How an ipsative approach is different (and better) for uncovering unique strengths

June 22, 2023

In an age where the Great Resignation, quiet quitting, and Loud Layoffs capture headlines, companies are doing whatever it takes to engage their employee’s hearts and minds.  

Many employers deploy normative assessments to help team members discover their individual strengths and preferences. While trying to understand each team member’s uniqueness is well-intentioned, these surveys often fall flat since they compare responses against everyone else’s.  

If we believe that no two people are alike - that each of us has unique thoughts, behaviors, and desires - then insights revealed by normative assessments may not be very actionable and may amount to a “check the box” exercise. At best, these surveys tend to put each person “in a box” based on how their responses compare to others. And in a worst-case scenario, respondents try to “game” the survey to tell the company what they think they want to hear from employees in the hopes of advancement.  

An ipsative approach, on the other hand, does not compare responses to anyone but oneself. Instead of comparisons and classifications, individual self-discovery is the focus, and the insights are highly personal and actionable. Dr. John D. Rom developed an ipsative approach to uncover a person’s unique strengths that he called Strength Realization™. This approach focused on one’s most meaningful and fulfilling achievements – he referred to them as Peak Experiences – to mine for self-understanding.  

Based on concepts developed by Dr. DW Winnicott, Dr. Rom recognized that when people act in their truSelf, they follow a consistent pattern when striving for big achievements that unleashes energy and high levels of satisfaction. Dr. Rom’s methods uncovered the underlying sources of personal satisfaction and separated them into Values, Roles, Needs, and Skills. He also recognized that environmental factors can make or break one’s ability to find fulfillment and meaning in their work.

tru™ Strength Realization builds on Dr. Rom’s work and offers a modern experience that can help companies unleash the hidden potential of their employees.  

Front-line managers can better support their people once they understand what motivates and excites them. When people spend at least 20% of their time using their unique strengths, their productivity, engagement, and satisfaction skyrocket and can be sustained over time.  

Meaningful work is the key ingredient to greater engagement, improved retention, and higher productivity. For more information on how to bring this to life at your company, visit and start a conversation about how we can help your business achieve more.

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