Strengths and job fit: the art of career enrichment

job fit

Mona Patel is the CEO of innovative user experience design agency, Motivate Design.

In this video for Inc magazine she explains her simple but somewhat revolutionary philosophy on hiring staff.

I am highly encouraged by this kind of approach to work and careers. For too long the quest for fit between person and job has been carried out almost entirely on the employer’s terms.

Just look at the job ads on Linkedin with their interminable lists of ‘essential requirements’, ‘must-haves and ‘non-negotiables’.

Of course I get that employers need to be confident that the people they hire are competent. But it is surely time to move away from the paradigm that demands that the person must fit the job to one that allows for jobs to be shaped to fit the people.

In the fluid, project-based, team-shifting modern workplace it is surely not beyond the wit of decent managers and leaders to:

  • assemble teams on the basis that, collectively, they have the strengths needed to carry out the work that needs doing, and
  • deploy them in such a way that tasks are matched to the talents of the individual team members.

And this isn’t just a rant.

Job fit: hire the person not the CV

There is evidence to show that where organisations focus on the strengths of their employees and those strengths are related to key outcomes for the organisation, staff learn faster, perform better and have higher engagement than where traditional competency frameworks are used (Stefanyszn 2008).

And what is interesting about that evidence is that this strengths based approach was not adopted in a funky design agency or a Silicon valley start up, where it’s all skateboards and free massages. It was adopted in Aviva (formerly Norwich Union), a 300 year old British Insurance company with tens of thousands of employees.

Similarly, research by Gallup also shows that in the parts of organisations where people have the opportunity to do what they do best every day, employee turnover is lower, productivity is higher and there are better customer satisfaction scores.

It therefore seems that organisations can reap significant rewards by shifting their focus away from what they demand of their staff in terms of capabilities and competencies and instead looking at how they can best facilitate job fit – the right connection between their employees and the work that they do.

References

Stefanyszyn, K. (2008). Norwich union changes focus from competencies to strengths. Strategic HR Review, 7(1), 47.

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