Focus on a growth mindset

Suzanne Mancini

Nowadays in many positions, skills like flexibility, problem solving and creativity are more important than expertise and experience. Organizations are looking for people who are open to change and are able to learn new skills quickly. How do you find those people? And more importantly, how do you hold on to them?

Focus on a growth mindset

1. Check the ‘mindset’ of your candidates
Many organizations focus too much on the education level of candidates as they are recruiting. However, an academic degree does not mean everything. It does show you that someone has certain intellectual and analytical capacities. At the end of the line, someone who excels in university, does not necessarily make for the perfect colleague.

There are two types of employees in organizations: the ones who are primarily focused on security, and those who are more focused on growth. Someone with a growth mindset is not afraid to fail. He or she is curious and prefers to be able to develop new skills continuously.

Despite living in the 21st century, unfortunately an open mindset still is not appreciated by our educational system. Roughly between the ages of four and 20, you have to continuously prove that you have learned the right things by heart. In most cases, our educational system doesn’t allow nor support any creative thinking.

We can see a gap between the needs companies have in the 21st century and what our educational system provides – companies need people who can think outside of the box, give new perspectives and take the initiative for change. As such, the question arises: should we really hold our primary focus on educational performance among candidates?

2. Focus on 21st century skills
Nowadays, in many positions, skills like flexibility; problem solving and creativity are more important than expertise and experience. Numerous organizations are looking for people with 21st century skills.

That way, recruiting people on the basis of job profiles actually sounds rather odd. You cannot recognize agile employees through their grades or titles; you recognize them by their personal traits. Afterwards you can train them to acquire the knowledge they need for the job. That is the exact reason why adequately assessing your candidates is even more important.

3. Believe in development
At the moment organizations are particularly in need of employees who understand how the world works; employees who have people skills and who are able to serve the needs of different stakeholders. We found that especially younger employees may find it challenging to maneuver the complexity of their job. How can you make sure that those employees learn to deal with any uncertainties they might encounter?

This can be done in numerous ways. For example, by assigning buddies to starting employees. Additionally, you can organize trainings where employees can exchange experiences and ask for help, all within a safe environment.

If you discover a developmental need for your employees to get accustomed to certain work routines, you could consider setting up focus programs in which you work with actors in simulated scenarios. In this way people can practice with realistic situations in a safe environment.

4. Assess your employees on their willingness to change
You need to show your employees that you appreciate this mindset if you want them to be able to cope well with change. It would be in vain to compare someone’s performance with a clear cut or manual-like job description as working in the 21st century means you probably are more interested in someone’s effort and ability to move along with changes.

You can consider not only assessing employees on their general performance, but also on their ‘willingness to change’. The agility of employees, after all, is becoming increasingly important.

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5. Use the power of peer-to-peer (p2p) feedback
How to get the full picture of someone’s actual skills?

At Effectory, employees are assessed by the people they directly work together with. They know best about their colleague if he or she communicates in a pleasant way and is a team player most of the time.

We let the employees themselves decide who they would like to get feedback from, to get advice from a colleague that knows what’s going on – having a familiar face involved in the feedback process also provides a sense of community and trust. This tremendously increases the possibility that employees learn from each other.

Furthermore, we encourage employees to voice appreciation to their colleagues when things go well. This positive feedback is very important for an atmosphere of trust to grow. Employees also get to appreciate one another’s talents and weaknesses. We believe that the power of continuous peer-to-peer (p2p) feedback can make teams function more effectively, because it has been proven that colleagues are more likely to support each other in a team with TRUST.

6. Focus on the good
In companies, HRM departments often have a two-pronged approach: young talent is recruited and older employees that ‘cannot keep up with the pace of change’ are laid off. This widely-accepted approach is based on the strong underlying assumption that older employees are not willing to change.

The only way to find out if this applies to your employees’ specific situations is to offer the older employees the same learning and development opportunities as their younger counterparts. For example, there was a case of a product engineer that had been working for over 20 years in his field of expertise. When he was offered the possibility to be trained to become a developer slash IT-project manager, this was an easy fit.

Take a look at your own organization and think of the opportunities there are for training an older employee for a vacancy that is hard to fill at the moment. Consider the possibility that, when given the opportunity, often many employees are quite eager to make this change.

When you think about this case, in contrast to just thinking about the tasks of this employee, think about his or her skill sets. What are the strong points? In which roles could these be utilized?

7. Know thyself
There is a strong connection between the fear of change and decreasing trust amongst employees in an organization. This starts with the organizational goals being clear and appealing for each employee in their respective position. Talent will only really show itself when people can take up their own challenges and are given the trust and support to do so. Otherwise even the most loyal employees will become ineffective.

To put your organization to the test it can be very valuable to research if the employees feel that taking ownership is rewarded. Question to ask could be: Do you feel empowered to make your own decisions? Is the organization accepting of your ideas? Can you make mistakes and be creative? By asking these questions in a smart way you can better understand what the perspectives of your employees are.

Moreover, surveying your employees in a smart way can reveal patterns that show the innovative capacity of your organization. Now challenge your assumptions and turn these tendencies into opportunities by taking an honest look at your own organization and using the feedback of your own employees as the starting point for change. There’s no doubt the rewards will follow.

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FRAME: Growth mindset and the basic needs of employees

There are six basic needs that every person has. The importance of each single need is different for every person. The reason why organizations struggle to attract new talent is because often they just focus on the first four basic needs that appeal to people with a ‘fixed mindset’. By contrast, employees with a ‘growth mindset’ are looking specifically for fulfillment of the last two basic needs: personal growth, and the opportunity to deliver a meaningful contribution. 

Below, each of the six basic needs is explained:

1. Security

Many employees are looking for security in their jobs; the certainty that the work they do will not be superfluous next month and they will still be able to pay their mortgages. Employees that feel security as the most important need in a job, choose to work in organizations which have very clear expectations towards their employees.

2. Uncertainty

Life can become tedious very quickly if everything is set in stone. Employees that feel a strong need for flexibility choose an exciting job with a lot of changes. For example, they become an entrepreneur, stuntman or production manager of a new festival. It’s a compromising position to be in for many people when you have the exact same routine every day, because after all, changes are important. 

3. Significance

Everyone needs to feel that what they do in their job is of value. Every employee needs feel relevant to the people they work with;  to be seen and appreciated. Some professionals find significance as the most important basic need. Significance is strongly connected to control over others. ,At work, significance-driven people are likely to look for ways to increase their span of control over colleagues, aiming for a position with power and authority.

4. Connection

As human beings we cannot perform well without human connection, with the love and care of others. Since we spend most of our hours each day at work, a good connection with colleagues is essential for everyone. Employees whose strongest basic need is connection are looking for a profession in which they are often interacting with other people. 

5. Personal growth

In nature you do not survive when you do not grow. Therefore, it is obvious that we as people also need to keep on developing ourselves. For some employees this is more important than for others, and they will continuously set new challenges and engage in new courses or trainings. These employees want to become better versions of themselves again and again. For them it is very important to be given the opportunity to develop within the work environment.

6. To deliver a meaningful contribution

Everyone has the need to contribute to this world, and some have a strong emphasis on creating that impact through their work. For them, the feeling of living a pointless life is a nightmare. These people search for work in which they can serve the people around them and society as a whole. They will look for organizations that contribute to making the world a better place with a product or service.

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