If you want to increase employee engagement in your business, focus on your team's strengths.
A 2016 study by research firm Gallup of 1.2 million employees across 49,495 business units found that more than 90 percent of the businesses that implemented strengths-based management techniques reaped the following benefits:
- Sales increased at least 10 to 19 percent
- Turnover decreased up to 16 percent for low-turnover organizations and up to 72 percent for high-turnover organizations
- Employee engagement increased at least 9 to 15 percent
As of August 2017, employee engagement worldwide was at a dismal 15 percent. Gallup reports that 67 percent of employees whose managers focus on their strengths are engaged.
Developing a strengths-based culture takes top-down investment. The executives at your company must make drawing out strengths at every level a priority in order to breed success. Here are some tips for how the C-Suite and managers can acknowledge and encourage employee strengths to be utilized more at work.
Start with the Hiring Process
An emphasis on using employee strengths should be apparent from the hiring process forward. A company culture page on your website that communicates to potential candidates that your business encourages employees to use their strengths can attract better talent. Asking about strengths during the interview process also gives both your business and the employee an opportunity to reflect on how they may be able to contribute at your company.
Integrate a strengths assessment into the onboarding process, and make sure managers discuss the results with employees quickly after. The benefits of leading with strengths from the beginning of an employee's tenure with you is that:
- An assessment reinforces their awareness of strengths and can inspire them to use them often
- Managers can use the discussion as a way to guide task assignments
- Strength assessments can be revisited in performance reviews
Make strengths a prominent part of work from day one by giving employees a visual reminder of their own and their teammates' strengths. For example, your business could create a poster or printout of strengths that hangs in their cubicle, suggests Harvard Business Review. A public display of strengths reminds employees to strive to use them in tasks, and alerts their peers to the benefits their teammates bring to work.
Divide Work and Group Assignments Based on Strengths
Large projects that require work from several team members will get a boost in productivity when you segment tasks based on employee strengths. Some employees may thrive and produce their best work in quiet environments when they're alone. Others may get stimulated by lively brainstorming sessions, where they can generate highly creative ideas. There may be areas of expertise that aren't a specific part of an employee's job description, but that can be used in unique projects. Instead of just giving the work that needs to be done to the people you think are best equipped to handle it, ask for volunteers for projects and tasks when possible.
You may also consider allotting work time to employees to use solely for using their strengths to focus on coming up with ways to improve your business. For example, 3M, a manufacturing company based in the United States, has a "15 percent rule," where employees must use 15 percent of their time at work on experimental doodling or projects that can spur new ideas, inventions and developments for the company. When your business restricts the ways in which your employees can flex their creative muscles, you stifle innovation at your company as engagement decreases.
Highlight Strengths in Employee Recognition
Gallup research shows employee recognition is the most effective when it is honest, authentic and personalized to the person receiving it. The majority of workers studied by Gallup do not receive praise on a weekly basis. The managers and executives at your company can change this trend by offering it often and citing specific examples of how an employees' strengths positively contributed to your business.
The most memorable recognition, according to employees, comes from managers and CEOs. Making strengths-based recognition a regular, integral part of business operations, and delivering it from managers and CEOs, makes a meaningful impact. Recognition doesn't require a large budget. It can be as simple as a handwritten note, or by verbally acknowledging the employee in front of the company. As you mention strengths in the recognition, that serves as another reminder and example of how they can be used by the employee and utilized by their coworkers.
Ask for Feedback
As a person's time with your company evolves, so will their strengths. They learn new skills, they collaborate with new coworkers, and they take on new tasks that help them grow. Continue to talk about strengths during informal meetings and formal reviews. During your discussions, be aware of employee feedback that might indicate a new idea that would work for content creation for your business. Featuring user-generated content is a great way to give employees the freedom to showcase their strengths through content. Learn more here.
As the key stakeholders and managers at your business unite to make strengths-focused management a priority, your business can hopefully look forward to higher retention rates and productivity levels from your employees. For an example on how to implement a strengths-based intervention at your business, peruse this resource created by Gallup.