Workplace Culture & Talent Optimization

Workplace Culture & Talent Optimization

Everyone’s Unique

What is Talent Optimization? Simply put, it’s individual employees at their best.

The idea of talent optimization sounds good, but where does the process of optimizing talent begin? It starts with re-evaluating your organization’s beliefs: Are you giving the people of your organization the freedom to be their best selves? Can each team member add their greatest value through their performance? Are team members committed to the greater purposeof your organization?

At humanworks8, we believe Everyone’s Unique, it’s part of The 8, our philosophy about people. It’s your responsibility as a leader bring that belief to the forefront of your culture through committed action. If you are not focused on understanding and valuing the uniqueness of every individual in your organization then you are not fully invested in elevating your culture and business performance. You cannot have one without the other.

Here’s what we would ask you about your talent practices to gauge your commitment to talent optimization:

How do you evaluate what top performance looks like in a role? Do you consider the demands of the job, but from the perspective of those already in the role? Do you look at not only high performers, but also leadership expectations around how they believe the job needs to be done?

Whose responsibility is it to get the right person in the right seat on a team? What if you could more confidently say to an applicant, “You have just what it takes to be successful in this role.”   Wow…What a difference that would make for everyone involved in the talent discovery process.

Are you considering all three parts of the mind when interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and training and developing someone in a new role within your business? By three parts of the mind, I mean affective – your feelings, cognitive – your intelligence, and conative – your instincts. 


What do we desire? What are we passionate about? Taking action in any role or situation starts right there. If I don’t want to do something then you are going to be wasting a lot of your energy on working to light that fire, and your time is better focused on people whose batteries are included. Can you discover that desire and passion through good affective questions during an interview? Yes. Find out what project or moment in their life drove them to take action and bring their best self to work.

Affective assessments are often used in the hiring process – maybe you use one. With affective assessments such as DiSC or StrengthsFinder, an individual self-reports on their likes or dislikes. This can be very helpful, but it’s important to remember that those responses are also ever-changing, as affective feelings can change over time and situation, making it hard to pin down someone’s affective behaviors. Where I would start with the affective mind is with someone’s personal values. Are they aligned with the culture of the organization? Would they be fulfilled by working towards the organization’s reason for existing in the world? An alignment of feelings around those set the stage for a long-term engaged relationship. humanworks8’s process to discover one’s personal values has been enlightening to individuals and has helped leaders align and engage them on a deeper level to an organization’s core values.

If you are serious about optimizing talent, start with the affective mind.


The second part of our mind is the cognitive – intelligence. How an organization trains and develops people in a role or on a team is important cognitively. It gives one confidence to know how to do something. Understanding and discovering an individual’s’ expertise and knowledge on topic areas is critical for high performance. It guides a cognitive fit for a role or a development journey to meet the cognitive needs of a role.

I believe many organizations start and stop with cognitive knowledge about an individual. They consider whether or not they have the smarts to do a job, and know how to do the tasks the job demands. Period. And did you know? SHRM reported in 2022 that more than half of U.S. employers use pre-employment assessments to gauge job applicants’ knowledge, skills and abilities.

Cognitive ability is important, but if you miss their affective values, I hope you can see the gap that would exist for true engagement and alignment in a role. And without that – you are not optimizing talent for long-term growth and success.


Talent optimization begins with affective and cognitive, but where it needs to end is giving a person the freedom to take action in their unique, innate way based on their natural instincts.  This striving action based on the conative part of one’s mind is where you will allow individuals to work in the “zone,” aligned with their values and knowledge – all three working together is talent optimization at its zenith.

What exactly is the conative part of one’s mind? It is the least talked about or understood. Understanding and leveraging the conative part of the mind is telling the truth.  The truth about someone’s natural way of taking action – The truth about equality in our conative energy, the truth about what causes strain on the job, and the truth about what causes tension on the job.

Plato and other philosophers realized the existence of the conative part of the mind and theorist Kathy Kolbe has made it her life’s work to measure it. How do you discover and learn about the conative part of our minds? There is only one assessment that provides that clarity to leaders and individuals called the Kolbe A Index.

Our clients have experienced better confidence in hiring decisions by using the tool and methodology, better performance coaching based on alignment with one’s natural ways of working, improved engagement, and reduced turnover in roles where there’s a match between role demands and conative strengths.

Cultures of Tomorrow

Think of someone you work with…Do you know their values? Do you honor their experience and their smarts? Do you know how they use their natural striving energy on the job when they’re free to do things their way? Each of these are inseparable from the other, but also distinct in what makes me a unique human being working in your organization. 

Everyone’s Unique must be a core tenet in strong cultures of tomorrow, so start today by re-imagining your organization’s cultural beliefs around elevating the uniqueness and strengths of every individual in your business. Think of the impact across your organizational culture and business bottom-line.

Listen to this post in podcast form in episode two of the Culture(&) Podcast, part of the GGG Unleashed series, and subscribe to hear more about workplace culture and leadership.