that the program should cover are detailed in the diagram below. Key aspects include:

Be clear on the development support and resources available

Together with an attractive remuneration package and supportive boss, access to engaging development and career opportunities is the factor most likely to motivate and retain talented leaders.
It is therefore important to clearly signpost development resources and program that may be of value to the new leader when they join. These should be aligned with their development goals, learning style and career aspirations. During the first 3 months, the leader should have an opportunity to sit down with their boss for a high-quality career dialogue. The purpose of this is to identify specific development goals and a Personal Development Plan to guide their development and growth. The leader should ideally also be offered an internal or external coach and mentor/s to support their development. This highly personalised approach to development has been found to be particularly effective for leaders and executives in transition.

Plan regular check-ins and feedback

It is important to schedule regular HR check-ins with the new leader at least every month to check on progress and share any feedback you and your team are hearing. Similarly, the leader’s line manager should ensure they maintain a cadence of weekly or fortnightly meetings with the new leader to discuss progress, answer any questions they may have and provide appropriate guidance, coaching and feedback.
These check-ins and review points are also a good opportunity to invite feedback from the new leader on their experiences, observations, and feedback, including suggestions to improve the team, business and onboarding process.

Provide expert coaching

New leaders can often feel isolated, and feelings of anxiety, fear and confusion are normal. Expert transition coaches understand these feelings and create a safe space for leaders to reveal their fears, limiting beliefs and vulnerabilities. They can also provide a neutral, non-judgemental sounding board for the new leader to test out ideas and alternative courses of action before taking significant decisions.

By providing a structured process, support, and regular check-ins to discuss progress, organizations will significantly improve success rates for external hires and newly promoted leaders. This will avoid the considerable financial and non-financial costs (including declines in team morale, unwanted turnover, customer losses and reputational damage) associated with transition failures.     

If you would like to find out more about our transition support and coaching for new leaders, contact us at info@talentpredix.com

“Typically organizations work extremely hard to identify and hire new talent…but then rely on hope when it comes to making their investment successful.”

Scott Saslow, Institute of Executive Development

One of the unexpected outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a great many people re-evaluating their careers, their current roles and the activities which are meaningful to them resulting in what is being called ‘The Great Resignation’. We now live in a culture that must embrace transition as the norm and the greater transience of the workforce means that more leaders than ever are changing roles and companies, hence the issue of successful leadership transition becomes even more important.

But why is it important? It is a shocking fact that around 40% of executives are pushed out, fail, or quit during their first eighteen months in a role, and two years after executive transition, between 27-46% are regarded as failures or disappointments (https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/successfully-transitioning-to-new-leadership-roles). This is perhaps not surprising once you realise that typically, 90% of the total cost of hiring a new executive is spent on the front end with only 10% spent on the back end such as structured onboarding and coaching support (https://www.veruspartners.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Successfully-transitioning-to-new-leadership-roles-web-final.pdf). The war for talent is on, meaning that identifying, acquiring, and retaining talent is of key importance.

Many of us feel the impact of the past two years whilst living through a pandemic, when everything that was familiar changed and we had to flex and adapt to new ways of doing things; the landscape was recognisable, but at the same time, the way of living in this landscape was different and new. This is a great analogy for the executive taking up a new role; the skills and competencies needed are recognisable, however, the application within a different environment needs time, agility, and support. McKinsey defines executive transition as ‘the period (which can last up to 18 months) after an executive has assumed his or her new C-level responsibilities’, confirming that transition is not a single event, but a process.

A successful transition process is one that enables new leaders to become swiftly effective in their new role and to integrate successfully into the organization, it supports letting go of the old to identify and make way for the new. Without the right pillars in place, the transition process can easily be derailed and result in failure. The impact of a failed transition is not easily contained and ripples out to affect many areas. Firstly, there is the cost; research shows that a failed leadership transition can cost from 2.5 to a massive 20 times the executive’s yearly compensation (https://hbr.org/2017/05/the-biggest-mistakes-new-executives-make; https://www.ddiworld.com/blog/executive-transitions). This includes the investment in search fees, possible relocation expenses, signing bonuses and issuing of stock grants and options. In addition, a failed executive transition can have an impact on the business which lasts years, and when you consider the potential damage to the client base and brand reputation, and the impact on employee morale, not to mention the detrimental impact on the executive involved and the potential damage to their career trajectory and personal wellbeing, you have a situation which demands a solution.

