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Strengths-based recruitment has changed our nursing quality

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The responses of those involved in strengths-based recruitment at King’s have been incredibly positive

debbie hutchinson

debbie hutchinson

Debbie Hutchinson

“I don’t see myself as great – I’m just a nurse”. How often have I heard these words over the years from some of the most talented nurses? While they may be naturally modest, one thing is clear – these people are great nurses because they are focusing on what they love to do and are naturally good at.

The old adage of ”playing to your strengths” may be overused, but this is the premise behind a new approach to recruitment that is transforming the way we fill nursing vacancies at King’s. It deviates from the traditional competency-based selection process and is all about understanding what makes your best performers great, then hiring based on these innate strengths.

All of the Shelford Group’s Trusts wanted to improve the quality of care, tackle staff turnover and improve outcomes for patients. Given the pressures around recruiting sufficient volume of nurses to meet demand, we are acutely conscious of the need to get the right people into the right roles. We began working with strengths consultancy Engaging Minds and started by profiling the strengths, values and motivators of our top performing ward managers. Today we use the strength profile, composed of 13 innate strengths, to recruit ward managers in the hospital, and are also rolling it out to nursing assistants and staff nurses.

The strengths profiles articulated for the first time exactly what makes a great performer in each of these roles. We used it to help us attract the right candidates through advertisements and now all interviews are strengths-based.

The response of those involved in the strengths-based recruitment (SBR) process at King’s has been incredibly positive with even the most sceptical rapidly seeing the benefits, to the point where they cannot imagine interviewing in any other way.

Introducing a new recruitment practice has not been without its challenges. Some interviewers feared they wouldn’t learn enough about a candidate’s technical competencies. However, very quickly they realised that the structure of interviews allowed them to see whether a candidate would be the right person for the job and they could check out clinical competencies from the candidate’s CV.

Key learnings for us were:

  • Once you know the strengths of a great performer, it’s clear to see whether someone has them in a strengths interview
  • The right people must lead the initiative who genuinely want to make a change. They will become champions who can spread the word about the power of the strengths movement
  • Investing in strengths interviewing training is worthwhile because it creates skilled and passionate interviewers

How do we know it has worked? Formal evaluation is still a work in progress, but the anecdotal feedback has been compelling. Those who undertake interviews feel more confident that they are making the right hires. We have many success stories. One of the ward managers hired through SBR was recently voted Nurse of the Year at our National Nurses Day for his outstanding achievements transforming patient care.

SBR is popular with candidates and recruiters alike. Interviews require less preparation because they focus on personal experiences. An interviewer is certain by the end of the interview whether the candidate would be a good fit, and if they aren’t, the candidate can understand why.

Our experience at King’s has shown that SBR is contributing to transforming the quality of nursing care we provide. We can’t imagine a better way to get the right people with the right motivations into the profession. I would urge other trusts to take the leap and see the benefits for themselves.

Debbie Hutchinson, Assistant Director of Nursing at King’s College Hospital London

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