People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job. That’s just one big finding from decades of research by Gallup Inc (a leading American research based global performance-management consulting company) into human behaviours and strengths. That research has established a compelling connection between strengths and employee engagement in the workplace — a connection that has the power to accelerate performance when companies work on enhancing both simultaneously.
In their extensive research, Gallup has found that building employees’ strengths is a far more effective approach to improving performance than trying to improve weaknesses. When employees know and use their strengths, they are more engaged, perform better, and are less likely to leave their company.
Gallup discovered that vast majority of businesses in the U.S. don’t focus on helping employees use their strengths — and this is a costly oversight. When employees feel that their company cares and encourages them to make the most of their strengths, they are more likely to respond with increased discretionary effort, a stronger work ethic, and more enthusiasm and commitment.
To test the effects of a manager’s approach to engagement and strengths, Gallup conducted a study with a random sample of 1,003 U.S. employees to determine how much they agreed with two statements: “My supervisor focuses on my strengths or positive characteristics” and “My supervisor focuses on my weaknesses or negative characteristics.” Gallup put employees who did not agree with either statement into an “ignored” category.
One-quarter (25%) of American workers fell into the “ignored” category, and 40% of these employees were actively disengaged. Managers who focused on their employees’ weaknesses cut active disengagement roughly in half, to 22%, proving that even negative attention is better than no attention at all. By contrast, for the 37% who agreed that their supervisor focused on their strengths, active disengagement fell dramatically to 1%. What’s more, nearly two-thirds (61%) of these employees were engaged, twice the average of U.S. workers who are engaged nationwide (30%). This suggests that if every company in America trained its managers to focus on employees’ strengths, the U.S. could easily double the number of engaged employees in the workplace.
Managers can empower employees to discover and develop their strengths and position them in roles where they can do what they do best every day. When managers succeed in these endeavors, their teams become more engaged. And Gallup has found that employees who feel engaged at work and who can use their strengths in their jobs are more productive and profitable and have higher quality work. Based on findings like these, Gallup concluded that a strengths-based management approach is the best way to improve the employee-manager relationship.
For many employees, the benefits of being able to maximize their strengths lead not just to higher engagement levels and a better career, but also to a better life. These well-being advantages, in turn, benefit employers through higher productivity, fewer sick days, lower incidence of chronic disease, and fewer health-related expenses from their employees. Engagement and strengths orientation together create a culture that fosters high performance. Gallup’s data show that simply learning their strengths makes employees 7.8% more productive, and teams that focus on strengths every day have 12.5% greater productivity. Investing in and focusing on employees’ talents boosts employee and customer engagement, according to Gallup’s research, leading to higher levels of performance, profitability, productivity, and greater earnings per share for businesses.