Have you tried to help people be more strengths-focused in your workplace? Perhaps you’ve encouraged them to complete a strengths survey – after all, more than 20 million people have! Or run strengths workshops or even brought in strengths coaches. But is any of it really helping your people to thrive more consistently at work?
Our recent Strengths Lab 2019 Workplace Survey asked 1,000 Americans if, how, and why they were able to use their strengths – the things that they are good at and enjoy doing – at work each day. What they told us clearly suggests that there is a strengths revolution underway in many workplaces.
- 64% of employees believe building on their strengths will make them more successful at work. A 27% increase from 2006.
- 58% of workers can name their top five strengths, compared to estimates in 2001 that reported only one-third of employees could list their strengths.
- Almost seven out of every ten workers now say they have the opportunity to do what they do best each day at work, an increase of 50% since 2001.
What’s making these changes possible?
In a nutshell, despite almost twenty years of strengths research primarily focusing on how individuals can identify and use their strengths at work for themselves, the research participants told us that it was other people that were the most important motivators and enablers of their strengths. For example, two of the primary reasons most workers used their strengths were to support their team or to improve their relationships. And while being able to identify their top five strengths helped, workers, were more likely to use their strengths when they felt psychologically safe in their teams, had meaningful strengths conversations with their leaders, and were in organizations who were committed to activating their people’s strengths.
But does all this effort pay off?
We found that when workers had the opportunity to do what they do best each day, they were seven times more likely to be engaged in their work, seven times more likely to feel very satisfied in their job, and three times more likely to be performing well. They were also four times more likely to be consistently flourishing.
How can you help more people to use their strengths at work?
The Strengths Lab 2019 Workplace Survey findings suggested:
- Setting the stage by giving workers the tools they need to boost their strengths knowledge – workers who can name their top five strengths are more engaged, satisfied, and perform better at work. Capitalize on this knowledge by teaching people to know, see, and apply their strengths individually and collectively to the work they are doing each day.
- Getting leaders on board by teaching them to have meaningful strengths conversations with their workers and tracking their progress – given the impact of leaders’ conversations on workers’ strengths use, engagement, and performance, every leader should be trained in how to have meaningful strengths conversations, and measures put in place to ensure these conversations are happening regularly.
- Giving permission for moments of thriving and struggle as workers develop their strengths – more workers than ever believe that building on their strengths will make them more successful at work. But to help them realize this goal, it’s essential that leaders and workers are able to talk about what’s working well and where they are struggling in order to intelligently develop their strengths.
- Building communities of support by improving psychological safety in teams – a sense of psychological safety in teams has a significant impact on workers’ strengths usage, so it’s worth building a supportive community by helping workers get to know each other’s strengths, support each other in taking strength risks, and quickly and honestly give each other strengths-based feedback.
- Nurturing daily strengths practices by embedding organizational support for autonomy, competence, and connection – organizations that allow workers the freedom, encouragement, and support to develop their strengths actively demonstrate their commitment to a strength-based culture, so developing supportive practices and norms helps create a strong organizational culture.