Why Strengths?


An organisation’s greatest assets are its people’s strengths. But these assets are not well understood or managed. A strength is a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking or feeling that enables optimal functioning or performance and is authentic and energising to the user. Everyone has strengths; but not everyone is clear about what their strengths are and how to capitalise on them. Critically for organisations, neither are their managers. The strengths perspective points to a clear and natural route to enhancing the contribution and engagement of employees. It also promises to make the complex and oft en neglected task of people management significantly easier and more attractive.

Pressing challenges for people management


In addition to their own specific strategic and operational challenges, organisations are required to recruit, manage and retain people in an increasingly complex and competitive employment market. With changing demographics and rapid social change come skills shortages and a more diverse and demanding workforce. At the same time, market and technological change demand unprecedented agility of organisations and flexibility of their employees. Simply put, strengths energise people enabling them to be at their best.


In this context talent management and employee engagement have reached the top of many management agendas and the resulting reports have, for many, not made happy reading. Recent research from CIPD has established that 85% of UK organisations experience difficulties recruiting employees; nearly half believe there is currently a shortage of high quality talent. Meanwhile only 3 in 10 employees are engaged with their work and – of particular concern for the recruitment of new talent – levels of engagement among the under-35s are significantly lower than those in older age groups.


Few HR practitioners disagree that well-designed talent management activities can have a positive impact on an organisation’s bottom line, but only half report undertaking any form of talent management activity. This may be explained, in part, by a lack of clarity about what talent and talent management are. In the UK, only 20% of organisations have any formal definition of talent management and where talent management is practiced, it tends to focus on a small subset of the workforce. This narrow definition of talent (or limited ambition for talent management) leaves ‘hidden value’ unexploited and too many employees disengaged and unfulfilled. Senior executives see a crisis at middle management level. A survey by Hay Group reveals the startling finding that 40% of senior business leaders believe middle management to be the single greatest barrier to their organisation achieving its objectives, pointing particularly to lack of skill and ability in leading teams and failure to address under performance. For their part, middle managers feel left out on a limb, without the training, career development and feedback they need to drive performance improvements. Half of middle managers believe that their leaders have ineffective leadership styles and poor leadership competencies. Given these findings, it is perhaps unsurprising that UK employees are generally unhappy both with the way they are managed and with the senior leadership of their organisations.