Facebook, consistently named one of America’s best employers, believes in strength-based organizations, and is working to shape its culture to reflect that ideology. Those who are passionate about the topic of individual strengths rolling up into organizational success believe that there can be a direct correlation between the two. If you understand a person’s deepest values and motivations, there are ways to connect them with the organization’s mission and goals. It’s a win-win, right? Simple! Not so much.
I am a fan of this whole idea. Capitalizing on people’s strengths allows them to shine. It allows organizations to grow by tapping into the inner-passion and abilities of people that sometimes can’t even be taught. But easy? Doesn’t seem so. It takes commitment, diligence and a whole lot of care for individuals — which let’s face it, some companies say they care about but don’t have time to implement.
Ryan Allan Dykstra wrote something in his blog the other day that really resonated with me. “…You can pay me a whole bunch of money, but if my heart’s not in the work, I’m just not going to care about it for very long (businessperson translation: retention problems, excessive turnover, ballooning talent acquisition costs, etc.).” If that doesn’t get leaders thinking about the importance of individual nurturing, I don’t know what will.
So while the model of strengths-based organizations is working swimmingly for some, how can others who are new to the concept even begin to emulate them?
- Observe employees’ strengths. Unfortunately, observation is often relegated to making sure people aren’t slacking off — or even worse — stealing. What if the observation was purely to see when people light up? When they are in their stride and cranking out quality work? Take notes of this and align it with what they are actually doing — and see how to replicate this behavior in future assignments or job roles. It will pay off.
- Encourage employees to share their strengths. Nope, I am not recommending motivational posters. What I am suggesting is some strategic encouragement by leaders to employees to speak up and act on their strengths. Depending on the situation, there may not be an organic opportunity to see an employee’s best strengths. But with the right verbal encouragement and a culture of “bring your best,” sparks may fly. An article from Harvard Business Review outlined some ways to encourage employees to speak up, including modeling candor and creating an ownership culture. Even though what you want them to discuss is positive, the door must be open.
- Match up people with varying strengths. Okay, this isn’t Earth-shattering. But how often are we still building teams full of similar personalities and skills, seeing them stall and sputter because there are gaping holes? Once you understand who are the dreamers, doers, the meticulous and the creative, the diligent and outgoing, build teams that comprise a variety of strengths – and be strategic about what you see people doing. Yes, there may be some magic in letting the team reveal their strengths to each other, but it’s okay to guide the process a bit. And, yes, I realize this is just a random sampling of adjectives and some people can be all of the above or none of the above. Play along…
- Reward strengths. Trophy time. Just kidding. But when you do see people utilizing their strengths in ways that are positively impacting a project, motivating a team, raising the bar of the organization – or any other applicable scenario – it’s worth saying something or considering other creative rewards. By doing so, the culture starts to shift into one where people are motivated to bring their very best. If it seems unnoticed, you know the drill.
It’s also worth noting that the entire weight of these initiatives doesn’t need to fall exclusively on the employer. Have you heard of the Strengths Challenge? It’s empowering people to take on personal research, cultivate their strengths and apply it at work. Fantastic. Now, ask your employees if they are participating (in this or some other introspective exercise) and see what they’ve learned. Their responses could be fascinating.
4 Ways To Capitalize On Employee Strengths (Forbes.com)