People are great at complaining, and employers are no exception to the rule. We’ve got fault-finding down to such a fine art, in fact, that we have a name for it: constructive criticism, and employees are expected to not only tolerate it, but welcome it.
A New Way
What if there was a different way to run your business? We’ve all heard the maxim about “trying to catch someone doing something right,” and how it helps to motivate staff and increase their productivity. Implementing it fully by building a company culture based on strengths, however, takes that to a whole new level.
What is a Strengths-Based Culture?
Internationally-credible analyst company Gallup (of Gallup Poll fame) defines “strength” as an individual’s ability to consistently deliver excellent performance in a particular area or task. Research shows that employees who know – and use – their strengths are six times more likely to be engaged with their work than others. When companies encourage them to do so, the results are significantly better than before.
Getting to the point of having your staff utilize their strengths in your business requires you to put in place a framework that makes it possible, by:
- Picking the Right People. First, it’s essential to hire correctly, and it can be challenging to identify the strengths and weaknesses of candidates in a couple of short interviews. One way to step your recruitment up a notch is to use assessments, which give you the power of knowing vs. guessing at your candidate’s motivations.
According to the Canadian Job Bank, resumes, references and interviews have proved to be inadequate methods for choosing good employees. The department advocates the use of pre-employment assessments to help employers predict which applicants are likely to perform better in the jobs and/or stay with the company.
At Focal Point we use validated assessments with our clients, including for hiring and training. We have a certified assessment expert and trainer on staff who works with us and our clients to help us apply the right assessment and interpret it properly.
- Setting Clear Goals and Expectations. You can hardly expect employees to deliver their best performance if they don’t know what is expected of them. Gallup’s research found that only slightly more than half of respondents actually have a clear understanding of their company’s performance goals for them. If you can’t articulate what you want, you lose credibility in the eyes of your employee.
Developing a strengths-based culture requires you to identify the abilities your staff members have, match them to company goals and then assign responsibilities accordingly.
- Develop Ownership and Accountability. Great work comes from doing what you love and applying your strengths in creative ways. You can hold staff accountable with various control measures, but to get individuals to choose to take ownership of their tasks requires something a bit more profound.
You can’t force ownership to happen, but you can encourage it by creating an environment in which it will flourish. This includes:
- Providing challenging tasks, with interesting problems that need to be solved,
- Creating stronger connections to the work, team or industry that bring people together,
- Developing a sense of being cared for – people take ownership when they feel their work is important,
- Identifying collaborative opportunities for team members to work together to improve their individual effectiveness,
- Giving staff the autonomy to make choices that impact their work, and
- Creating career opportunities for employees to grow – personally and professionally.
You can improve the levels of ownership among your staff by developing a workplace that’s motivating in and of itself, by making small gestures of care and concern for individuals.
- Recognize and Reward Excellence. In an accountable organization, employees don’t expect to remain “under the radar!”
If you’ve hired the right people at the outset, they’ll be consistently seeking feedback about their performance. They’ll expect frequent evaluation using multiple mechanisms, which adds to their knowledge and helps them improve processes. They will expect to be called out when they don’t deliver – but they will also expect to be recognized and rewarded when they do.
Although financial incentives are great, research by employee recognition expert Bob Nelson shows
- Create Development Opportunities. Top talent doesn’t stand. If you truly want to get – and keep – employees who have the strengths and abilities you want, it’s essential to create the right opportunities for them.
Unless they are on a developmental path that plays into their personal and professional ambitions, you’re likely to lose them just as soon as they start realizing their potential. Sometimes this can be a tall order for a small to medium-sized enterprise, but the solution usually lies in your long-term vision and strategy.
Making it Happen
If you’re serious about building a strengths-based company with motivated, high-performing employees and a great growth plan, consulting with a business coach can help you identify where – and how – to start making it happen.