John Knight continues his thinking on using a strengths based approach to improve staff retention and talent development

In my previous blog I wrote about the curse of the Accidental Manager – those huge numbers of people who have drifted into a role by virtue of their seniority rather than their skills as a manager, and how we need to take an approach to understand what people enjoy and are good at and play to those strengths.

It made me think about a senior management team I had worked with last year. They had just undergone a major restructure and wanted me to help them develop as a team, to understand themselves better as individuals and learn how to work as a team by understanding each other.  To help build a positive team culture and ensure we started from a strengths based approach I suggested they underwent an assessment process known as Strengthscope which is an excellent tool to help people take stock and focus on the positives and think about what truly motivates them. It was a very positive and thought provoking session of all the team.

Anyway, my blog prompted me to pick up the phone to the Chief Executive to see how they had been getting on in the last few months. She said things were going really well, but that her Chief Finance Officer has recently resigned. I must admit I was shocked. He was a real product of the local government system, had joined straight from school and had found himself in a finance role where he had risen through the ranks to become the council’s 151 Officer.

The Chief Executive explained to me that there hadn’t been any kind of upset or a falling out – quite the contrary, it had been a very positive experience. The Strengthscope work had affected him deeply and really make him think about what he enjoyed, gave him energy and motivated him. And that wasn’t managing budgets! He enjoyed variety, creativity and working with new people and his job did not give him any of that. So he had decided to leave the council and take up a new career.

Whilst some people might think undertaking this kind of exercise is a high risk strategy – and letting the genie out of the bottle –  I believe it’s better to understand if people are being motivated in what they do and take action, whether that is developing them in a role, or playing to their strengths for the good of both the individual and the organisation in a new role. After all is said and done, the cliché remains a truth – ‘people are your greatest asset’. But few, if any, organisations are happy with the supply of talent they have or know how to hold onto those people they want to have by their side for the long haul.

In the public sector our performance is defined around the quality of service we provide to our customers. And the quality of this is in large part dependent upon the quality of the people the organisation employs. These organisations cannot keep doing what they have always done and expect to attract and keep the good people. A solid, practical and effective talent management strategy is a more important asset to any organisation nowadays than it ever has been.

Where to start?

You have to start somewhere, and most organisations begin with strengths-based development or performance management and use the enthusiasm generated as a launch pad to introduce strengths approaches into other aspects of talent management. It can be a very good starting point because having the right people doing the jobs that give them energy and motivate them is an essential part of being productive and is key to a high-performing organisation.

To find out how we can help you develop your team why not contact me at John.Knight@WeAreC.Co