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The Sideline Blog

Just as sports players come to the sideline for rest and guidance, this blog is meant to provide you some insight and guidance as you explore your Strengths journey.

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  • Writer's pictureChad T. Ahern

Strengths Based Organizations

Earlier this week, in preparation for my presentation to the Vermont Human Resources Association, I got the following pre-question from a registered attendee...

I am curious about the environments or situations where this [employee engagement through Strengths approach] has been successful and what types of environments or situations where it wouldn’t be appropriate for the best outcome?

The quick answer is that I'd be hard pressed to find an organization that wouldn't benefit; but that answer does seem deep enough for me and minimizes the value of the original question.

Therefore, let me provide some example from a few different industry sectors:

Stryker (healthcare / manufacturing):

Their "Talent Offense" approach seeks to integrate Strengths in their hiring, team composition efforts, and employee engagement efforts. Read this for more on their success story. In this video, there is some great insights starting at the 2:30 minute mark.

Southwest Airlines (airline):

Already renowned for their creative and caring approach, over the past 4 years Southwest has sought to integrate a Strengths approach to growing and retaining their people. in my opinion, this is one of the best examples of how just one person knowing their Strengths can start a movement... in an organization of any size.

Accenture (consulting):

Profiled on Gallup's Called to Coach webcast series, Accenture has put a true focus on using & developing their people through their Strengths, with a eye toward improving employee engagement.

In the book, Strengths-Based Leadership,

Authors Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, profile four leaders from four very different industries

  • Wendy Kopp from Teach for America (non-profit; education),

  • Simon Cooper from The Rtiz-Carlton (hospitality),

  • Mervyn Davies from Standard Charter Bank (banking; finance), and,

  • Brad Anderson from Best Buy (retail; electronics)

I would also be remiss, given my higher-ed background, to mention that over 600 higher education institutions better engage their students, faculty, and staff through Strengths-based programs.

Now, being from New England and a Vermont resident for the past 19 years, I know that one of the immediate responses is that "we aren't as big as all the aforementioned organizations; we don't have the capacity."

I get it.

My response, however, is that being small(er) should:

  1. Make it easier to integrate a Strengths-based approach, given that we have fewer people in our organizations to get to know.

  2. Make it is all that more imperative that we do so. As Vermont struggles to find all the people we need for our shared economic health, we need as many people as possible to be engaged and contributing all that they can be.

In response to my colleague's question about industries or situations where this isn't the best path forward -- there are very few. The most notable situations where engaging people through Strengths would be (only slightly) less effective is in jobs or companies where only rudimentary cognitive skill is required.

One final note, regardless of the size of an organization or the cognitive skill involved, this is about where we choose to put our attention, time, and effort. You can either choose to invest time and effort into understanding and engaging your current workforce - thus retaining them and attracting new and better employees - OR you can continue to put your attention, time, and effort into the near endless hire-train-turnover-rehire cycle.

Want to hear more on the topic? Register for my Employee Engagement through Strengths presentation for the VTHRA on Weds. December 19, 2019.

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