A question of mindset

Put Your Mindset to Work has attracted accolades and fervent recommendations from all quarters. But how do its authors view the importance of mindset in light of a changing economic climate?

A question of mindset

Much has been made in the press over the last year of the idea that the young people entering the jobs market are lacking in aptitudes essential for the world of work. “A lot of money has been invested in skills via policymakers and the whole focus has been pointing in that direction,” explains James Reed, chairman of international recruitment giant Reed. Yet reducing this to simply being a skills shortage is misguided, given that, as a whole, today’s younger generation almost certainly has spent more time in education than any preceding it. Clearly then, there is something else employers feel is lacking.

Two years ago, Reed and Dr Paul Stoltz, chairman of global research and consulting firm PEAK Learning, released their book Put Your Mindset to Work: The One Asset You Really Need to Win and Keep the Job You Love. Reissued in August 2013, the text has helped shake up the way we view recruitment and challenged the old paradigm that – as far as hiring goes – skills pay the bills.

One of the key insights that sparked Put Your Mindset to Work came from Reed’s attendance of a summit on ‘The Future of Skills’ in the early days of the credit crunch, when one of the lead speakers, Lucy Adams, remarked, “The trouble is, we don’t know which skills will be most in demand in ten years’ time.” This sparked a realisation for Reed: while the skillsets he required in candidates might change, the mindset he needed would invariably be consistent. As he explains in the book, “I might not know which skills will be most in demand in ten years, but I do know exactly what sort of people I will want to hire in ten years.”

The authors entered into extensive research with thousands of large employers to investigate what they valued higher between mindset and skillsets, with astonishing results. If required to choose between a candidate with the right skillset but not the right mindset and one with the right mindset but lacking the skills, 96% said they’d plump for mindset. “Mindset trumps skillset,” says Reed. “It’s much more important to employers.”

Looking into which qualities employers most valued also yielded interesting results. Reed and Stoltz asked employers to rate various mindset qualities as ‘essential’, ‘desirable’ or ‘not important’. Far from the most essential qualities being populated by traditional ‘hard’ business skills, commitment, adaptability, accountability and flexibility rated as some of the most desirable. And, more strikingly, every single employer listed honesty and trustworthiness as being at the very least desirable qualities, with well over 90% feeling they were absolutely vital. “Not a single employer said that being honest and trustworthy were unimportant,” says Reed. “Not one.”

Looking at the many qualities employers felt were most important, Reed and Stoltz noticed they could be placed in three main categories – global, good and grit. This helped form the core of their mindset manifesto: the ‘3G Mindset’.

“I think that what’s good about the 3G Mindset approach is that people can remember and use it,” comments Reed. “Each of them in turn are really important. I’ve seen them used to great effect or people fall over because they haven’t got those qualities.”

To help individuals get a better handle of their own mindsets, Reed and Stoltz have developed an assessment to show areas of strength as well as those that can be improved, giving a detailed breakdown of each G. And there is some significant evidence of the efficacy of this ‘3G Panorama’ in gauging an individual’s ability to progress professionally.

“We test all our graduate trainees who join the business,” says Reed. “Looking back now, the ones that have done best, scored the highest in appraisals and scored the most pay increases correlate with the people who scored highest in the assessment. There’s some hard-nosed commercial evidence that this is a useful thing to know early on.”

However, Reed is keen to stress that mindset is not something that can be viewed as pass or fail. People will have different levels of modesty about certain areas in their lives and respond to questions in different ways; instead of being an absolute, their tools are aimed at helping individuals to improve and make the best use of their mindset. “Mindset is not fixed,” he continues. “You can come back to it again and reevaluate it. We’re all works in progress.”

But then what about mindset’s value as a differentiator? Will it not become diluted if every individual learns to work on mindset as they have skillset? “I think we’re a long way from that,” laughs Reed. “But if we’re all developing our own mindsets and strengthening and improving them, then that has to be good really.” Ultimately, the benefits of mindset are not limited to recruitment; Reed would like to see these qualities truly enshrined in companies themselves and even the wider culture. “If you have a society that scores highly on those qualities, it’s going to be a better place to live.”


The 3G Mindset

James Reed, chairman of Reed



openess, flexibility, innovativeness

In a world that’s both getting smaller and changing faster, the ‘global’ aspect – being curious, being open to new ideas, being connected with people – is hugely important. We call that the ‘vantage point’. It’s the entrepreneurial essence.


honesty, sincerity, loyalty

‘Good’ is not just about integrity, it’s about kindness as well. And people who show kindness to others actually progress and do well because they are liked. That’s very powerful. We call it the ‘cornerstone’ of the 3G Mindset.


commitment, energy, accountability

Everyday adversity is becoming more commonplace and the difficulties of the current environment might be improving a bit but the world’s had five tough years. Having real ‘grit’ – the ‘fuel cell’ as we describe it – is vitally important.

Josh Russell
Josh Russell

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