How to Identify and Improve Your Employees’ Strengths 

No company is greater than the sum of its parts, or, more specifically, its employees. All employees have a vital role to play in the success and prosperity of a company, from its everyday operations to its long-term growth plans. 

Building company processes and strategies around the core competencies and strengths of all employees sounds simple enough. Yet, identifying the strengths of employees tends to be where many managers fall short. This has only grown in complexity with the emergence of remote working brought on by Covid-19, with managers having to find new ways to spot and improve on these skills. Recognition goes a long way; it’s no wonder why 39% of employees feel unappreciated at work. 

Either managers fail to notice and reward their employees’ unique skills that matter the most or fail to develop internal talent significantly enough to truly benefit the organisation. With the change to modern flexible patterns of working, the challenge is to adapt to evolving workplace operations while keeping core objectives on track. Regardless of your working model – be it office-based, remote, or hybrid – the main objective of an organisation should consist of understanding and acknowledging the positive attributes that an employee can bring to the company, and evaluating them regularly to align with its growth strategy. 

This article will discuss some key strengths that employers should look out for, as well as how to identify and develop them. 

Key Employee Strengths that Managers & Leaders Should Look For

When recruiting new talent, it’s only natural that candidates would paint themselves in a positive light and spare no time highlighting their many strengths. While hiring managers should always exercise empathy, it’s always important to remember that these could be overly emphasised in an attempt to land a job. 

Of course, recruitment and onboarding has seen huge developments in recent years. Many hiring managers encounter candidates for the first – and in some cases the only – time via a videoconferencing call. It’s not uncommon to see companies attracting a broader talent pool if employee location is not dependent on effective service delivery. This makes strengths that little bit harder to spot.

In the same way that a candidate’s experience could be exaggerated, they could paint a vivid picture of themselves before an offer is made, only for managers to come to realise that the real person is starkly different in terms of their skills and personality. It’s almost like looking at a candidate with rose-coloured glasses. This is even more challenging when you consider the potentially longer distance between an employee and the office, when they are not physically present as much – or even at all – in the workplace. 

Managers have to bear this in mind when considering how well an employee could fit into the organisation when there is a high demand for flexibility in working patterns or location; those interpersonal and communication skills will have to be assessed differently compared to an employee who is able to work in the office more regularly. 

Many managers also make the mistake of hiring employees for positions that they are, quite frankly, not suited for, and this can end up costing a business large sums of money. A recent report from Protocol found that a poor mid-manager level hire can cost a business over £132,000, accumulated through training fees, onboarding, salary and much more. Predicting this is very challenging, if not impossible, but with hybrid or remote working employees, it’s even harder.

Regardless of the working business model, it’s always vital to objectively analyse the individual(s) you are hiring and onboarding. Don’t exclusively look for what they say, but also what they choose to omit. For example, if you notice that a candidate is keen on photography or videography in their spare time, but they don’t mention this in an interview, you can acknowledge that you recognise this skill (if it’s relevant to your organisation). This harks back to the salient point about recognition and its value to the employee experience.

While it’s also crucial to assess each employee individually, rather than adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to bringing them on board, below are a handful of beneficial skills and strengths to look for and develop in your team.

  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Confidence
  • Motivation
  • Self-discipline
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Passion
  • Leadership
  • Accountability
  • Responsibility
  • Resilience
  • Patience
  • Decision-making
  • Creativity

Identifying Strengths of Employees

When business leaders discuss employee strengths, they don’t just mean characteristics and skills, but also insights and expertise that enable them to perform well in a given role.

If these can be identified as early as possible, they can be leveraged to benefit themselves as individuals and, in turn, support the company as a whole. 

That said, identifying employee strengths is easier said than done. However, these ideas should help significantly.

listen and observe them in action.

Another effective way to discover your employees’ strengths is to watch them as if you were a fly on the wall, or, scrutinise a task as effectively as if they were not in the office. 

If a new member of staff has expressed an interest in photography and is keen to demonstrate their skills, why not set them a suitable task and ‘observe’ them in action? In this scenario, do they know what an exposure triangle is and the underlying principles of taking a semi-professional photograph? If you can assess them face-to-face, great, but if that task has to be entrusted to them, consider giving them a pre- and post-shoot task of an initial assessment and lessons learned forms, respectively, as a suggestion.

Of course, try to be covert and objective, because if an employee knows they are being watched it’s likely that they will approach tasks differently, as evidenced by the Hawthorne Effect. However, if you can subtly watch and listen to them, you can observe where they excel and what character traits might be visible. Doing this over a longer period will allow you to make accurate, well-informed judgements of their character and strengths.

do your research.

It’s not unusual for many hiring managers to implement social media searches into their routine pre-employment background screening processes. 75% of hiring professionals believe a social media search is an acceptable form of vetting. Social media can be a good indicator of who a person is when not in the workplace, and this can be highly effective if you may not be encountering the employee as often as others in the office. 

Examine their recent social media activity and determine whether they are a suitable individual to represent the company. A person’s public profile can unveil a lot about their interests, hobbies, and values they hold dear. It can help you bridge the gaps between what they tell you and what they don’t want you to know, if anything. 

set individual tasks.

While it’s always important to see examples of previous work before, during, or after interviews, many managers opt for a practical individual assessment. Relying on past work alone only accomplishes part of the goal. This is effective whether the candidate will be largely in the office or predominantly working remotely.

If, for instance, you set a clear task from the outset, you can more comfortably judge how they approach the task, the tools and strategies they use, as well as the finished product. This may prolong the onboarding process slightly, but you’ll end up with a better judge of character once done.

engage in open and honest conversation.

It’s better to exhibit complete transparency from the beginning. Engaging in open and ideally informal dialogue can be tremendously effective at helping you find out more about a candidate or employee. 

Be mindful that the environment and surroundings can influence the answers that people give. For instance, if you’re in a formal setting, someone may well give cliched responses or embellish certain talking points to ‘appease the audience’, and others may be more reserved and choose to keep responses brief and direct. 

How to Develop Employee Strengths

Once you have identified your employees’ key competencies, the next step is to develop these as much as possible. 

People that use their strengths every day are more likely to be engaged at work, even if that means they are not in the office full time. When managers can successfully leverage strengths to improve business performance, that’s when the company can run at optimum efficiency.

  • Help employees learn and understand each other’s strengths and how each person’s talents compliment others.
  • Make employees’ strengths a key talking point in internal business communications and ‌in their annual performance reviews.
  • Hold regular team meetings and one-on-ones with employees to emphasise their strengths and deepen their understanding of the business’s goals. 
  • Delegate tasks and projects accordingly, so that employees can exhibit and refine their strengths.
  • Help staff align their talents to the responsibilities and expectations of their roles.
  • Invest in ongoing training to broaden their understanding and help them work towards professional development goals.
  • Consider assigning mentors to employees if they feel they would benefit from regular guidance and feedback.
  • By using AI (artificial intelligence), you can personalise employee training and development by analysing their working styles, preferences and performance data. You can subsequently create more effective, bespoke training that plays to all employees’ strengths.

in conclusion…

All employees have unique strengths that set them – and their companies – up for success. Selecting the best employees for each team, project or task benefits them as they utilise their best skills, but also helps the company achieve short- and long-term goals. Not only are projects inherently more successful and completed on time, but employees will feel more rewarded, engaged, and satisfied at work. Fostering this kind of mutually-beneficial understanding will help boost companies on an upward trajectory towards long-term success. 

Author: Dakota MurpheyFreelance Writer

Photo credit: Anna Shvets

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