5 keys to strengths-based talent success at Australia’s best place to work

A strengths-based approach has been critical to the talent management success of employer of choice Stryker South Pacific, according to its head of HR Erin Cramlet

A strengths-based approach has been critical to the talent management success of employer of choice Stryker South Pacific, according to its head of HR.

The Fortune 500 medical technology company, which employs more than 33,000 people globally and generates more than $US12 billion globally in revenue, focuses heavily on talent management, and in particular, the identification, assessment and selection of individuals based on their unique strengths.

Senior director of HR for Stryker’s South Pacific business, Erin Cramlet, said: “I often go to HR conferences and the number one question I get asked is, ‘What do you do that’s different? What’s the secret to your success?’

“My response is always the same: we hire really, really well. We are passionate about recruitment and spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on finding the right person,” she said.

“We are looking for passionate, driven people who want to win.

“In the interview process we tell candidates that we are going to take our time getting to know each other, because we want to ensure there is a mutual, long-term fit: we’re not looking to date, we’re looking to marry.”

The importance of getting recruitment right is understood right across the business, and Cramlet explained that sales candidates can also expect to meet with Stryker’s South Pacific president at a final interview, as they are on the frontlines with customers.

Stryker uses Gallup’s selection and strengths tools to assist with talent management across the business, and one of the first steps in this process is studying Stryker’s high performers and identifying what makes them unique.

“We partner with Gallup to develop tools that help to identify the exceptional characteristics in other individuals throughout the recruitment process, which we’ve found helps us exponentially,” said Cramlet.

Stryker, which was the number one company in the 2017 Best Places to Work in Australia (100-999 employees) study, also partners with Gallup to assist with developing talent throughout the business.

“We are passionate about recruitment and spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on finding the right person”

“Our philosophy is, once you’ve spent that time and hired somebody that’s really talented, it’s important that they have the opportunity to have a diverse career without the need to move companies,” said Cramlet.

Stryker has been very purposeful in its focus on individual’s natural talents and strengths, and Cramlet said this has “dramatically improved our trajectory as a business” (in addition to its turnover rate, which averages 12.5 per cent, compared to an industry average of 18 per cent).

Stryker’s HR team and line managers also help employees discover their strengths and follow their passions.

“Strengths can sometimes be a double-edged sword – they can be used positively or negatively, so we work with people to understand how to use their strengths in a positive way, and encourage them to own their career using those strengths,” said Cramlet.

Rethinking career choices and roles
Stryker South Pacific has a strong internal mobility program and in 2017 more than 20 per cent of open roles were filled internally.

Cramlet attributes this to a stronger focus on the talents and performance of an individual when assessing their suitability for a role, as opposed to purely looking at their qualifications or experience.

“We are a career destination. We look at what people are great at, and what talents make them special, and through their career, how we can help them to move into roles, including ones they may not have thought about,” she said.

“This helps us to think outside of the box, and it’s quite freeing for people to know they won’t be pigeonholed and that they can go into different roles based on their performance, talents and interests.”

This same approach to recruitment is applied externally, which has also proven to be successful for the growing medical technology company.

“In being talent focused, we are able to look more broadly and explore different talent pipelines,” said Cramlet.

“It’s important that they have the opportunity to have a diverse career without the need to move companies”

Focusing on quality management
The quality of managers is also a key driver of engagement across the business, according to Cramlet, who said the next important step in getting the most out of talented individuals is to pair them with great managers.

“Even if someone is in a role they like, but their manager doesn’t support, listen to or help them, they’re not going to enjoy where they work,” she said.

“The manager is so pivotal to the whole employee engagement process, and we have found that our best managers share one particular trait: then genuinely care about their people.

“These managers often refer to their teams as a second family, and they do things together socially, such as having barbecues or going to sporting events together.”

Cramlet said the employee relationship needs to be based on give and take, and good managers understand this and are willing to work with team members to get the best out of them.

“If someone is going through a tough time, it is important to have a group of people around you who are supportive.

“Good managers recognise this and might say, ‘this is a time where we need to come together as a team, so I’m going to flex a little bit more to help you – not only because you’re a teammate, but because you’re my friend and I want the best for you.’”

Stryker emphasises growing and promoting its managers, and conducts regular talent reviews with each manager throughout the year.

As part of the talent review process, managers share feedback on employees, how they are developing their people and provide insights into their management potential.

This way, Stryker ensures it identifies future leaders early and develops them accordingly.

Stryker offers a suite of different programmes to help develop potential managers, including a year-long “management exposure programme” in which the company trains individuals in the basics of management, and they learn skills in interviewing, having tough conversations with employees and conducting development plans.

“It’s quite freeing for people to know they won’t be pigeonholed and that they can go into different roles based on their performance, talents and interests”

“Developing great managers, who naturally understand the importance of talent is critical,” said Cramlet.

“One of the best pieces of advice I would share comes from Marcus Buckingham’s First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently.

“He said, ‘People don’t change that much. Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough.’ I couldn’t agree more.”

 Stryker’s top 5 tips for strengths-based talent management 

  1. Start with recruitment. Be selective and look for people who are a good fit for the role, team and culture. Don’t be afraid to take your time. It may be painful in the short-term, but if you get this right, you will see your organisation soar to new heights.
  2. Help people discover their strengths. Think of talent as the multiplier to everything you do. You will get more out of your people when you invest in their strengths instead of trying to fix their weaknesses.   
  3. Remember, every person is different. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach you can adopt to get the best out of your people. The best managers not only recognise this, they embrace it.
  4. Don’t underestimate the power of caring. Relationships are the glue that hold great workplaces together. You will be amazed at how committed and collaborative employees are when they feel that someone takes a personal interest in them. People will go above and beyond for those they care about.
  5. Think of careers as a climbing wall, not a ladder. Encourage continued growth, development and organisational influence by creating and valuing career paths that move laterally, diagonally and down, as well as up. Some of the best learning comes from the experiences you least expect.

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