Building a growth mindset in business

Monday, 14 December 2020
Jenni Hutchinson explores what is meant by a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset based on a survey of STEP Employer Partners

Key Points

What is the issue?

Now more than ever, in order to grow, organisations need to develop not only the systems and processes that support product demand, but also the right people.

What does it mean for me?

We invited STEP Employer Partners to give us their views on what a growth mindset means.

What can I take away?

Insight into how cultivating a growth mindset culture benefits the business, and ideas for developing a growth mindset culture.


‘Never before has a growth mindset been so pertinent. As we all manoeuvre into an ever-changing “new normal”, every day brings experiences, scenarios and emotions that are new encounters for us’ – Irwin Mitchell

Carol Dweck introduced the term ‘growth mindset’ in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. At the heart of it, her message is this: with the right mindset and support, people are capable of a lot more than we think.

Someone with a growth mindset believes that the development of skills derives from personal will and effort. Their view is that innate talent is nothing; success is 99 per cent effort. Faced with challenges or failure, they will continue undeterred, seek to understand why, apply more effort and try new strategies.

Conversely, the counterpart of the growth mindset is the fixed mindset. Those with this mindset believe that success is a personally defining label. If people work in an environment that values them primarily for innate talent, they have grave difficulties when their image is threatened. They cannot admit to mistakes or deficiencies and thus cannot take remedial action.

A growth mindset is where opportunities lie and is ideally what you want your employees to bring to the table. A company that cannot self-correct cannot thrive.

We invited STEP Employer Partners (EPs) to give us their views on what a growth mindset means.

What is a growth mindset?

‘A growth mindset is evidenced by a person having the attributes of a disciplined life-long learner. This can be thought of as learning with purpose’ – Autonomy First

So, what are these attributes? STEP EPs mentioned a variety of qualities that help individuals to cultivate a growth mindset, but the key traits identified are:

  • curiosity, self-awareness and an open-minded approach to life and work;
  • a desire to remain relevant in a changing world;
  • dedication to continuous improvement and progression in life; and
  • resilience and the ability to learn from mistakes, take on board feedback and bounce back from setbacks.

‘Having a growth mindset in the workplace means that as a business you believe that you can always do better, no matter how successful you may be already’ – BDO

The role of the organisation in this is to proactively nurture employees across all levels of the organisation, to hone their skills, build their experience and enhance their emotional intelligence in order to enable them to perform to the best of their abilities.

The hallmarks of a growth mindset-oriented company

‘We encourage a growth mindset through interventions that build an abundance of thinking. We strive for what is possible … we look to find a way’ – JTC Group

So, what are the key factors in creating and nurturing a growth mindset? Below are a number of common themes raised by EPs.

Culture is key. First and foremost, the company needs to have a clear vision, purpose and values, within which a growth mindset is embedded and modelled throughout the company, from the top down. In addition, senior staff must model and encourage:

  • transparent and constant communication;
  • continuous development, both formal and informal – it is essential to provide employees with the necessary skills and resources to enable them to progress and maximise their potential, while contributing to the firm and their own career;
  • sensible empowerment and permission to fail (ideally within a controlled environment) within a no-blame culture;
  • courage to embrace challenges, try new approaches and accept change;
  • trust and teamwork, so that staff feel safe enough to admit vulnerability;
  • collaboration and knowledge sharing;
  • regular open and honest feedback on what is working and what is not, supported by developmental coaching;
  • continual reflection and critical analysis of performance and behaviours; and
  • celebration of successes.

‘Courage is king in the world of a growth mindset as we embrace challenges and overcome obstacles in a bid to stretch, improve and grow’ – Accuro Trust (Jersey)

How to create a growth mindset culture

A common theme throughout our EPs’ responses was that it is essential for the organisation to have a clearly defined core purpose and values that, together with vision and strategy, give employees a shared frame of reference and language and provide a clear and consistent direction for building the future. This needs to start from day one within the organisation and so needs to be built into the on-boarding process.

