Employee development often comes down to a question of whether to build training and development around strengths or improve areas of weakness. New studies and takeaways from the Harvard Business Review show that development based on strengths returns tangible results on sales, profit, and employee engagement.
Benefits of training by the numbers
In their blog, HBR dove into this discussion and “found that there’s significant potential in developing what is innately right with people versus trying to fix what’s wrong with them.” The more hours a day adults believe they’re using their strengths, the more likely they are to report:
- having ample energy
- feeling well-rested
- being happy
- smiling or laughing a lot
- learning something interesting
- being treated with respect
While we like to see statistics based on employee morale and happiness, strength-based initiatives also produce increased productivity. After polling nearly 50,000 businesses, HBR and Gallup found that more than 90% of workgroups saw noticeable increases in:
- customer engagement
- employee engagement
- lower turnover rates
- increased safety
The question is, how do you accomplish this with your staff training?
Start building for strength
To achieve the numbers in the Gallup survey, HBR laid out seven directives that companies can embark on to start building around employee strengths.
- Start with leadership—Top-down initiatives will always have higher chances of success in the corporate world. When employees see their leaders, managers, and elders buying into a concept, their first idea is to follow along. HBR offers an anecdote from the Gallup survey:
- “After a four-way merger, senior leaders at a North American company implemented a ‘Lead With Your Strengths’ program to help employees at all levels understand how to use their strengths to navigate the change. In the first year alone, the company’s employee engagement levels improved by 26 percentile points in Gallup’s overall organization-level database.”
- Get managers on board—Leadership buy-in is important, but you also need to enlist managers who have hands-on interactions with employees. These managers, as HBR puts it, “are ultimately responsible for developing their workers.” Employees can flourish when their goals of strength improvement align with their managers and the company.
- Generate awareness and enthusiasm—Getting employees excited about these strength initiatives will have its own effect. When leaders communicate the benefits and enthusiasm that they have about switching to this new type of training, employees end up using their strengths more. In this situation, everyone wins.
- Be mindful of strengths going forward—New strength-training efforts mean nothing if you don’t implement the results properly. After your company discovers and focuses on the strengths of your employees, make sure to keep that information in mind when creating teams and projects. Dynamic teams that contribute to a final goal with their own strengths will encourage better work and less stress from your employees.
- Focus reviews and recognition around strengths—Performance reviews based around employee strengths become infinitely more palatable for both employee and manager. This approach appeals to both sides: Employees get to do more of what they’re good at, and management sees better quality of work. HBR notes that “one result of strengths-based performance management is that employees feel their manager knows and respects them, which in turn boosts their performance.”
- Provide employees with experts and advocates—“A company’s internal strengths advocates and champions are personnel who play a crucial role in supporting all employees in using what they’re good at to the best of their advantage.” Having someone (whether in the HR department or elsewhere) who understands and believes in the effectiveness of strength-based development can accelerate productivity increases.
- Build a culture around strength-based growth—The first steps toward strength development at a company are important, but a commitment to it really builds it into the culture. When prospective employees see the culture of growth at a company, they’ll be more attracted if their goals are similar. However, this extends beyond prospective employees and can attract customers as well: “A strengths-centric brand is also compelling to customers, which can differentiate a company from the competition.”
These are just a few ways that a company can bring a strengths-based focus to employee development. If you need a way to keep your team, department, or entire company on the same page with your efforts, take a tour.