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Is There A Strengths Revolution Underway In Our Workplaces?

March 10, 2015 by ·

The Strengths Resolution InfographicAs a senior leader in a large global organization I was shocked when I first came across the data that suggested only 2 out of every 10 people had a chance to do what they do best each day at work.

Shocked, but not surprised.  Let’s be honest at that point I could barely name my own strengths, never mind those of my team members.

At our very next team meeting we sat down, completed our VIA Surveys and having discovered our strengths never looked back.  And although we were dealing with challenging stakeholders, heavy expectations and ridiculous deadlines we each describe this time as one of the best in our careers.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the results were unique to our team, or could this be achieved in other workplaces?

A decade on and books instructing managers on developing strengths have become best-sellers, strength consultants and coaches travel the world and more than 15 million people have completed strength-assessment tools.  Scientific-data exploring the identification, application and benefits of strengths usage grows steadily around the globe.  And a new generation of college graduates is entering the workforce having been trained to prioritize the development of their strengths.

Keen to understand what impact this is really having I recently partnered with the VIA Institute on Character to commission an independent survey of 1,000 American employees across different roles, industries, ages and locations.

Today, we’re releasing the 2015 Strengths@Work Survey results.  Here’s what we’ve discovered:

  • Five out of every ten people now report they have the opportunity to do what they do best each day at work, an increase of 30%.
  • 64% of employees now believe building on their strengths will make them more successful at work, compared to 63% in 2006 who believed they’d grow most in their areas of weaknesses.
  • 56% of employees can now name their top five strengths, compared to estimates in 2001 that reported only one-third of employees could list their strengths.

As we clearly approach a tipping-point of strengths-development in our workplaces the data suggests there are three factors driving this change forward:

  • Employees want to focus on their strengths – When it comes to understanding and using their strengths more at work each day, employees are leading this shift.  Despite having neither organizational nor supervisor support for focusing on their strengths, 49% of employees are still able to name their strengths and 26% still find the opportunity to do what they do best each day.
  • Managers see returns for their efforts – 71% of employees who believe their managers can name their strengths feel engaged and energized by their work.  In addition, 78% of employees who report having a meaningful discussion with their manager about their strengths feel that their work is making a difference and is appreciated.  These employees are the most likely (61%) to be leaping out of bed in the morning to get to work.
  • Organizations are reaping the benefits – The 51% of organizations who are committed to building their employees are strengths have 74% of their managers in meaningful strengths discussions with employees.  In addition, 58% of their employees can name the strengths of their bosses and colleagues and think about how they use these as they go about their work together.  And 77% of their employees report they are flourishing, engaged and able to make things happen at work.

While these insights are encouraging and aligned with the themes emerging from the considerable body of scientific research exploring strengths development in organizations, the data also suggests there are three further steps that may yield considerable benefits:

  • Employees need to stop waiting for permission – Most of the 25% of employees hitting the snooze button each morning and putting the pillow over their head, the 15% who’d prefer to stay at home and the 9% dreading going to work, mistakenly believe little would change if they better understood their strengths and weaknesses. If these employees want to make their work more engaging and energizing they should stop waiting for their organization or manager to discover the value of their strengths.
  • Employees and managers need to keep exploring – 54% of employees who already know their strengths are potentially underestimating the impact on their success that comes with understanding and developing their strengths further.  Rather than using their strengths as a blunt instrument, new research suggests much may be gained by understanding the overplay and underplay of strengths in different situations, the interaction of multiple strengths and the potential for strength collisions with our colleagues.  Further education, coaching and exploration by employees of ways to develop their strengths are likely to deliver better personal and professional outcomes.
  • Organizations need to set clear boundaries – Organizations need to better train or remove altogether the 21% of managers who are failing to even acknowledge their employees most days.  With studies reporting that when a manager ignores employees, there is a 40% chance that people will be actively disengaged or filled with hostility about their job this is a cost organizations can no longer afford to carry.

The idea that employees can come to work and do what they do best each day is no longer considered a “soft skill” or a “luxury”, but has become a mainstream expectation that people will have the opportunity to do what they do best each day at work and reap the professional and personal benefits.

Of course the goods news is that creating this shift – be you an employee, a manager or an organizational leader – is neither expensive nor complex.  It just requires a willingness to consistently look and value the best in yourself and others at work.

To download the report click here.

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