At 10Eighty we focus on a strengths-based approach to employee development issues. This is predicated on an employee-centred approach that helps team members optimise their strengths and identify strategies to improve effectiveness, confidence, engagement, and wellbeing.
Research shows that this approach works:
- 73% improvement in employee engagement when employees are encouraged to play to their strengths (Rath and Conchie, 2008)
- Customer retention is 44% higher in companies where people are allowed to do what they do best every day (Harter and Schmidt, 2002)
- Positive psychology based interventions help reduce stress and burnout (Cotter & Fouad, 2013)
We examined in a previous blog the need to make a meaningful connection with employees in terms of their values. You also need to focus on strengths – what employees are energised by, what they are good at and enjoy, how effectively they are applying their strengths – as this enables engaging performance conversations around those strengths.
It’s obvious that skills and strengths are important and our recent Connected Conversations event looked at aligning personal values and skills with organisational objectives.
We work in a dynamic and volatile environment where change is a constant. When employees are engaged and working in roles that align with their strengths and preferences they are liable to be better placed to deal with challenges. A positive focus on what one does well and the opportunity to use and develop strengths, facilitates motivation and creative, innovative responses to change. This is partly because using strengths is, in itself, motivating and rewarding, those who are operating from their strengths are likely to feel more confident.
The traditional annual appraisal and 360 degree feedback tend to focus on negatives and problem areas. Roberts, et al, in the Harvard Business Review point out that you “may have more to gain by developing your gifts and leveraging your natural skills than by trying to repair your weaknesses”, (How to Play to your Strengths, 2005).
To foster excellence we need to identify and harness the unique strengths of each team member. It is a paradox of human psychology that while people remember criticism, they respond to praise. The idea is to enable employees to draw on their strengths and build on them; building a strategy for personal development. Knowing one’s strengths also affords a better understanding of how to deal with weaknesses.
Needless to say you can’t overlook weaknesses, it would be short-sighted to assume that playing to strengths is enough to offset them; and it would be unrealistic to expect to transform a weakness to a signature strength. Leveraging core strengths to address areas of concern is the best option, armed with self-awareness about strengths we are better able to deal with weaker area and other risks/blockers to performance.
Strengths assessment helps us in building partnerships with others who have strengths in areas where we are weaker which has the added benefit of enabling a strong team culture within the organisation.
Emma Mitchell is Leadership and Management Director for 10Eighty