Intertrust reported that having a growth mindset is one of the organisation’s core competencies, and so the company ensures that a growth mindset is embedded in everything it does. The concept has been introduced through all its training schemes, from management and leadership development programmes through to individual modules available via its electronic learning platform.

Below are just some of the initiatives that EPs have introduced to foster the development of a growth mindset culture:

  • Accuro Trust Jersey has introduced an employee benefit trust whereby 9.4 per cent of group shareholder value is allocated to all staff to incentivise appropriate thinking and behaviour.
  • BDO has introduced a collaborative idea management platform, Idea Drop, for people to share ideas and challenges in order to collectively shape solutions. The company also has ‘Innovation Champions’ who help to promote BDO’s innovation strategy and agenda and facilitate idea generation and sharing of best practice across the firm.
  • Blake Morgan runs milestone programmes to prepare recently promoted employees for their new roles.
  • IQ-EQ has replaced a previously laborious annual appraisal process with a new performance management approach named ‘Everyday Conversations’. It is all about forward-looking discussions, focused on performance, development and career progression. IQ-EQ is also trialling virtual secondments where people are able to work with different teams around the world without having to pack their bags.
  • MD Private Trust & Scotiatrust’s HR team facilitates one-day ‘Mindshift’ workshops focused on awareness of techniques and tips to foster a growth mindset at work. The company also encourages ‘out-of-the-box thinking’ and continuous improvement through various programmes. The Scotia STOP 100 programme encourages the company to challenge process flows and forms.
  • The Private Office recognises and rewards ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking with an ‘On The Spot Award’.
  • Vistra Switzerland has an initiative called ‘Optimistic Mindset at Work’, a programme for all local colleagues that comprises weekly modules. It also has a chat group, ideas e-box, fun office competitions, social events and an innovation platform to gather feedback and ideas.

What’s in it for the business?

The benefits are clear, and not only in terms of strong commercial results. Partners report that prioritising a culture of growth and innovation sets the tone for many positive factors, such as employee engagement, increased productivity and a supportive environment within which collaboration and a continuous drive for improvement are key. The business thrives and so do individuals as they become aware of their own true potential. Ultimately, this is seen as contributing to low staff turnover and supporting the organisation in becoming an employer of choice.

So, if you would like to nurture a growth mindset in your workplace, remember to:

  • ask questions frequently, face reality and be able to look failure in the eye;
  • listen and learn from colleagues at all levels of the business – welcome change and new ideas, regardless of their source; and
  • believe in human development and create a values-led culture of continual improvement, where employees are encouraged to innovate and collaborate.1

To learn more about our EPs’ initiatives and how they have benefited partners, visit www.step.org/employers/employer-partnership-case-studies

EPP update

STEP’s Employer Partnership Programme (EPP) congratulates the following companies, all of whom have renewed their Platinum Employer Partner (EP) accreditation:

  • Anderson Strathern
  • Apex Financial Services (Jersey)
  • Burness Paul
  • Foot Anstey
  • Hewitsons
  • New Quadrant Partners
  • RSM

Congratulations also to Intertrust, who extended its Platinum EP accreditation to its Americas region in October 2020 and a warm welcome to Axis Fiduciary, who joined the programme as an EP in Mauritius.

Find out more about the EPP at www.step.org/epp

  • 1. STEP would like to thank the following Employer Partners who kindly contributed to this article: Accuro Trust (Jersey) Ltd; Autonomy First Pty Ltd; BDO; Blake Morgan LLP; Intertrust Group; IQ-EQ; Irwin Mitchell LLP; JTC Group; MD Private Trust & Scotiatrust; Saffery Champness Registered Fiduciaries; Stonehage Fleming; Summit Trust International Ltd; The Private Office; Vistra (Switzerland).
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Jenni Hutchinson

Jenni Hutchinson is Head of Employer Partnerships at STEP.

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