Today, we continue our journey to exploring approaches to accomplish a Positive Leadership culture in your organization. We concluded last month with the positive business results that often occur when we focus on employees’ strengths. Did you go on-line to take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths? What was your reaction to the results? Confirming or surprising? This survey is only one of many tools that HR Professionals use to assess, develop and present solutions to companies who want to improve their employees’ achievement and engagement.
Employees who use their strengths are more engaged, perform better — and boost your bottom line. Of course, our smart, forward-thinking leaders know that engaging employees is crucial to improving business performance. The Gallup Research group has conducted hundreds of large scale, multi-variant and longitudinal research studies. Their research on engagement shows that one significant, tangible way to boost engagement is to help employees know and apply their strengths at work.
People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job. That's just one big finding from decades of Gallup research into human behaviors and strengths. That research has established a compelling connection between strengths and employee engagement in the workplace — a connection that has the power to accelerate performance when companies work on enhancing both simultaneously.
The best way for people to grow and develop is to identify how they most naturally think, feel, and behave — their talents — then build on those talents to create strengths, or the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance. HR Future Group can work with your businesses to help employees discover their innate talents and apply them productively to achieve performance outcomes. The best way to build a strengths-based culture is to start with an understanding of a company's business challenges, then look at how to use a strengths-based approach to address them.
Experience shows that building employees' strengths is a far more effective approach to improving performance than trying to improve weaknesses. When employees feel that their company cares and encourages them to make the most of their strengths, they are more likely to respond with increased discretionary effort, a stronger work ethic, and more enthusiasm and commitment.
A supervisor's approach to strengths has such a profound effect on engagement because managers play a crucial role in maximizing employees' opportunities to use their strengths every day. Managers can empower employees to discover and develop their strengths and place them in roles where they can do what they do best every day.
But what happens when managers choose to ignore their employees or focus on their weaknesses instead? In a large study with a sampling of thousands of businesses across the country, employing over one hundred thousand employees, researchers compared employees’ engagement levels — (Engaged), (Not Engaged), (Actively Disengaged) to their bosses’ management style — “strength focused,” “weakness focused,” “ignored.”
The results are rather startling and demand our attention. The study found that 25 percent of workers fell into the "ignored" category, and 40 percent of these employees were (Actively Disengaged). Managers who were “weakness focused” had employees who were 22 percent (Actively Disengaged). For those of us who are familiar with a variety of employee surveys measuring many differing and variable metrics, these results are not overly surprising. However, in all of the occasions that I have conducted this type of employee survey, the leadership group, when shown their employee results have been beyond, let’s say, “Surprised!” What we experienced with children who act-out, has apparently been forgotten. Even negative attention is better than no attention at all!
Thankfully, there is a silver lining in this storm-inducing cloud. If you have only one take-away from this month’s column, remember the following survey “proof” of the remarkable power of focusing on employees’ strengths. The study showed that, for the 37 percent who agreed that their supervisor was “strength focused,” the percent of (Actively Disengaged) employees fell dramatically to one percent. Of equal importance to the virtual elimination of (Actively Disengaged) employees, when their supervisor was “strength focused,” nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of these employees were (Engaged). This is twice the average of employees who are (Engaged) nationwide (30 percent). Replacing the silver lining in the cloud with gold, the message for leaders is clear. If every company in America trained its managers to focus on employees' strengths, the U.S. could easily double the number of (Engaged) employees in the workplace!
When managers succeed in these endeavors, their teams become more engaged. Employees who feel engaged at work and who can use their strengths in their jobs are more productive and profitable and have higher quality work. Based on findings like these, a logical conclusion would be that a strengths-based management approach is the best way to improve the employee-manager relationship, employee engagement and business performance. Kelly Bacon (2014)
Managers and leaders can take these steps to help employees use their greatest talents and build a strengths-based organization:
• Don't assume that employees know their strengths. People often take their most powerful talents for granted or may be unaware of them. A Strength Assessment can help employees to discover their greatest talents; this is a good starting point for building strengths orientation in the workplace.
• Find ways to apply strengths in a team setting to achieve common goals. Help coworkers learn and understand each other's strengths and how their talents complement those of others on the team.
• Use team meetings to help team members deepen their understanding of the strengths approach, and assign team projects based on employees' strengths.
• Help employees align their talents to the expectations and responsibilities of their roles. Incorporate strengths into individual, confidential performance conversations and reviews, and help employees set goals based on their strengths.
All employees have strengths — the unique combinations of talents, knowledge, skills, and practice that help them do what they do best every day. These strengths provide employees and employers with their greatest opportunities for success.
What leaders do — or fail to do — with this workforce potential has enormous implications for a company's future. Gallup's data show that simply learning their strengths makes employees 7.8 percent more productive, and teams that focus on strengths every day have 12.5 percent greater productivity. Investing in and focusing on employees' talents boosts employee and customer engagement, leading to higher levels of performance, profitability, productivity, and greater earnings per share for businesses. Susan Sorenson (2013)
Gallup's studies also show that using strengths leads to improved employee well-being (health and wellness outcomes). More good news about that in a future article.
If you are interested in an assessment of your business and a discussion of a potential Positive Leadership development initiative, send me an email at Bill@HRFutureGroup.com or leave me a message at 610.584.2467. William Kreider is the founder and CEO of HR Future Group, a firm that offers a full service suite of human capital management services for small businesses. From HR Outsourcing, Cloud-based Payroll, HRIS, Time & Attendance, and Benefit Administration, to Compensation, Leadership Coaching, Talent Acquisition and other HCM consulting services, HR Future can assist your business. Mr. Kreider has significant executive experience in all areas within the HR profession in a variety of industries. For more information, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610.584.2467.