By embracing people’s differences, organisations can boost innovation, improve customer experiences and gain valuable competitive advantage.
Diversity enables a broader range of perspectives, beliefs and ideas to be leveraged, leading to better information gathering, problem solving and decision-making. It also aids in the attraction, retention and engagement of world-class talent. It is therefore a key imperative to improving financial performance, innovation and competitiveness, all of which are essential for organisations to thrive in hyper-competitive and disruptive markets.
When organisations plan diversity and inclusion programs, most focus on observable differences like gender, ethnicity, disability and age differences. While this is crucial to address biases and unfairness and ensure their workforce is representative of the customers they serve, it is also important for businesses to build a culture where differences in thinking and ways of working are valued and leveraged. A powerful and positive way of building a more diverse workforce is to focus on people’s unique strengths, or the underlying qualities they have that energise them and unlock their full potential.
Discovering and optimising people’s unique strengths is surprisingly counter-intuitive for many organisational cultures. Once a person is hired, many organisations still focus on a person’s weaknesses and what they do wrong rather than helping them find opportunities to play and optimise their unique personality strengths.
Implementing the five steps below will help your organisation to create a positive and high performing culture where diverse strengths are fully leveraged and translated into business results and excellence.
Hire for diverse strengths, skills and experience
To be effective in today’s fast changing and uncertain environments, companies need to systematically analyse their current workforce and identify any imbalances and talent shortfalls in relation to both current and future business requirements.
As well as measuring and pinpointing employee groups that are underrepresented, companies should also measure the personality strengths of their workforce to see if these are well represented and aligned with the requirements of the business. Problems in companies often arise when teams or even whole workforces are lopsided in terms of personality strengths. For example, a team with a majority of people who are results and execution focused might ignore opportunities to build strong relationships with customers or engage in creative problem solving about how to deal with challenges arising from disruptive technological change.
Once the future talent needs are fully understood, it is important to set clear targets for groups and strengths that are under-represented. The hiring process should also be reviewed and upgraded to avoid adverse impact and biases. We would recommend a strengths-based approach to hiring as this has been found to increase social mobility and improve the quality and diversity of candidates at all levels.
Help people appreciate the value of their own and others’ strengths
As a result of a weakness bias in our society, we find that most people don’t understand their strengths and even when they do, they take them for granted or don’t know how to optimise them to bring maximum value to the company. Helping people discover and share their unique strengths using an objective and proven assessment like Strengthscope® is therefore a crucial starting point. This will lead to more positive performance and development dialogues about different strengths, the value of each and how people can work collaboratively to optimise strengths and achieve their individual and team goals. It also enables team members to help one another in weaker areas where they are less effective and have lower levels of motivation. Buddying up in complementary ways to overcome weaker areas is one of the most powerful way to overcome weaknesses, yet it is still rarely used effectively.
Use character strengths as well as skills to allocate projects and tasks
As well as using accurate performance data on employees’ skills and successes, it is just as important to use objective data on people’s character strengths when deciding how to allocate people to projects, tasks and stretch assignments. This will ensure the most appropriate mix of diverse strengths and skills to undertake the project or task effectively.
Encourage informal social activities
Organizations that build diverse cultures create opportunities for people to meet socially to get to know one another better. For example, some of the tech/online organisations we work with organise Scandi-style breakfast meetings for staff every week or month. They also have chillout zones for employees to meet up and engage in fun recreational activities. These opportunities for informal interactions build trust and cohesion and help people get to know one another better, beyond their jobs.
Challenge people to use their strengths in new and different ways
Encourage people to stretch beyond their comfort zone and apply their strengths in new and different ways to achieve their goals and create value for the business. Give them the freedom, support and coaching to find their own pathways to achieve results based on their unique strengths, skills, beliefs and background. For example, our experience shows that someone who has a Creativity strength might approach problems in a very different way from someone with a Critical Thinking strength.
To achieve longer-term success, a diversity and inclusion strategy needs to be positive, business-focused and lived by everyone in the company, particularly senior management. By focusing their diversity and inclusion programs around strengths-building, as well as addressing underrepresented groups in the organisation, companies can create an organisation where people learn to appreciate and value others for their strengths, skills and perspectives. As well as breaking down dysfunctional biases, a strengths-approach will create a more positive, collaborative and open-minded culture where innovation and performance excellence flourish.
Join our free webinar on 22nd September to learn more about this topic. We will also be discussing these themes at our Global Strengthscope® Practitioner Conference on the 5th October! Speak to us today for more information on how you can be a part of it.
Find out more about our strength-based assessments here.