Over the weekend I had occasion to purchase and read Strengths Finder 2.0. If you are not familiar with it, Strengths Finders is the assessment tool first developed in 2001 by the Gallup organization.

The essential concept behind it is that people who are given the opportunity to focus in the areas where their talents are most pronounced are much more likely to be engaged and have much higher levels of productivity.

A lot of these concepts were discussed in detail by Marcus Buckingham in his series of books and it isn’t my intent to go into them in detail, but there were some things that I feel are worth mentioning and reinforcing again.

The first is data collected by Gallup indicating that individuals who feel that like their work is aligned with their talents are six times as likely to describe themselves as highly engaged at work and three times as likely to describe their overall quality of life as excellent.

The reasons this matters to us as organizations -

* Engaged employees contribute at a level 20 to 25% higher per capita than non- engaged employees

* Organizations with high engagement scores outperform their competitors in every key performance metric

* Highly engaged employees are 80% more likely to stay with their employer

Now let’s examine the role of your manager in your engagement -

If you manager’s primary style is:

Ignoring you then the chance you will be actively disengaged is 40%

Focusing on your “development needs” or weaknesses the chances decrease to 22% you will be actively disengaged

Focuses on your talents or strengths there is a less than 1% chance you will be actively disengaged!

I think it is important that we recognize that active disengagement is not a passive behavior. These are people who come to work every day and spread their negativity. Studies estimate that this group represents about 17% of the U.S. workforce.

I think it is also important that you can’t count on these people to leave. They are not necessarily any more likely to leave than partially engaged employees. These are the energy vampires who tend to be heavy utilizers of your health and time off benefits, more prone to industrial illness and accidents and just generally drain your productivity.

I have been reading a lot lately that the Human Resources function is in jeopardy of becoming obsolete because responsibilities like administering compensation, hiring and selection, coaching, and corrective action are being “delegated” to line management.

It makes me frankly laugh my ass off. In organizations I have been associated with those responsibilities have always belonged to line management. My role as a human resources professional is to be a consultant; to provide systems and training to those managers so they do those things well, in short to build capacity. The professions obsession with compliance has always been a disappointment to me.

The other thing that bothers me is that we still refer to skills like coaching, setting expectations, giving feedback, and taking corrective action as soft skills. Look at Gallup’s numbers again; is something that can have that significant of an impact really soft?

I also get frankly annoyed when we take the course that interpersonal skills like emotional intelligence and empathy are somehow gender based. They are competencies and talents that need to be identified and reinforced.

Anybody that knows me or has read anything I have written knows I am a passionate advocate for employee engagement. It is quite simply a better way to manage organizations and increase quality of work life and productivity.

My model is pretty simple:

  • Manage for commitment not compliance.
  • Hire and manage whole people.
  • Include congruency in your hiring, selection, and coaching.
  • Hire hard- manage easy.

This is a journey not a destination and as the Gallup numbers underscore it doesn’t stop with hiring or onboarding. Coaching and reinforcement is an ongoing process, but the return on investment is astronomical….


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