Hiring and Retaining the Right ‘Talent’ – the Importance of Thinking Styles

April 18th, 2011 by Sarah Green Leave a reply »

Zircon, The Business Psychology Consultancy believe that a good person/job fit (and ultimately a good person/organisation fit) is so important, especially when hiring managers and leaders of the business. As a result the organisation reaps the greatest benefits from their investment in high calibre talent, and the individual’s career benefits from this.

One important area to consider, when deciding upon fit, is the individuals thinking style and how this compliments (or, perhaps conflicts) with the role and organisational needs.

Natural Thinking Styles

Thinking styles are defined by Sternberg (1997) as a preferred way of thinking, it is therefore not an ability but it is the way in which we use our abilities. Many people will have a range of thinking styles at their disposal and will often be able to adapt them according to the situation that is presented. However, it may only be when they are under high or prolonged pressure that their natural thinking styles may take preference and cause an uncomfortable fit between them and their role.

An uncomfortable fit may occur when a legislative thinker, someone who likes to come up with their own way of doing things, is recruited into a job role which requires a more executive thinking style of following rules and solving problems in an existing structure; such as in an entry-level management position. The difficulty for companies and individuals is that there may be no question about the individual’s competence or drive to do the job, but that the individual’s natural thinking style does not create the right synergy with the company.

Many organisations would like to avoid this situation and instead maximise their investment by ensuring that an individual’s thinking style and ways of working, are the right ones for the job.

Both organisations and recruiters can increase their awareness of thinking styles and ultimately identify the likely impact that these will have on performance at work, in several ways. Some practical examples are listed below from both the employer and recruiter perspective.

Employer’s point of view

  •  Have a good look at which way of thinking is preferred in your company and for what roles
  • Be mindful that people with high intellectual abilities may not work at the top of their game if put in the wrong environment
  •  Ensure that your company looks at their current, as well as future requirement, not only in terms of skills but also the types of thinkers they want to have in key positions
  • Reward and foster a diversity of thinking in your talent pool so that each employee works to their strengths
  • Talent and Leadership development programmes should bear in mind that people have natural thinking preferences. Effective promotion and job performance may be contingent on finding the right match between style and job demand

Recruiter’s point of view

  • Ability, personality and thinking styles are separate concepts and need to be treated as such when assessing/interviewing candidates
  • Thinking styles make a unique contribution to the understanding of human individual differences and should be used for role profiling
  • Cognitive ability should be presented in combination with candidate’s thinking style to enhance prediction of work performance
  • Whilst some personality measures include thinking styles as a dimension, more robust and independent ways of assessing would be needed
  • Try to understand not only what skills, competence, culture and ethics drive your client organisation but also what type of thinkers they prefer/are most successful within the company
  • Though many people can flex their ways of working, high performers work best in roles that have been properly matched to their preferred thinking style

The challenge for many organizations is to nurture and develop high potential talent in a way that works effectively with their natural style of thinking. Zircon has a lot of experience in designing assessment programmes for selecting future talent and always seeks to understand and align with the organisational needs. If your organisation would like to learn more about how to identify and recognise employee thinking styles, please contact Amanda Potter, amanda.potter@zircon-mc.co.uk.

Written by Dirk Murray-Palm, Business Manager

Adapted from the following sources:

 Fjell, A. M. & Walhovd, K. B. (2004). Thinking styles in relation to personality traits: an investigation of the Thinking Styles Inventory and NEO-PI-R. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 45, 293-300.

 Sternberg, R. J. (1997). Thinking styles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 Zhang, L. F. & Huang, J. (2001). Thinking styles and the Five Factor Model of personality. European Journal of Personality, 15, 465–476.

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