The good news is that research shows that transition-acceleration coaching can halve the time required for new executives to become fully effective in their roles, and an experienced transition coach can increase the likelihood of successful transition by a massive 50%. (https://wabccoaches.com/2009/09/senior-leadership-transitions-what-makes-them-work-and-what-causes-them-to-fail/).

If you would like to find out more about our transition support and coaching for new leaders, contact us at info@talentpredix.com

Recent studies show that 30-50% of new executives and leaders fail within the first 18 months. There are huge direct and indirect costs associated with such failure. The price of a failed leadership hire is estimated at 200% of first-year earnings and includes costs such as wasted recruitment fees, the cost of rehiring, poor productivity and lost customers. The toll for departing leaders is also very high. It includes damaged career trajectories, lost earnings, a decline in self-confidence and significant stress. The blame for leadership failure often lies with organizations that fail to provide effective support, guidance, and onboarding to new leaders. However, the reasons can often arise from the mindset, behaviours, and missteps of the incoming leaders. Some of the more common traps we see are as follows:

Failing to build strong relationships

When leaders transition into a new organization or business area, they often invest too little time getting to know their stakeholders and building a strong foundation of trust, respect, and openness. There are often good reasons for this, including getting pulled into resolving urgent challenges and crises by their boss and a desire to achieve early wins and maximum impact. However, this trap is often the one that undermines a leader’s effectiveness the most. They lose important insights about the organization or business area they are joining because of their failure to connect with and understand the expectations, perspectives, and styles of key stakeholders. By under-investing in relationship building, they will also be less effective in gaining the support and commitment of colleagues, direct reports, external advisors, and other constituencies who are essential to their success.

Arriving with fixed assumptions and beliefs

Leaders often fall into this trap as they are keen to prove their worth quickly by applying their experience to achieve quick wins in their new role. However, what’s worked in one context often doesn’t translate well to another. Although leaders may be able to get away with coming up with answers based on their past experiences during the initial weeks, this approach is likely to backfire if it becomes a regular pattern of behaviour. People soon tire of being told by the leader how things should be done based on what they’ve done in the past. They will start to question the leader’s judgement and commitment to the team and business, thinking to themselves “if it was so great at your previous company, why don’t you just go back there!”.

Overpromising

Many new leaders are keen to make people happy and win their backing and loyalty quickly. This trap is aptly illustrated by what we are seeing with many politicians today when they make lofty promises to their constituents that they can’t ever hope to meet. Such behaviour causes leaders to underdeliver on promises (often unintentionally) because these commitments are based on unrealistic optimism, poor assumptions, and an inadequate understanding of the realities. This self-sabotaging behaviour can quickly confuse people and leave them disappointed, undermining their integrity and damaging important relationships. 

Forcing through change too quickly

Occasionally, leaders need to act quickly and be highly directive in the first few months in their new role. This typically occurs in turnaround situations where fast change is necessary to save the business. However, such situations are fortunately rare. Most leaders have time on their side during the first 3 months to learn about the business and understand the different options available to achieve the expectations of investors, employees, the board, and other key constituents. However, many leaders still jump in too quickly. They try to put their unique stamp on the organization by notching up some quick wins. They don’t establish clear priorities, overextend themselves and fail to achieve anything meaningful. To avoid this trap, new leaders should prioritize impact over action, establish a few key priorities for the first 3-6 months and defer complex decisions that require in-depth knowledge and insight. By taking more time to understand the priority challenges and aligning key stakeholders with the change agenda and process, leaders are more likely to succeed in delivering strong results.

