Strengthening What We Know About Strengths

Strengths, a focus on an individual’s capacity to perform, looking specifically at areas of high performance is a concept that stemmed from the educational research of the 1950’s. The original notion focused on generating gains in development by investing in what people naturally do best. It stands to reason that people are motivated and enjoy doing the things they do well. By helping people to do this in the workplace we can not only boost individual levels of self-esteem but also help to increase overall organizational productivity, engagement and longer term retention levels. Employees value having the opportunity to do what they do best every day and are energized by doing the things they enjoy.  However, whilst strengths can help to job stream employees into areas of best fit, we cannot entirely move away from ensuring levels of competency and that a required standard has been reached. Assessment for strengths, therefore, needs to ensure that questions are able to assess what is underpinning performance and validly predict external ratings of effective behavior and performance.

The use of strengths based tools within the workplace is dependent upon how the instruments and reports are applied and what the organization is seeking to gain from the process. In the context of selection, fitting the person to the job, a traditional competency approach may result in candidates being missed who have not yet reached the required level of competence but who could have future potential to excel. Conversely, a strengths only approach may only show the bright side of a candidate and miss crucial elements of performance information. Saville Consulting’s strengths based instruments allow an approach which incorporates weightings to both strengths and limitations to generate an overall fit score that more accurately encompasses the whole person. Applying strengths to screen out unsuitable candidates in high volume recruitment situations enables recruiters to significantly reduce the number of candidates whilst simultaneously increasing the caliber of candidates to take through to interview stage. Organizations can select in the best candidates by using Work Strengths to power a dynamic interview guide, ensuring a fair and standardized process that allows for your best candidates to be probed around their individual watch-for areas.

When the context is reversed to address fit of the job to the person in either a selection or onboarding scenario, the traditional competency approach may expect the individual to upskill themselves to reach the required standard; or, if purely addressing from a strengths perspective, the organization will attempt to change the requirements of the job to fit more accurately to the persons strengths. A more dual approach that we would recommend would be to attempt to adapt the job towards the individual but in addition hold onboarding discussions to recognize and manage any risks associated with the individual’s limitations.

Strengths, in the context of development, should ideally avoid simply focusing on limitations or coaching to overbuild strengths. Instead, a more robust process would involve working on building the employees existing strengths and managing limitations whilst simultaneously considering any of the implications of overplayed strengths and what impact these may have on other workers or roles.

Saville Consulting’s suite of strengths based assessments allows specific roles and sectors to be targeted and includes general work roles, operational roles, commercial roles, roles with customer interface and administrative roles in public or private sectors. Relevant sector norms allow for accurate comparisons to be made. The assessments are provided in a short, straightforward and easy to understand format. Strengths based assessment encourages positivity which ensures that even those candidates who may eventually be rejected still gain from the process. This positive candidate experience works to enhance brand management. Sophisticated distortion mechanisms ensure accuracy and honesty in candidate responses. Based on Saville Consulting’s Wave model, our Strengths based assessments boost higher validity than similar competitor measures.


 Saville Consulting (4 July, 2015). Strengthening what we know about strengths. Retrieved from

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