In part 8 of our series from Daniel Short’s original article Retaining Top Performers we discuss how focusing on an individual’s key strengths, and building upon unique qualities and interests, not only encourages a much more motivated and energised employee, but also creates an ideal micro climate for developing and retaining leaders and champions within the organisation.
We touched upon the work by Haralalka & Tung (Why Strengths Matter In Training) in part 3 of the series, which used research by Gallop to suggest that individuals who know and are encouraged to use their unique strengths within the companies they work for tend to be better performers. In the study of over 65,000 employees, it was found that workers who received ‘strengths feedback’ had turnover rates 14.9% lower than employees who did not receive it. When the study was extended to work units that included productivity data, it was found that Managers who oversaw teams and were given strengths feedback were 12.5% more productive than Managers who received no such feedback. The study showed that applying a more modern strength-based approach to productivity (as opposed to the older fear-based or developing strength from weakness models) is a definitively more effective way of achieving outcomes and boosting company performance. Supporting employees to apply their natural strengths and abilities to their roles builds confidence, a positive attitude and creates star performers.
So how do we recognise individual strengths and interests, and how can we utilise these to best advantage to create champions within the organisation? O’Keefe from Edge Training Systems highlights several ways we can start to identify, develop and maximise these strengths (How Successful Organizations Maximize Employee Strengths):
Identify – A strength is defined as anything that produces ‘near perfect’ performance consistently and effortlessly in a given activity, and whereby the individual experiences satisfaction, positivity and a ‘sense of joy’ whilst performing a task. Can you identify key situations where an employee has shown the above criteria which would indicate a key strength?
Develop – Once a person’s strengths have been defined, investment into those strengths have been shown to grow their traits rapidly and effectively, whilst conversely, investments in weaker traits appear to yield far less effective results. Whilst developing strength traits are you able to do so in a way that benefits both the individual and the organisation? It may be necessary to develop upon some weaker traits within this remit in order to maximise the outcomes as a whole. Can you create roles and responsibilities that allow the individual to grow, develop their strengths and encourage positive career progression within your organisation? As discussed in Training and Development, high performers are likely to get frustrated and leave if they do not clearly see development opportunities within the company, and it is important to create these opportunities in order to retain your champions (Aon Hewitt: Engaging and Retaining Top Performers).
Maximise – Employees respond to positive feedback, which helps them to define and develop their own strengths within a team and encourages them to grow. Frequent interaction, open lines of communication and positive feedback from superiors (and peers) build confidence and provide an optimal environment where mutual trust can be established. From the Gallup study, O’Keefe points out that of employees who felt their supervisor focused on their strengths, 61% were engaged (double the national average of 30%), and only 1% of such employees were actively disengaged. To maximise on these strengths, are you able to provide opportunities where the individual is able to work creatively and as far as possible autonomously whilst simultaneously offering support, guidance and training if necessary?
In the Social Housing and Public Sectors there is limited access to data on successful succession planning methods, and how the retiring population of leaders in these vital UK community business segments are effectively passing down their skills and experience, whilst adapting to the changes in modern work practices and other challenges currently being faced. There must be a continual link and strengthening of bonds as the branches of the new younger workforce reach up and out towards modernisation, whilst the roots of the older, more experienced leaders continue to nourish and provide solidity and support to those still defining and developing their strengths. A well-watered plant that is supported in its structure will continue to grow and yield fruits for many years to come if its environment is sustainable, and its strongest leaves are able to stretch and reach sunlight.
Embracing the more adaptive needs and environments of Millennials, who will make up 75% of the workforce in the next ten years, is vital in building a successful succession plan. Dobberowski from Cornerstone (Succession Planning In The Public Sector? Not Impossible!) states development should start once the employee walks in the door, should continue throughout the employee lifecycle and should focus on all levels within an organisation. Further, he believes it is imperative to ensure the vast wealth of knowledge that the older, senior level professionals leaving the organisation do not walk out the door with their knowledge, leaving a vacuum which is difficult to fill and bridge the gap between old and new.
By creating and implementing strategies that share the existing knowledge of those preparing to retire with those who will be assuming their duties, whilst creating an environment where the needs of millennials can develop and grow, will ensure the future of our organisations can not only flourish, but also produce the seeds for the next generation to germinate, propagate and nurture their own future leaders and champions.
Greenacre Recruitment is a Social Housing Consultancy, passionate about driving change, finding solutions for, and challenging Leadership issues within the public sector. You can follow Greenacre on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to engage on topics of leadership, change and the public sector industry news.
Alma Sheren is Head of Marketing and Communications for Greenacre Recruitment, and owner of Virtual Office Solutions, a remote business support service, also based in Hertfordshire. You can follow VOS on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.