Listening only to the loudest voices

Any new leader faces a multitude of different views and inputs from diverse stakeholders. The leader’s natural tendency will often be to listen most to the loudest voices, especially if these people are highly influential board members or investors. It is important for new leaders to resist this temptation and remain neutral until they understand the political structure and dynamics of the organization. To do this, it is important to meet with representatives from all key stakeholder groups, including direct reports, front-line employees, peers, their manager, customers, and key suppliers. This input will enable the leader to make better decisions based on the diverse perspectives they hear and better understand the alliances they need to build to deliver their strategy.

Inadequate discovery of the context and culture

As mentioned before, most new leaders don’t need to make big decisions on things like strategy, people, and products until they have gained a good understanding of the organization and are relatively confident in their knowledge. Specific areas leaders should prioritise understanding during the initial 90 days include:

As well as asking for all data and records that are important to aid this discovery, leaders should use their initial months to ask open and clarifying questions to understand different stakeholder perspectives. During this time, they should remain curious, non-judgemental, and critically minded so they can capture the full range of views and insights while surfacing questionable assumptions, biases, and flawed thinking.

Where it is evident that an external perspective would be helpful to make a better decision about an issue that is complex or requires specialist expertise, the leader can solicit the advice or guidance of an external advisor.

Context is crucial to the success of any new leader. Most leaders have a unique opportunity in their early months to undertake this discovery process in a thorough and systematic way, something that won’t be on offer once they’ve settled into the role.

Failure to adapt strengths, style, and approach

Leaders have different strengths, styles, and ways of working. Most develop well-established routines and habits in the way they use these, particularly if they have been in a role and/or organization for many years. But they need to avoid the trap of assuming what has made them successful in the past will guarantee success in future, as this is rarely the case. When taking on a new role, they need to ensure they adapt their strengths, style and approach to the specific challenges and needs of the organization. For example, if they have been leading a relatively new team and are taking over a well-established, high-performing team, they should adapt their style to ensure it is more participative and empowering. If they tend to be naturally decisive, opinionated and controlling, they may have to intentionally dial back on these strengths to avoid them being overdone with a more autonomous and experienced team. By adapting their strengths and style to the needs of their context, leaders can avoid getting trapped in past routines and habits that no longer work.

Becoming stressed and overwhelmed

New leaders often rush into their new job with a high degree of energy and enthusiasm. Because of their desire to make a positive impact as quickly as possible, they put in long hours and invest a great deal of physical, mental, and emotional energy in their new role. The competing pressures and conflicting demands on their time can quickly become all-consuming. If the leader neglects the warning signs, they can become overwhelmed, stressed, and even burned out. It is therefore important for leaders to decide early on how they wish to manage their workload and what boundaries they’ll establish between their work and personal life. This involves creating routines, boundaries, and productivity principles, including allocating sufficient time for planning, building relationships, and learning. To maintain their well-being, they need to prioritise self-care, including maintaining sufficient rest, regular exercise, and a healthy diet. Additionally, it is important to allocate and protect time for their favourite leisure activities and to be with their loved ones.

By helping new leaders become more aware of these common traps and providing them with a well-structured, supportive, and professional onboarding and transition experience, you can mitigate the risks of leadership failure during the first year, when the stressors and stakes are greatest.

If you would like to find out more about our transition support and coaching for new leaders, contact us at info@talentpredix.com

Watch the video below to discover how TalentPredix™, the next generation talent and strengths assessment system, transforms the way you hire, develop, and engage talent, enabling you to improve talent outcomes and unleash the full potential of your people.

Do you like what you hear? Sign up for our next training program here or request your free trial here.

Listen to what a few of our TalentPredix™ users and practitioners have to say about this next generation talent and strengths assessment system and our training program.

Do you like what you hear? Sign up for our next training program here or request your free trial here.

Your role in helping people achieve their full potential

A key part of your role as manager is to coach and guide your team to help them understand, clarify, and progress their career goals and achieve their full potential. Coaching is a collaborative and supportive relationship involving mutual trust, reflection and exploration. Through a process of discovery, goal setting, and focused action, it can facilitate extraordinary outcomes.

Specific ways you can support team members include:

Key Coaching Skills

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