A frustrated, distressed woman

Scenario: an office worker generally comes into the office 15 minutes late. He exclusively uses the side door so his boss can’t see him. After that, he just sort of spaces out for about an hour. He just stares at his desk — but it looks like he’s actually working. He does this for about another hour after lunch, too. In a given week, he probably does about 15 minutes of real, actual work.

If this scenario sounds familiar, that’s because it’s how Peter Gibbons describes his professional life in Office Space. We’ll go on the record and suggest that Office Space may be exaggerated at times, but this scenario is funny for a reason: it’s relatable to many of us. Even if we’re passionate about the field we’re in, most of us have found ourselves bored with our jobs. Perhaps we’ve even been frustrated with them! How can we as business owners make improvements to our employees’ morale and productivity?

At Steele, we implemented employee engagement strategies beginning with Tom Rath’s book StrengthsFinder 2.0. This book, along with the CliftonStrengths assessment and coaching, is designed to help employees discover and develop their strengths instead of their shortcomings. According to Gallup, the company behind StrengthsFinder, this methodology can help employees be “six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, and to strongly agree that they have the chance to do what they do best every day.” If that sounds good to you, it probably sounds good to your employees.

How the StrengthsFinder assessment works

The assessment helps individuals find their strengths by helping them find their talents first — their natural ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. The idea is that as you invest in those talents — practice using them and add knowledge and skills to them — you begin to develop your strengths. Talent × Investment = Strength is the equation around which the entire StrengthsFinder methodology revolves. It’s also the key to so many businesses understanding how to implement better employee engagement strategies.

Responding to strengths

A development team meeting

Donny Cannoy, our own Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach at Steele, began walking us through the StrengthsFinder process three years ago. With our own staff, we’ve seen a greater understanding of not only our own strengths, but each other’s strengths and how to use and respond to them.

Using strengths also doesn’t mean only doing jobs where you can apply your strengths; it has more to do with how you perform your tasks. A strengths-based approach to management allows employees to complete their tasks using differing methods most natural to each person, but they still have the potential to achieve the same results.

Our staff has also begun to see the benefit of finding and using their strengths. Charles, one of our software developers, said, “StrengthsFinder has been useful in understanding not only the way I work, but helping me to understand and better work with my teammates’ styles.”

“These strengths seem to have been beneficial both for my fellow team members and the customers we serve,” our team leader Marsha said.

Although finding strengths is an amazing way to discover new ideas in the workplace, they can sometimes set us back if we don’t understand them well. For example, Donny’s top strength is adaptability, which says, “Whatever is most important for me to focus on today is what I’m doing.” Adaptable people (in this context) always factor in the possibility that something more important could surface and demand attention.

Greg, who asked for Donny’s help with something, became frustrated when Donny had not completed the task in a month. Why? Because Donny felt he had more important things that came up in the meantime. Now Greg and Donny know they must communicate the urgency (or lack of urgency) of their tasks to one another. Understanding each other’s strengths is key.

In short, finding your strengths gives you permission to be yourself in the workplace. Understanding the strengths of others in the office leads to new ideas, discoveries, interactions, employee engagement strategies, and team dynamics. Once we can understand each other that way, it’s a powerful transformative step toward bringing our best as individuals and teams.

Even though there’s a fee to pay for the StrengthsFinder assessment, it’s worth it in our book. Knowing how to discover and respond to each other’s strengths in our business has been one of the most important factors in implementing employee engagement strategies. After you find the strengths in your workplace, consider checking out StrengthsFinder 2.0 to find out how you can respond to those strengths in a way that’s best for your business!