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The Importance of Recognizing Strengths

By Jillian Broaddus and Chuck Cusumano

It’s no surprise that workplace disengagement is an epidemic that hasn’t improved in decades. The portion of the American workforce that is actively engaged in their work has hovered around 30% since the year 2000:

To put this into perspective, fewer than one out of every three people cares about their job. If you think you care about the work you’re doing, chances are (statistically speaking), your two closest colleagues don’t!

It’s a problem we’ve written about in past blogs…

…But this time we’re here to discuss another aspect of employee engagement: the importance of recognizing strengths!

When Gallup analyzed the impact of positive feedback, negative feedback, and no feedback on employee engagement, they discovered that only 1% of employees who received positive feedback were actively disengaged compared to a whopping 40% of those who didn’t receive feedback.

While providing constructive criticism and tips for improvement is necessary for employee development and also positively correlated with employee engagement (the bottom line – people want feedback, period!), the perhaps more important aspect for leaders to consider is the utmost importance of recognizing employees strength with positive reinforcement! In fact, a Harvard Business Review study showed that workgroups that received a "strengths intervention" saw a 10 to 19 percent boost in sales, a 14 to 29 percent increase in profit and a 22 to 59 percent decrease in safety incidents.

So, how can you better leverage the strengths of your people? Here are a few tips:

  • Make the most of the Direct Manager relationship: It has been found that the top factor for employee unhappiness is an unsupportive manager. Therefore, start by making the most of the manager/employee relationship. If you have the capability, consider a mentorship program within your workplace as well, in order to offer employees more opportunities for role models within your organization.

  • Offer responsibility: The best way to show someone they’re doing a great job? Give them more! One survey found that 72% of American workers wish their managers would give them more responsibility. After all, people care about things they own – and when care goes up, so does engagement!

  • Communicate and then overcommunicate: According to Forbes, nearly 2/3 of employees want more feedback. So, if you think you’re giving enough, remember this: the vast majority of people want more! Go beyond annual performance reviews or end-of-project debriefs, and begin communicating feedback on a daily basis.

  • Receive feedback, too: You, as the boss, must be open to hearing what employees believe their own strengths are, and how you can delegate effectively to maximize their skills. Employees grow, evolve, and – the best employees, at least – are constantly learning! So, their skillset may not be the same as it was when you first hired them. So, check in frequently to see not only how you can leverage their strengths, but more so what strengths they even want to be leveraged!

What strengths can you recognize this week? If you need extra advice on this topic, or a partner to initiate an employee engagement feedback assessment, please reach out to!

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