Ida Banek
Posted by Ida Banek

If a company is to be successful long-term, it needs to fill its ranks with the best candidates on offer. The right hiring decisions need to be made and HR executives must keep an eye out for employees demonstrating qualities that are reflective of strong organisational values and work ethic. After all, recruitment is a huge financial investment, so it only makes sense that forward-thinking organisations would want to maximise their return on that investment.

Consider the time and money at stake. One source states that replacing a single member of staff can cost up to £28,000 per employee. Another source suggests that employers spend approximately six to nine months of an employee’s salary to find an appropriate replacement. When a company finally makes the hire, the average time taken to train an employee is 28 weeks. If the right decision isn’t made, the result will likely be a disengaged workforce and high turnover, which will negatively impact the company’s employer branding and overall performance.

Over recent years, it has become clear that there is one critical characteristic that sets quality, productive employees apart from the rest. This characteristic is known in HR circles as ‘grit’. Others may describe it as perseverance, drive or determination, but regardless of how you term it, leading companies are searching for employees with grit, knowing they will not only stick with the company for years to come, but these individuals will continue to provide value and improve over time.

How can we define grit?

Grit can be described as an unstoppable work ethic. Angela Duckworth, psychology professor, claims that grit is the key to success in life. More than skill or ability, grit can strongly influence how far you will go in life. Forbes agrees, stating that grit, character and doggedness will lead you to greatness. Grit can also be defined as the ability to sustain your passions and determination over a long period of time, despite any knock-backs or obstacles that may present themselves. Employees with grit will not only take a challenge and run with it; they will have open minds, constantly finding ways to succeed at their goals. This is the quality that really personifies leaders: people who experience true success never allowed themselves to give up.
In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Duckworth explains that individuals with grit possess four equally essential characteristics: interest, practice, purpose and hope. People need to be interested in order for a passion to develop. This interest will only grow into something more with practice and a commitment to learning. Purpose is a sense of genuine belief that the interest matters to you and, in the case of an employee, the organisation at large. Hope is essential to tie all of these characteristics together; individuals need this quality to keep them going even when things seem difficult or bleak.

What are the benefits of gritty employees?

All companies have one shared goal: they want to be successful and constantly improve. Companies cannot do this with lacklustre or apathetic employees. Employees who are easily deterred by setbacks aren’t going to be beneficial in the long run. This is why companies can seriously benefit from gritty employees. These are the people who know how to deal with failure or disappointment and carry on regardless.

It is generally accepted that employees with grit have the determination necessary to think ‘outside the box’ and solve relevant problems. Gritty people are optimistic. They don’t focus on the possibility of failure, but instead use their inbuilt creativity and drive to carry on where others might give up. This is likely why large, leading companies such as Google focus on hiring employees with grit. Google hires only 4,000 employees per year out of the millions of applications it receives, and the company has listed grit as one of the leading characteristics it looks for, over grades or IQ.

How do we determine whether a candidate has grit?

To determine which candidates possess grit at the recruitment stage, it is pertinent to ask the right questions. Pose certain scenarios which will reflect the way they approach work, the way they cope with challenge and whether or not they are likely to fight their way through obstacles toward success.

Consider asking your candidates about a time in which they faced great adversity in their work. The right candidate will explain how they coped and what they did to turn a difficult situation around to yield a positive result. Hiring managers can also ask questions about a time when the candidate achieved a goal that they were told was impossible or highly unlikely. This will highlight their passion and initiative. To get an idea about how an employee would deal with a long-term project, ask about a time when they had to deal with a particular task for a significant amount of time. If they don’t have an example to discuss, this might be a telling sign that they don’t have the perseverance required to succeed in your company.

Can grit be taught?

The one great thing about grit is that it can, in fact, be taught and encouraged. Natural talent is something you’re either born with or lack, but those with grit will put in the 10,000 hours of practice necessary to become proficient in a given area. One key component of developing grit is the presence of a mentor that can offer support and encouragement. Having a leader or a career consultant alongside you to provide support is one of the best ways to motivate your employees to work harder.
Management should remember that this is not all about encouraging; employees should be told if their work isn’t good enough, but they should also be shown how to improve. This mentorship can come in the form of valuable career support, an area that is unfortunately sorely lacking in many companies. A recent study showed that employees at all levels expect continuous development support. Companies should remember that it is not the employees alone that impact the success or failure of a company. If a company doesn’t have a culture that provides necessary support and encouragement to its employees, the organisation is unlikely to succeed long-term, regardless of how many determined, gritty and eager employees they possess.

Ida Banek is a senior HR leader with over 20 years of experience in the HR field. Ida has expertise in strategic talent management and has a particular passion for developing young talents. Ida decided to found her own company, GRIT International, so she could make her expertise available not only to global companies but also to individuals eager to take control over their own careers. Ida can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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