Focusing on Employee Strengths

Strengths and Weaknesses - Internal Part of a SWOT AnalysisAs the leader of Human Resources for a large organization, I am often contacted by managers regarding the development of employees. No employee is perfect, and each has their own individual list of strengths and weaknesses. It’s a manager’s goal to minimize their weaknesses and enhance their strengths, but how is that done? What if the employee is in a job that makes them function in an area of weakness the majority of the time, and doesn’t allow him or her to capitalize on their strengths? Should the manager spend most of their time pointing out the flaws, and maybe – at best – getting that employee to a decent level of mediocrity where he or she just might have a chance at simply “meeting expectations” on a performance review? 

That process sounds exhausting. At Faith Technologies we believe our company MUST focus on employee’s individual strengths and improve from that point. If an employee is in the wrong position, then he or she needs to be placed in the right one. Managers function so lean in today’s fast paced business world that they must not exude too much energy filing the corners of a square peg to fit in a round hole – albeit poorly.

Many business books focus on this (i.e. Marcus Buckingham’s Now Discover Your Strengths and Go Put Your Strengths To Work, and Tom Rath’s Strengths Based Leadership.)  According to Gallup’s study (cited in Rath’s book), the most effective leaders are always investing in strengths. In the workplace, when an organization’s leadership fails to focus on individuals’ strengths, the odds of an employee being engaged are a dismal 1 in 11 (9%). But when an organization’s leadership focuses on the strengths of its employees, the odds soar to almost 3 in 4 (73%). When leaders focus on and invest in their employees’ strengths, the odds of each person being engaged goes up eightfold. 

Mike Jansen, Faith Technologies’ CEO, believes this 100%. He is quoted in our recruitment video saying, “Work towards your strengths.  It’s going to be more enjoyable.  You’re going to be more successful. You’re going to have more fun.” This is our mantra at Faith Technologies. While this all sounds great in theory, it can, in practice be difficult to do. This means that managers must rely on their Human Resource Business Partners to help them make the right hiring decisions, make the right corrective action decisions, and most importantly, work together to put development plans in place for rising stars. 

At Faith Technologies, we believe we have a good process for this, and we keep refining it all the time. Many tools are available for companies to assist with this – we are currently using the Halogen suite of products.  The whole process is relatively simple and can be broken down in to seven steps: 

  1. Hire smart
  2. Measure performance
  3. Let employees learn and grow
  4. Hold employees accountable
  5. Coach employees to be the best they can be
  6. Make tough decisions when necessary because high performing employees will thank you for that.
  7. Reward employees well, and you will experience growth and profitability in ways you previously didn’t think possible.

Human Resource professionals should hold their managers accountable. Understand their business and be their partner. Challenge and educate managers, don’t police them. Ultimately focus on the strengths and the momentum will catapult you in to a realm of success.  (I have applied this mindset to employees, but it could be applied in many areas – especially to customers and business development.) 

Now, go focus on your strengths and see how much more productive – and happy you and your employees can be!