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Are Employee Development Areas Holding You Back?

Posted on the 21 February 2013 by Onetest @onetest_hr

Are employee development areas holding you back?


Effective talent management is critical in times of economic uncertainty! It’s needed to improve performance and ensure individual growth. Personnel development strategies often focus on job-centric performance deficits (i.e. development areas), encouraging employees to self-correct these perceived shortcomings.

Focusing on Development Areas

If we look at this approach in terms of a sporting analogy it’s like asking your star forward to play in the backs for a season to improve their defensive abilities. Is this the wrong approach? Have we got it all wrong? Why do we insist on focusing on development areas rather than enhancing natural strengths?

To be honest I don’t have an answer to any of these questions. However, encouragingly, the business world seems to finally be moving towards a strength-based approach for personnel development. This more positive view implores organisations to recognise strengths and see them as the aspects of individual performance where greatest growth can occur.

Focusing on Individual Strengths

Focusing on deficits simply undermines the potential to develop strengths. Intuitively this makes sense as people are often more engaged, devote more energy to, and generally have more fun performing activities which align closely with their natural strengths. Think of this statement through the perspective of Sanford’s Challenge and Mastery Theory, Martin Seligman’s PERMA model, the extraordinarily large body of literature on Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose (see Daniel Pink’s RSA animate talk). It soon becomes clear that people will devote energy to activities which engage them, elicit positive emotions, hold some personal meaning, and allow them to feel a sense of accomplishment.

This type of approach essentially turns traditional talent management strategies on their head to focus on what is right rather than what is wrong. The key to realising benefits through a strengths approach is in helping individuals uncover their natural capabilities. Organisations need to refocus managerial lenses towards a more positive perspective and assist their employees to identify and embrace their natural talents. Everyone possesses positive qualities, but the opportunity to develop these qualities into core strengths is often overlooked.

Think Positively About People

Only around a third of employees are engaged with their work and most people leave their jobs because of their manager, this should be enough of an indication that we have not got it right so far. The industrial revolution is over. Golden watches are no longer handed out to company men and women. It’s time job-centric management practices ran their course too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about a free ride. It’s not about escaping responsibility. It’s just a change in tact.

Organisations need to start thinking positively about people, not as commodities but as positive contributors and:

  • Ensure a great job fit that plays on individual strengths
  • Build competencies around critical performance areas
  • Redesign job functions and distribute responsibility according to strengths
Teams should be built with the individual's strengths in mind. Do it well and you will increase: employee engagement, productivity, energy levels, satisfaction and retention.

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