Customer Experiences

Filling a Chair or Positioning Your Company For Long Term Sustainable Growth?

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September 27, 2011
This blog post is from an article posted on Inside Indiana Business this week. You can access the article here.

I have long been a proponent and a fan of the Marcus Buckingham school of thought around building a productive team by focusing on the strengths of individuals rather than by simply matching people and experiences with specific roles.

For those of you not familiar with Marcus Buckingham or strengths based hiring the basic premise is that each of us has natural strengths and that more attention should be paid on leveraging one’s strengths versus spending time on or worrying about one’s weaknesses. At That’s Good HR, our whole staff participates in the Clifton Stengthsfinder assessment and our internal roles have been customized to focus as much as possible on the strengths each person has. I have found that when employees come to work each day and spend the majority of their time doing the things they like to do (or even things they don’t particularly like to do in a way they like to do them), the result is a highly productive and positive work environment.

Truth be told, this has not been easy to maintain over the past 24 months. The economy has been brutal to our industry just as it has to most others. When times are tough and companies must get lean, managing a business that allows employees to work within their strengths requires a whole new management strategy. The reality of our recent past is that you have to have a team that is willing to take on the crappy stuff now and then as you navigate the choppy and uncharted waters. Your short term strategy may very well include everyone working at whatever you need done to stay afloat, strengths or not. Now, if you do it right, you will always have tasks that can be distributed based on who does them best or likes doing them the most and the rest will simply require a divide and conquer methodology.

Notice I said this was a short term strategy. This is important because if you ask people to take on work that is in no way interesting or exciting to them for the short term, you will find people willing to take one for the team. If this turns into your long term strategy, you are going to end up with an all out mutiny or a quiet rebellion at a minimum. Once you begin to recover, you need to shift your talent back to focusing in areas where their strengths lie as much as you possibly can. Innovation and productivity will be your pay off as well as a workforce that is generally happy to come to work. Surround yourself with people who have varied strengths to optimize the outcome no matter what the task at hand.

Nearly two decades in the search and placement industry have taught me many things. One of the most important of these being that forcing the square peg into the round hole for short term personal gain is bad business 100% of the time. The pressure to fill critical roles in an organization leads to bad hiring decisions and costly mistakes all too often. You can build a very compelling business case for taking the time necessary to fill important roles with the right person rather than just filling it fast. Finding the right person requires time and energy focused on truly understanding the strengths of the individual and if/how they are compatible with the role you are filling. The success of your business depends on this kind of focus on your most valuable asset…human capital. Be sure to give it the attention it deserves, not only for high level critical positions, but for roles at all levels of your organization. If you teach your hiring managers how to do this correctly, the return will be well worth the investment to both your employees and your company.