By Chad T. Ahern
In my last post I pointed out the huge impact employee disengagement has on resource allocation; particularly when it comes to wasting payroll dollars.
When I've pointed this problem out to people, one of the questions I inevitably get is, "how does Strengths development help address the engagement problem?"
Here's my take...
In Gallup's book, 12: The Elements of Great Managing, authors Rodd Wagner and James Harter, Ph.D. outline 12 factors that directly impact employee engagement. While knowing and understanding the each team member's talents and Strengths will assist, at some level, in addressing all 12; there are three elements where the Strengths-to-engagement connection is most prominent:
Opportunity to do what I do best every day (Third Element). There is a common, insidious notion in today's workplaces that "anyone can do anything" if s/he puts their mind and muscle to it; regardless of our differences. Yet, it is our "meaningful differences" that present the best opportunities to succeed. As a manager, if you understand and develop the innate talents of your team members, you can set them up for success by putting them in positions where their talents and Strengths can effectively flourish. This then allows the employee to feel that s/he is contributing their core "self" (hence increasing employee engagement) while the organization benefits from efficient productivity. IMHO, no other element more directly connects Strengths to engagement.
Someone at Work Encourages My Development (Sixth Element). In this element, Gallup emphasizes the importance of mentor-type relationships; the experienced sharing with the rookies. While, this is worthwhile, I would propose that such relationships can be deepened further when the mentor(s) know and understand how their mentee(s) innately approach their work and the world around them. Understanding each other's talents and Strengths provides for a shared language, and allows each side to understand "where they are coming from."
Opportunities to Learn and Grow (Twelfth Element). From Dan Pink's statements on "mastery" to Douglas McGreor's "Theory Y", it's well understood that humans have an innate desire to learn. Gallup research has also shown that "employees who have an opportunity to learn and grow at work are twice as likely as those on the other end of the scale to say they will send their career with their company." (Wagner and Harter, p. 173). Yet, so often learning within a company is standardized. This has the potential to breed disengagement when the skills and knowledge being taught do not connect with person's innate talents. Instead, companies should consider what each team member learns, based on their talents. For example, someone with Communication talents might become more engaged by getting to learn how to present or write effectively; while someone with Futuristic talents becomes engaged as s/eh learns about emerging trends in their industry. The company then doesn't waste money, and employees become more engaged and effective.
What do you do to enhance employee engagement? How do you use Strengths to engage those you manage and lead? I look forward to your responses in the comments.
Photo by Val Vesa.