Many of us realise that it’s not necessarily the smartest people who get ahead at work. More often than not, it seems to come down to personality or – to be more specific – mindset

The research backs this up. People who have what’s been termed a ‘growth mindset’ by psychologists benefit from this in multiple ways when it comes to managing their careers. And they have a particularly strong advantage over others when they face obstacles, which is why we have included a module on mindset in our outplacement program.

A growth mindset is often described in contrast to a ‘fixed mindset’. The basic difference is that people with a growth mindset believe they are capable of improving their skills and learning new things, whereas those with a fixed mindset believe that what they have to offer is already determined and can’t be changed.

Recently, employers have become very focussed on hiring candidates who can demonstrate that they have a ‘learning orientation’, which is one aspect of a growth mindset. It makes sense that this is becoming a valued characteristic. When things are changing rapidly due to technology, organisations know they can’t hire people who already have all the skills they are ever going to need. It’s much safer, instead, to hire people who will be open to acquiring the skills they might need in future.

But what can managers do with existing employees who are resistant to learning new skills?

  • Educate them about mindset. Most of us are unaware of the effect our thought patterns have on our lives. Educating employees about the role of mindset in professional satisfaction is something that very few organisations do, despite the fact that this can help many people develop more constructive ways of thinking.
  • Find out what motivates them. By conducting ongoing career conversations with employees, managers can learn more about their employees’ personal lives and career goals (which are often linked). If the manager can tap into something that’s important to the employee, they can offer them learning or development opportunities that will pique their interest.
  • Boost their confidence. Often, people develop a fixed mindset as a defence against failure or vulnerability. If a manager demonstrates confidence in people’s ability to learn new skills, by letting them take on manageable new challenges or exert more control over their work for example, they’re more likely to get on board.
  • Model the importance of continuous learning. If an organisation invests in learning and expects its senior people to be continuously developing their skills, this will create a ‘culture of learning’.