6 Reasons Why Not Everyone Uses CliftonStrengths at the Workplace

cliftonstrengths workplace


I come from a company that wholeheartedly embraces the “strengths-based” approach, where we utilise the profiling tool “CliftonStrengths” to discover our talents and blindspots, and to adjust our job functions accordingly. This way, we can be fully engaged and perform to our highest competency using our strengths, and have others complement us to cover our blindspots. I used to think that this is the way to go, and that we got the right formula to what a workplace ought to be.

When I went online, be it on LinkedIn, YouTube, blog articles or even podcasts, the consensus seemed to echo and champion the idea of strengths. Almost everyone talks about how we must know our talents and gifts, our weaknesses, and play to them accordingly, in order to have a productive and enjoyable workplace. In other words, my insight about the advantages of the strengths-based approach is not all that unique. 

However, a question then comes to mind: 

“If this approach is indeed the key to an ideal workplace, why hasn’t there been a widespread adoption of CliftonStrengths?”

Some might simply answer this question with:

“There are other profiling tools available in the market that can help determine what our strengths and weaknesses are. Why must it be CliftonStrengths?”

There you have it. The big question answered.

Though this is a simple and straightforward answer, I am driven to explore this further. Join me as I seek to uncover 6 possible and complex reasons why the CliftonStrengths tool does not immediately come to everybody’s mind.

Reason 1: “There are other profiling tools out there!”

CliftonStrengths has its own pros and cons, but what makes it stand out among the others? There are plenty of other profiling tools in the market. At the top of my mind, DISC, MBTI, OCEAN, CBCI, are just some other common tools used by many individuals worldwide. In fact, some of us have probably used these tools and found them to be sufficiently effective in our personal or professional lives. There is simply no reason for us to add in another tool (i.e., CliftonStrengths) into the mix.

Reason 2: “It is just too pricey for me!”

The CliftonStrengths assessment is relatively more expensive (SGD38 to discover your Top 5 Strengths, and SGD90 to unlock your full profile) as compared to tools such as DISC or MBTI, which you might even find free versions online! Meaning to say, to use the CliftonStrengths tool, you not only have to pay, the sum could be rather hefty!

Reason 3: “The tool is too difficult to grasp!”

While tools such as MBTI offer straightforward insights with 16 easy to understand personalities (e.g., ENFP – Campaigner, INFP – Mediator), CliftonStrengths is a whole new language in itself – with 34 talent themes, each with distinct but potentially overlapping definitions, categorised into 4 leadership domains. Moreover, there are terms such as core competencies, geniuses, overused patterns that a layman might not fully understand simply by picking up the reports.

The simplicity of the above mentioned tools does not mean they are not powerful. It is because of this nature, that such tools are accessible to not just you, but also to others, and therefore enhancing their effectiveness.

On the other hand, having more information does not necessarily render the tool bad. In fact, the more comprehensive the tool is, the more insights and nuances it can provide you. However, some people will argue further – “How much information do you really need to get the job done or to understand people?”. 

Perhaps, there might be some sort of diminishing returns, especially for the average person?

Reason 4: “Profiling tools are fluff!” 

Let’s shift the focus. While some of us are open to profiling tools, others find them, at best, limited or worse, superficial (aka fluff). Those of us who feel this way, view these tools as a form of self-assessment, or “ownself check ownself”, which can be bias from the start. Additionally, we question the validity of these tools, as they seem more rooted in self-help and pseudo-psychology rather than research and evidence-based. 

Moreover, some of these profiling tools come across as overly generic. Phrases like “You are someone who works hard for their goals.”, “You have beliefs that guide you in life, which provides a moral compass”, or “You probably have good friends that you honour loyalty to.”. Sure, this applies to me, but it also applies to many friends that I know, or perhaps even to you. The way they are worded seem to offer unique insights to you, but in reality, they are so general that they lack practical and applicable value. Almost like a horoscope reading. 

Reason 5: “I don’t see a need for it.”

Following the previous point, the effectiveness of such profiling tools are questioned – especially for workplace productivity and strategy planning. While profiling tools greatly help us appreciate each other, I question if we really need to rely on a tool for that. In fact, we could simply articulate what we believe are our strengths, seek validation from others, and in turn validate our colleagues when they display competence or perform well. 

Furthermore, such tools seem to be ineffective especially if you are in an organisation with structures, boundaries and rules, and hierarchies in place. Given that I still am required to fulfil my job scope on a daily basis, how then does having an in-depth understanding of my strengths help me in an organisation like this? In fact, the danger is that it might pressure me to move on from this organisation to one that gives me a job that plays to my strengths. 

Another consideration is that perhaps some of us already have a basic understanding of what we are good at. Although there will be certain areas of our job that can drain us, there surely are other areas where we enjoy and are good at. Expanding this to an entire company, what if my organisation is already doing well? Current strategies, procedures, staff dynamics are all effective and running like clockwork, why bother introducing profiling tools, let alone CliftonStrengths, into the equation?

Reason 6: “It is just too much work!” 

Finally, some argue that for profiling tools, particularly CliftonStrengths, to be truly effective, they must be implemented across the entire organisation. This extends beyond individuals and applies to procedures, systems, success metrics, company vision and values and more. Rightfully because of this, CliftonStrengths is not very attractive to me. 

Using this tool is a huge commitment, as it entails changing the way you run the company, rethinking and restructuring the way your entire organisation thinks, feels and behaves. You might need to shift people between departments, adjust their job functions, delegate roles to people accordingly and basically change the once “smooth running” workflow of the organisation. Asking yourself “Is this honestly worth the hassle?” or “Is this essential at this point if my organisation is not so horrible that it warrants such a drastic change?” might be completely normal. 


All in all, if I may attempt to answer the question: 

“Why doesn’t everyone use CliftonStrengths for their workplace?”

I offer you 6 main reasons people often share with me:

  1. Alternative tools
  2. Price
  3. Ease of understanding
  4. Level of accuracy
  5. Effectiveness of tool
  6. Commitment 

These are all sensible, wise, and understandable reasons. It might also be that purchasing and using a profiling tool may not be our number one priority now. 

However, I am currently still in a strengths-based company and I use this exact tool – CliftonStrengths, at work on a daily basis. I still believe in and stand by the idea that it is for everyone.

Read this article again. This time, I hope you click on the header of each of the 6 reasons, to read my attempt at addressing these concerns and providing you with the assurance that CliftonStrengths can truly transform the workplace. 


(This 7-part article series was written by David, our trainer at Kingmaker & StrengthsTransform! His CliftonStrengths talent themes of IntellectionBeliefRestorativeConnectednessInput makes him a person who enjoys having deep conversations with people and one who is capable of coming up with solutions to complex problems.)