As organizations reorganize for speed and agility to stay competitive, authority is becoming less centralized than in the past. Teams constantly form, disband and reform according to the needs of specific projects and customers. Information and communication technologies have helped make it possible to stay coordinated as people become more mobile and their job descriptions are less permanent. But these changes also place different demands on employees.
Employees need to be more adaptable and self-directed, better able to identify teams and projects that would allow them to excel and maximize their value to the company. In turn, employees need a higher level of self-awareness to navigate their careers amid organizational environments that are more fluid than ever before.
STRENGTHS-BASED MANAGEMENT DEFINED
If there is one area of focus with the potential to transform entire organizational cultures to help meet these needs — and deliver improved business outcomes, too — it is a strengths-based approach to management. Don Clifton pioneered the study of strengths in the workplace, affirming through decades of research that employees who use their strengths on the job are more likely than others to be intrinsically motivated by their work, simply because it feels less like work to them.
Among a host of benefits individuals experience when they know and use their strengths, employees who say they use their strengths every day are 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs. They are also more likely to strongly agree that they like what they do each day.
The natural talents we all have can be turned into strengths through investing in their development — time spent practicing and developing skills. Focusing on innate talent as a foundation has become increasingly important as the pace of technological change has quickened, because in many industries specific skills and knowledge have a shorter lifespan than they once did.
Employees need continual learning and development opportunities in order to stay up to date. Understanding their strengths gives them a basis for choosing the developmental paths that are most likely to help them sustain a long, successful career. A program that includes coaching and development provides a sense of their “true north” — helping them stay oriented for high productivity amid shifting workplace needs and varying career trajectories. But as more businesses restructure their processes around team-based work, the benefits of a strengths-based culture for group interactions also becomes more important.
Team members who know each other’s strengths more effectively relate to one another, avoiding potential conflicts and boosting group cohesion. Strengths-based development immediately changes their conversations. It creates more positive dialogue, and it boosts the team’s overall engagement and performance.
Gallup analysts recently conducted a study of 11,441 teams in six organizations where at least 30% of employees had completed the Strengths assessment. They determined that team members’ awareness of their own strengths — and each other’s — was more strongly related to higher engagement and performance than was the specific composition of strengths on the team.
The manager’s role changes substantially in a strengths-based culture. Namely, they’re the key conduit to implementing a genuine strengths-based development approach and maximizing the potential of their workplace’s talent. Managers become more like coaches, dedicated to helping team members understand and cultivate their talents, thereby achieving high levels of productivity and fulfillment. This change aligns with research by Gallup and others showing that younger workers — particularly millennials — want and expect their managers to work with them on personal and professional development opportunities.
As organizations figure out how best to implement these changes, they need new ways to help teams retain cohesion, and to ensure that the right talent can flow to projects that will make the best use of their skills. As Gallup research has demonstrated time and again, organizations that adopt a strengths-based culture will have a powerful advantage on both fronts.
– Steve Crabtree is analyst and lead editor of Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report. Download summary at: http://news.gallup.com/reports/220313/state-global-workplace-2017.aspx?