strengths-based development

If you had to pick an employee at random and talk about his or her natural strengths and skills, would you have to fake your way through it, or do you employ strengths-based employee development in your organization?

Successful companies understand that one of the best places to focus their efforts for improved business and increased growth is within the business itself—specifically focusing on its employees. Employee development serves not only the employees as individuals, but entire departments and the company as a whole.

What Is It and Why Should I Care?

By investing in the growth of their employees through strengths-based development initiatives, businesses see improvements in customer service, productivity, and morale and reap the rewards of having better workers on staff.

In the past, employee-development efforts have often focused on treating individuals’ weaknesses and hammering home what they need to improve instead of focusing on their strengths. A more modern approach known as “strengths-based employee development” is gaining popularity, and there are many reasons why.

Today’s employers place high expectations on their workers, but workplace engagement is quite low and hasn’t shown much improvement in years. Gallup has spent the last five decades studying the habits and expectations of millions of employees, managers, and leaders to determine how changing the focus from fixing what workers are doing wrong to focusing on what they’re doing right can positively affect companies in significant ways.

A recent Gallup study determined that only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work and that only 10 percent of acting managers are well-suited for a leadership position. When asked why they were promoted into management, most managers stated that they were given the role due to

  1. Their proven success in another unrelated position within the company or
  2. The length of time they had worked for their employer.

Few said they were promoted into a leadership position because they had exhibited individual strengths that would allow them to successfully lead a team. Less-than-capable managers are unable to fully tap into the talents and strengths of their team members, which is a great loss for the company over time.

The study also analyzed the companies that had implemented a strengths-based development program among employees and examined their success in terms of profit, customer engagement, and sales. Teams that received lots of strengths-focused intervention not only had a low rate of turnover, they also showed a significant increase in sales, profit, and customer engagement when compared with teams that continued to focus on their employees’ weaknesses.

How to Incorporate Strengths-Based Employee Development Within Your Company

The first step towards incorporating a strengths-based program within your organization is to identify the unique talents and assets that your employees bring to the table.

You may have some employees who are especially dependable and known for never taking a sick day or showing up late. Other employees may have an upbeat, positive attitude that lifts up and inspires others on their team. Some of your employees may excel at coming up with innovative ideas or more-efficient ways of getting things done. While you may be able to determine many of these strengths through personal observation and communication with team leaders, you may also want to consider interviewing your team members about what drives them in their careers. Here are some questions you could ask:

  • What do you most enjoy doing during your time off?
  • What did you enjoy doing in previous positions?
  • What do you most look forward to doing at your job each day?
  • Is there any task related to your current position that you enjoy doing so much that time just seems to fly by while you work on it?

For additional insight, you may also consider asking employees to list each other’s strengths. Employees may possess some strengths that they aren’t personally aware of but that others can easily see and point out.

Once you’ve determined your employees’ strengths, you can match those strengths with your employees’ positions and day-to-day tasks. When it’s feasible, ask your employees to volunteer for certain tasks. People often volunteer for duties that play to their strengths. Strive to create teams with diverse capabilities, filling team roles with some people who are skilled at problem-solving, some who are adept at executing plans, and others who can easily present projects in a meaningful way because they’re natural public speakers.

Finally, as your company works towards strengths-based employee development, don’t forget to provide ongoing feedback. Employees should be regularly praised for their successes and given timely recognition for a job well done.


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About the Author
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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