Secrets of a Brighter Workplace


Tips on how to understand, recruit and keep the best people for your business


Where is the innovation in our HR practices

To meet the challenges of the 'brave new world'?

strengths conference

We live in a turbulent, uncertain world – a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. This impacts on all of us, not least those involved in HR.

But within HR, the tools we use to navigate these choppy waters are often old-school, invented in the last century to solve the problems faced in that century, like Maslow’s hierarchy of need (1943), MBTI (1970s) for example.

When was the last time you used new tools to meet the new challenges of the modern world?

This was the challenge that Peter Cheese, Head of CIPD, set the HR community recently. He argued that it was “time to retool and change the approaches in a modern century.”

The conference I attended a few weeks ago – ‘Mobilizing positive change through Strengths’, organised by the Strengths Partnership, was, in part, about finding an answer to that challenge. An exploration and celebration of positive psychology techniques and strengths-based approaches, it demonstrated how these tools offer exciting benefits and opportunities for HR innovation.

Fascinating speakers shared their philosophies and approaches while we also heard from organisations which were already using strengths for recruitment and development.

It was a really inspirational day – and I came away excited by the positive difference strengths-based approaches are making in the workplace.

For example, tools like Strengthscope™ help identify people’s strengths and in doing so can aid recruitment, development, team-building and engagement.

Strengths – just to remind you – are defined as those things that energise you at work. People perform best, research shows, when they’re able to combine their strengths with their skills and abilities. When they do this successfully it creates for them a sense of ‘flow,’ a state of mind where they’re completely immersed in the activity.

The two speakers that stood out for me during the conference were two who placed strengths at the centre of their work. Both Mike Pegg and David Zinger view strengths as a powerful tool in creating successful workplaces but each focuses on their use in different contexts.

Mike Pegg, from Strengths Foundation, has spent 45 years helping people build on their strengths – what he calls their ‘positive spirit’. He talked about how doing so brings people higher levels of personal and business success.

He focused on the idea of using strengths to build great teams. Successful teams need to be made up of people who share the same values and commitment to the vision of the business they’re in but who have a range of different skills and approaches.

He argued that the way to achieve this collaborative diversity is through strengths. By combining people with different but complementary strengths you can create a powerful and resilient team.

In the words of Mike Pegg: “leaders should live the values not just laminate them.”

David Zinger is an author and guru on employee engagement. He spoke about ‘the Sinew Factor,’ a way of thinking about how strengths support engagement and excellence through times of change and uncertainty. 

He argued that engagement is about connection – with your work, with your team, with your customer. Strengths are the sinew that help us make that connection. They operate alongside many other factors that need to be in place to aid engagement – such as recognition, vision, performance and so on – what David called ‘the engagement equation.

He asked how can we apply strengths to aid engagement, improve progress and handle setbacks, inform performance management and enhance recognition.

In the words of David Zinger: “engagement is good work done with others every day.”

Given the pace of change these days, engaged employees working in strong teams are a must. Being able to respond quickly to customers’ changing needs or advancements in technology requires teams that can flex and adapt.

It is through understanding and utilising people’s strengths that this can happen. When individuals know their own strengths and those of their comrades, and they recognise that they’ve been picked to complement each other, then the resulting team is a strong, flexible and capable one. One that can move quickly in the face of change.

It’s great to discover the innovative ways in which tools like strengths-based approaches are being used to help people to be happier and more productive in their work.

What new approaches are you exploring – and what impact are they having on your team? I’d love to hear what you think.

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