Paradigm Feature

The Secret to Overcoming Three Common Pitfalls in Organizational Development

Top performing organizations invest many hours, dollars, and resources on organizational development, employee engagement, and retention initiatives. Yet many leaders are now sharing stories of The Great Resignation. Recruitment, retention, and development of top talent has become critically important, and at the same time, increasingly challenging.

With such tremendous investments in human capital and employee development initiatives, it’s a shame to see so many of these initiatives fail to deliver their intended results.

First Pitfall – Lack of Defined Results

All development initiatives start with good intentions and genuine urgency. We’ve all seen the statistics and the impact of the disengaged workforce. We’ve also heard so-called experts suggest that attention spans have fallen to goldfish levels. Yet, despite good intentions and earnest efforts, we’re still chasing the ever-elusive “improved engagement.” If you ask three organizational development experts to define “improved engagement,” you’ll likely get four different definitions of the term.

So, which attributes are worth measuring? Leading indicators like engagement can be helpful but top organizations focus on outcome metrics that clearly demonstrate their ability to attract, develop, and retain top talent. In its simplest form, you are onto something if you implement programs that result in fewer resignations, better organizational performance, and greater success filling valuable roles. If you don’t see that type of progress, then you could just be paying lip service to the initiative, despite your best efforts.

These initiatives are not as quick as flipping a light switch. It often takes the better part of six months to start seeing results.

Second Pitfall – Overlooking Personality and Competencies

Whether we hire from the outside or promote from within, talent professionals rely on a slew of systems and inputs when making recommendations and selections including established application processes, resume vetting, skills assessments, and time-intensive multi-stage interviews.

But frequently a few weeks or months later that promising new hire is clearly not working out. What happened? While it’s natural to first think about some unrealized skills gaps in the selection criteria, often the gap comes down to underlying personality traits.

In basic terms, personality traits are simply behavioral preferences and tendencies that are stable within a person over time. Moreover, we can use personality traits to understand how well targeted subsets of traits work together to support key behavioral competencies such as Leadership and Collaboration. Personality assessments grounded in the Big 5 suite of personality traits include such well-known factors as Extraversion and Agreeableness and have been consistently shown to be reliable and valid measures of personality.

Personality traits and competencies help us understand how someone who excelled in a similar role can suddenly fail to thrive in a seemingly similar position.

Success depends on a variety of factors including how well one aligns with the organizational culture, how effectively one collaborates with established teams, and whether one’s greatest competencies suit the role.

If individuals are in a role where they can’t embrace their greatest competencies, they might feel drained instead of energized. And that energy level, positive or negative, can be contagious.

Third Pitfall – Using the Wrong Tools

Visionary leaders recognize the need to tap into personality traits and competencies. Some have indeed seen increased engagement and delivered critical results when it comes to retention, development, and recruitment of top talent. For most organizations, though, the long-term outcomes are underwhelming.

Why do we see such differences? Many organizations either don’t use behavioral assessments, use the wrong ones, or simply underestimate their power. Without systematic input from the right assessment, imprecise “gut feelings” and cognitive biases can end up swamping organizational development decision processes, leading us astray.

So what do organizations need to know to choose the right assessment tool for the job?

The assessment industry is structured like a pyramid with tools available at three major levels.

At the base of the industry is the EFFECTIVE level where you can take assessments that provide labels or categories to improve communication. At the ENHANCED level, those assessments turn into models for template-driven solutions. At the pinnacle of the industry are the ENGAGED solutions. At this level, you get tailored solutions driven by partners who recognize the unique attributes of each organization. They provide comprehensive tools for a host of needs, from candidate selection and leadership development to team dynamics and ongoing organizational improvement.

Most importantly, at that Engaged level, you get quick, easy-to-understand reports that guide development and communication plans. These plans are not generic but are instead tailored to the needs and subtle nuances of the organization, blending assessment and implementation expertise with local, company-specific knowledge. It’s the difference between a template-driven approach with a few limited options and a tailored solution that matches your individualized needs and your unique culture. Ultimately, these Engaged providers furnish an ongoing, actionable plan that goes beyond labels to forge a path to positive organizational change.

Keep in mind that any step forward is a positive, even if you just started with the Effective level where you provide a color code or letter-label for each member of the team. For those who are committed to delivering a top-performing organization, you might move straight into the Engaged level.

What Really Matters

Top-performing organizations look at Engaged solutions where the assessments, the reports, and the guidance address three powerful questions:

  1. Are you building a culture of performance development that attracts, develops, and retains top talent?
  2. Are you maximizing job-person fit to leverage strengths, limit challenges, and put people in roles that energize them to excel from the start?
  3. Can you deliver a quick, easy-to-understand, and executable plan that ties competencies to an intentional development path and improves engagement, engenders trust, and empowers shared accountability?

When you deliver on all three of those questions then you’ve gone beyond the checkbox of doing something to moving the needle for organizational development and creating a magnet that attracts and retains top talent. If you have questions about how to drive change in your organization, contact us here.

What other pitfall could we have included here?