By: Beth Hesse
Many recent business-related studies have revealed the largest problem for managers is dealing with employee engagement and motivation. Indeed, according to a 2013 study, Gallup Research indicates that only 13% of employees globally are engaged at work. Even more troubling, the study demonstrated that more than double this number are so disengaged, they are actually motivated to spread negativity to colleagues. Moreover, according to a 2014 Deloitte study involving 2,500 organizations in 90 countries, 79% of managers believe they have a significant employee retention and engagement problem, and only 6% of managers “believe their current process for managing performance is worth the time,” with 58% labeling their processes as “weak.”
What are the Small Percentage of Successful Managers Doing Differently?
With the overwhelming multitude of leadership and management help literature out there, it can be hard for business leaders to identify which methods actually work. In another recent Gallup study of over 2,000 managers, those managers identified as top performing (based on a number of benchmarks) were more likely on average “to indicate they spend time with high producers, match talents to tasks, and emphasize individual strengths versus seniority in making personnel decisions.” Furthermore, the “probability of success (above median performance) was 86 percent (1.9 times) greater for managers with a “strengths versus non-strengths” approach.” In essence, managers with a “strengths-based” approach almost double the probability of success in business.
How do Successful Managers Capitalize on Employee Strengths to Promote Engagement and Motivation in the Workplace?
Gallup Research defines strengths as “the unique combination of talents, knowledge, and skills that every person possesses. People use these innate traits and abilities in their daily lives to complete their work, to relate with others, and to achieve their goals. But most people don’t know what their strengths are or have the opportunity to use them to their advantage.”
Correspondingly, the Clifton StrengthsFinder program is based on positive psychology ideals and asserts that employees should focus on what they do best instead of wasting time trying to improve on things at which they are not as good. The program helps to identify the areas where employees have the greatest aptitude for building strength by measuring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior through a short series of unbiased employee survey questions.
Gallup Research has demonstrated that those who are aware of and focus on their strengths are “six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs,” and “more than three times as likely to say they have an excellent quality of life.” Additional research demonstrates “when employees, their teammates, and their managers know and use their character strengths they actually can deliver their best work every day.” And when employees are able to do their best work every day, their level of engagement is directly influenced.
In addition, managers can analyze strength information to create high performance teams by combining complementary talents suitable to the project at hand. By leveraging the talents of each individual, projects can be performed more efficiently. As Mark C. Zweig, A/E/P industry guru and founder of Zweig Group, notes, “Focus on building your strengths versus trying to fix every weakness. It’s always good to figure out what you like do and are best at.”
What does this look like, in terms of implementation? According to Mr. Tim Hodges with Gallup, there are three basic stages of strengths-development: identification, integration, and behavioral change. Managers who support the development of strengths are able to hone in on and facilitate strengths-based discussions in terms of project performance and team dynamics, as well as providing forums for open discussions and sharing of lessons-learned. As employees increase their self-awareness, they are able to name and identify their potential strengths by name. During the second stage, employees and managers alike are able to provide strengths-based dialogue regarding the project life cycle and the employees’ roles within a given project. Through consciously thinking about strengths and how those strengths present themselves, employees are able to integrate this positive psychology into their daily lives. Team settings and the dynamics among strengths displayed by each employee is fertile ground for dissecting and learning about how we all interact and flex our strengths. Lastly, as employees’ strengths and natural tendencies are illuminated, behavioral change starts to take root. Employees are able to see not only the achieved outcomes but also how various contributing factors, including their natural talents and strengths, helped reach that outcome. Effective managers can leverage this positive feedback loop to further demonstrate employees’ strengths thus growing the positive impacts of each employee’s strengths. When executed, this process results in “increases in [employee] satisfaction, productivity, and other outcomes as a result of their focus on what they do best” (Gallup).
For more information on how you can best implement a StrengthsFinder program to create high performance teams within your company, or other information on improving the “human” aspects of your business, please contact Beth Hesse with Conscientia Global.