As we struggle with talent shortages Australia-wide, this is the time to look beyond typical recruitment processes. Let’s use strength-based practices and focus on the candidate’s natural talent and motivation.

Because strengths are inherently human, we are helping employers to recruit from a wider pool and find people that might have been overlooked through traditional methods of recruitment.
Alex Linley, Founding Director of Cappfinity

From strength to strength

Implementing strength-based employment practice can improve diversity and inclusion outcomes for organisations and give you access to an often-overlooked cohort. Strength-based recruitment and management processes look beyond skills and behaviours, instead focusing on themotivations that drive said behaviours and the strengths of each candidate.

At its core, strength-based recruitment focuses on each person’s individual strengths, and factors them into hiring and management decisions. It helps employers place the right people in the right roles, and greatly benefit the organisation. You can focus their work more effectively and create a more engaged, high performing team.

You can start by incorporating small elements. The practices outlined below will provide you with clear guidelines on how to incorporate strength-based employment practices into your organisation, stepping through the life cycle of an employee and how you can support them at each stage.

The life cycle of an employee

Job descriptions based on strengths will allow applicants to more easily recognise whether they are a good fit for the position. By using inclusive language and emphasising the value of workplace diversity, you’ll encourage applications from a wide range of job seekers.

For people with lived experience of the justice system, if the role requires a police check it is recommended that the recruiter outlines how a police check information will be assessed and that it does not automatically exclude an applicant from the role.

The inclusive language present in the role advertisement will depend on the role itself. For example, for client or customer-based jobs, you may want to look for someone who is confident and enjoys communicating with a wide variety of people.

Applications and interviews are an opportunity for applicants to let their energy, enthusiasm and strengths shine, giving a genuine insight into their personality.

Consider what skills you are looking for and ensure your recruitment process is reflective of it. For example, if you are looking for call centre team member, assessing them based on a resume and cover letter may not be reflective of the strengths you require. Although an applicant may not have strong writing skills, they could have incredible verbal communication. In such cases, you could choose to shortlist based on brief phone interviews instead of using a resume.

Once you have shortlisted, strength-based interview questions will allow you to identify what energises and motivates the candidates, what gives them passion rather than simply their technical skills. This is based in the idea that what people love to do is their strength and indicates where their potential ultimately lies.

Try and have questions that are person-centric, so they reveal the candidate's uniqueness. Below are some examples of strength-based questions:

  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
  • What types of skills do you learn quickly?
  • When did you achieve something you were proud of?
  • When do you feel the most motivated?
  • How do you think this role will play to your strengths?

Finally, when inviting applicants to interview, be open to discussing any accommodations they may need to fully participate in the recruitment process. People with lived experience of the justice system may not have available transport to attend in-person interviews, so alternatives should be discussed.
Implementing these processes from the start, creates an organisational environment that supports empowerment and strength-based approaches.

Onboarding is a foundational part of an employee’s experience. At the end of onboarding, employees should feel a sense of belonging and have a clear idea of what defines their success within the organisation. Onboarding should include formal and informal learning about the role and the organisation, and be tailored to individual needs. Some employees may need a highly structured program while others may enjoy more flexibility. It is up the employer to discuss which option would be more beneficial and play to the strengths of the employee.

It is an opportunity to introduce the team, and foster feelings of trust among colleagues so the team understands how to leverage each individual’s strengths and apply them. Additionally, it promotes an inclusive workplace where feelings of otherness are dissolved and replaced with an appreciation of similarities between team members’ strengths. When employees feel like they belong, they feel empowered to share their opinions and ideas.

A good way to start onboarding and begin forming social ties within the workplace, is team building activities that have an initial focus on introductions. Use these collaborative activities in a similar way to the strength-based interviews – a tool to get an in-depth view of your new employees' strengths and how they can use them in the role. Some examples are below.

Popcorn introductions

One person starts by answering a short question about themselves, whoever can relate to one thing with the previous answer goes next and starts by sharing their similarity. This repeats until everyone has answered, allowing the team to naturally find their commonalities.

Values meeting

A values workshop can set the tone for the team.

  • As a team discuss shared goals and outline the team’s success criteria.
  • Invite employees to write down three skills or strengths they are bringing to the position and then share with the rest of the team.
  • Ask employees to write down and share what they need from you as an employer to work at their best.
  • If appropriate, encourage people to talk about a time they failed at something. This reinforces that struggles and failure are a universal experience, which creates a bond within the team.
  • To wrap up the workshop, brainstorm the values that are shared amongst team members and group them together in categories.

Onboarding can be a long process and should not end after the employee’s first week. Collaborative activities like the ones above should be done regularly.

Employee retention is essential for a successful workplace and maintenance of corporate knowledge.

Creating space for open communication and clear goals will ensure that the employees thoroughly understand the company's aims and are committed to achieving them. Weekly meetings will assist in seeing how team members are progressing and help to identify problems early. Strength-based questions asked in these meetings could include:

  • What parts of this tasks are playing to your strengths?
  • What parts are you finding most difficult and how could we support you?
  • How could we shift your tasks to better align with your strengths?

Ensuring that these questions reflect a genuine care for your employees will help to establish positive relationships. The turnover rate of employees is lessened when employers work with individuals to best match them with their strengths in the workplace.

To successfully retain a great employee, an employer should also give tasks which are challenging enough but still play to their strengths. This includes providing professional development opportunities. Strength-based strategies that support professional development include:

Allowing the employee to identify staff members they admire within the organisation and supporting the creation of a mentorship relationship

Being specific about development action plans that focus on the strengths of the employee and connects to their roles within the organisation

Remain open to receiving honest feedback from employees and learn what motivates them in their role

There are a range of reasons an employee may leave an organisation. As an employer you should support them as they transition through their career development.

As an employer, you are in a unique position to offer important insights about the work environment, meaning you can help departing employees to strategise their career goals and determine which career moves are the best for them.

Support includes:

  • offering detailed feedback on resumes and cover letters, as employers are aware of what hiring managers are looking for in successful applications. This can also be achieved by providing workshops on how to effectively write a job application.
  • creating an environment where colleagues are encouraged to practice for job interviews and provide detailed feedback on the responses to help.
  • discussing the employee’s achievements and strengths will give them a confidence boost and provide more talking points they can use in their interview.
  • helping employees stay on top of opportunities in the industry by hosting lunch and learn sessions with internal and external guest speakers and sharing their name and resume around your network.
  • offering flexibility around the employee’s schedule so they can attend job interviews and start their new opportunities.

Finally, consider establishing a network between alumni employees and the organisation to continue communication and encourage employees to reach out should they need advice or further support.

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