Groundbreaking research: skills for success revealed  

In a groundbreaking study we discovered that getting ahead at work doesn't require expected attributes, such as assertiveness and leadership. Instead, the “holy grail” to success involves more nuanced human skills, such as compassion, innovation, emotional wellbeing, creativity, and originality.

Whether it is starting a new project, or being given a big promotion – when you are thrown in at the deep end, the struggle is real. Survival instincts kick in and core characteristics take over.   

Understanding whose instincts will be most suitable for your organisation has long been seen as ‘the holy grail’. Succession planning takes time and money – a risk if the investment does not pan out.   

So, is there a way to get things right before you even start?   

This was the question we set out to answer with one of the world’s most coveted – and competitive – fast track executive programmes. 

The company, which remains anonymous, employs around 170,000 people worldwide and runs a highly prestigious executive programme with one intake per year for graduates from the world’s top universities.   

It is considered a gruelling process, but worth it. Successful participants earn six-figure salaries quickly and are set up for a life in top tier management roles.  

For the past 5 years the company has been using the Cognisess platform to select their graduates, generating a goldmine of people data. So, together, we undertook a unique study to identify the attributes that successfully led to career progression and retention.

The key findings:

Key attributes that correlate with career progression:

  • emotional wellbeing
  • extraversion
  • compassion
  • motion memory

Key attributes that correlate with retention:

  • innovation
  • creativity
  • emotionality
  • originality 

Key attributes that negatively correlate with career progression:

  • assertiveness
  • thinking about the next ‘big thing’ 
  • leadership
  • the ability to positively inspire

The characteristics that correlated to career progression and retention make a lot of sense to us. We are reading more and more about how key human skills such as emotionality, compassion, creativity, and innovation are rising to the top as desirable skills.   

Also, our motion memory assessment is one of our most stringent cognitive games and is a key tool for predicting those who are likely to rise to the top. It can identify those people with very high general mental ability (GMA), who have the mental capacity to learn lots of skills quickly.  

The big surprise, however, were the attributes that  negatively correlated i.e. those characteristics that you don’t want for career progression…

Assertiveness, big picture thinking, leadership, and the ability to inspire, have long been considered key characteristics for getting ahead. But as many are starting to realise the tides are changing. This experiment gives solid evidence for a new way of thinking.

For our client these findings are now driving a new long-term strategy for fast-tracking future leaders. A data lead solution that we are helping them embed into their recruitment process.

And for Cognisess the results are certainly food for thought as we continue to pave the way in understanding the characteristics that match people to jobs. Whether that is finding the next leader of a high-profile company or discovering people who will be satisfied and perform well in lower-level jobs. 

Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about the ongoing work we are doing to create sustainable job satisfaction for all. 

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© Cognisess Limited, 2021