Sep 28, 2006

Competencies or Strengths

Ever since I took Gallup's Clifton strength finder survey and got a list of my strengths (the top 5 being ideation, maximizer, input, futuristic and connectedness, if you do know about it) the difference between the Gallup philosophy and dominant HR thinking has been bothering me.

Simply put, Gallup believes that focussing on our individual strengths will help us develop better.

However, the conventional HR thinking about competencies puts the Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes required for a job and tries to assess a person against it. With the result that the focus shifts to "What's missing?".

No wonder that competency development is often such a de-energising reality when actually it should be full of positive growth. It often reminds people of what they are "weak" in (even if it is euphemistically called "Development Areas") rather than what they are good at !

Why should it be so?

Then it struck me sometime today. For organizations, it's the task that's important and hence the "role" takes prominence over the "people". It's the old dichotomy of the Blake and Mouton managerial grid all over again!

Only recently have organizations actually started placing people in the centre of tasks and started to craft special roles for special people, like "Specialist career ladders". That has to be developed much more than what is currently followed.

That's probably the reason why in an unstructured work environment, when one is free to choose one's role (like in a start-up) people follow their instinctive talents and do whatever they can do best, and are engaged much better. As time passes, however, the roles get formalized, and competencies are defined and numbers increase and the mission is not real for a lot of people. That leads to lack of employee engagement.