When this pandemic is over you will know a lot more about your
staff/ managers . A crisis brings out the strength in some and the
weaknesses in others. It will not necessarily have been the most
experienced or knowledgable who remained calm and inspired confidence.
It will not necessarily be those with the formal qualifications who
showed themselves able to adapt quickly to the new circumstances nor
will it necessarily be those who are good with computers and
statistics who were able to remain positive throughout or who
demonstrated the stamina and determination to keep going. So how
should a greater appreciation of the importance of personality
characteristics change the way your organisation recruits and promotes
in the future?
The traditional person specification emphasises Experience, Knowledge
and Skills. Motivated by a desire to remove bias from the process the
aim is to identify objective measures in these areas such as formal
qualifications, training courses attended, number of years in related
activity, size of budget managed , number of staff responsible for,
changes brought about. References are only given weight if they raise
doubts about the candidates health, loyalty or integrity and they
rarely do since since such comments can be challenged.
To these traditional elements of the person specification add a new
heading ,”mental strength “. This can sound very macho but it has
nothing to do with aggression it’s about adaptability, reliability,
resilience, stamina and positive outlook.
So how do you assess for calmness in the faced of uncertainty and a
climate of anxiety, the ability to adapt quickly to changing
circumstances, the ability to stay positive in the face of daunting
challenges, the resilience to over come setbacks and the stamina to
keep going when others give into fatigue. You can ask those who know
them well, you can ask in the interview for examples of when the
candidate has demonstrated these qualities or you can devise exercises
which will reveal the extent to which candidates possess these qualities.
Outward Bound courses have traditionally been designed to test
physical and mental strength. Management consultants have adapted this
approach for management development courses with less emphasis on
physical strength and more on team work. So there are ways of
assessing and developing an individuals mental strength and the next
generation of assessment centres may make more use of questionnaires
designed to measure mental toughness.
Post coronavirus filling posts may see a change in emphasis with
person specifications being expanded, more weight given to references
and interviews exploring candidates character. It will still be
important to match an individual’s experience, knowledge and skills
with the requirements of the post but armed with the knowledge of who
performed best in a crisis employers may give more weight to mental
strength. After all it’s a lot easier to improve an employees
knowledge and skill than it is to change their personality.
Blair Mcpherson former Director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk