Leveraging Employee Strengths for a Productive, Passionate Workforce

Ever had a boss ask you to perform a task that was totally out of your area of expertise? Trying to work outside one’s comfort zone can bring up anxiety for even the most seasoned professional. But if leaders prioritize building up their employees’ strengths, they can improve morale and efficiency.

According to a Gallup study, employees who use their strengths are six times more engaged and 12 percent more productive on the job. Yet so many professional development programs focus on closing competency gaps. It’s time to shift the focus and leverage individual employee strengths. Staff will begin to feel that they are valued and contributing to mission accomplishment, thereby increasing on-the-job performance, engagement and organization loyalty.

Leaders and managers can adopt techniques to help them better understand employees and identify strengths to leverage:

  • Ask the right questions. Just because an employee can get the job done doesn’t mean that he or she is skilled in that area. To gain this insight, leaders must understand what thoughts and approaches were used to complete the work, discovering more about employee work preferences and decision-making processes.
  • Make a list. The employee obviously should know where he or she excels. Managers should encourage employees to jot down and share their strengths and talents—both personally and professionally. This self-evaluation will help all team members learn more about each other and how to work better together moving forward.
  • Conduct assessments. Assessments, such as 360 degree assessments, are popular in developing leaders. But the same techniques can be used to develop employees. When peers, customers and supervisors offer feedback, a fuller picture will begin to emerge.

If possible, organizations should consider investing in web-based assessment tools, like Gallup’s StrengthsFinder or Leadership Practices Inventory, to identify strengths and plan strategies for employees to apply in the workplace.

What techniques have you used to better understand and maximize your team’s strengths? How do you work to your own strengths, while still getting the job done? Leave a comment with your ideas!

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Jay Johnson

Our org created a strengths-based training class using resources like StrengthsFinder 2.0 and Marcus Buckingham’s Trombone Player Wanted. It started as a grassroots effort, but became so successful that our formal training division picked it up.

Joan Golden

Building on people’s strengths is a lot easier than strengthening weaknesses. There are a number of different personality typing sites on the web that are free.

Phuong Le Callaway, PhD

I like the idea for organizations to consider investing in web-based assessment tools, like Gallup’s StrengthsFinder or Leadership Practices Inventory, for employees at all levels to make assessments on their competencies. Then the question would be who owns the data and what organizations should use the data for. While employees can make their own assessments to plan their own development, unless, the organizations take a proactive role in supporting employees to learn and to develop and to use the results for improving organizations, the assessment data may not mean much to participants.