How to Develop Strengths in Employees

Three Parts:Determining Employees' StrengthsMaking Use of StrengthsEncouraging Strengths Through Other Employees

If you find that some of your employees are demonstrating strengths in certain areas, consider developing their potential. Building upon employee strengths is a smart investment as it will enhance productivity for your business. Start by assessing what your employees' strengths are, and move on to developing their strengths in a variety of ways.

Part 1
Determining Employees' Strengths

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    Consider what makes them stand out. You may not be able to list an employee's strength off the top of your head, even if you value the person. However, one way to start thinking about what an employee is best out is to consider how they distinguish themselves from their colleagues, and not necessarily in intentional ways.[1]
    • For instance, say your employee is Becky. When you start thinking about her, you think about how she is able to talk to anyone, colleague or customer. While you may not have perceived that as an asset at first, you should consider it a strength, as she is able to communicate well.
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    Look at where an employee performs the best. You don't just have to use subjective analysis to determine an employee's strengths. You can also use the data to point where an employee does best.[2]
    • For instance, you may look at the numbers and notice that Debra is the fastest at turning in her reports and always has the fewest errors. That could mean her strengths lie in written communication and synthesizing information.
    • Another example is looking at who is able to make the most conversions in a company. That indicates a person who has good sales skills.
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    Watch how employees pick up skills. Whether you are training employees yourself or others are doing it, notice which employees pick up which skills the fastest. Paying attention to how employees pick up skills tells you where they are strongest.[3]
    • For instance, one employee may not be great at the filing system, but maybe she's picked up how to edit the company's website with ease. Obviously, she's better at newer technology.
    • It's also important to note what skills employees choose to pick up on their own. Often, that indicates a place where they have a strength or would like to create a strength. Either way, noticing which skills an employee is most interested in will give you a good idea of where they need encouragement. For instance, if a person consistently works on coding or the website, that person obviously is good at technology and wants to learn more about it.
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    Use self-assessments. Your employees are, of course, going to have blind spots about themselves. Nonetheless, they should be able to help identify some of their own strengths. A good way to encourage that practice is to use a self-assessment form.[4]
    • You can base your own form off a form online or simply build one yourself. Basically, all you need is a list of skills and strengths with competency levels off to the side. You may also leave space for employees to write-in strengths they believe they have.[5]
    • Self-assessment does have it drawbacks, as obviously your employee is going to want to look as good as possible for you, the employer. That means that you have to emphasize that you are wanting to help develop what people are best at, not punish people for not having every skill.
    • You can also have an area that lets employees establish what skills they enjoy the most. When an employee enjoys a particular area, she will likely be more receptive to learning more.[6]
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    Ask for colleague evaluations. You don't see everything that goes on in the office. Your employees probably see much more of what goes on, so using peer assessments can help you to fill in the gaps.[7]
    • Make clear guidelines about who gets to review whom. Does the person who's being reviewed get to choose who reviews them? Will you make those designations? Does every person need to review the same number of people? All of these questions need to be answered as you set up a peer review system.
    • For instance, if you let your employees choose, they will likely pick people who know them best. On the one hand, that means they'll know the person's strengths, but they also might paint the person too positively. On the other hand, if you choose, the reviewers may be more objective, but they may also not know the other employee's work as well.
    • Focus on the positive. Identify what traits you most want to see in your employees, and use that as a basis for evaluation.[8] You can have reviewers rate others on competency levels for these traits, for instance.
    • Provide a form. You need to create a specific way for employees to review each other. A simple form with a list of strengths and competencies will work, as long as you leave room for other feedback.[9]

Part 2
Making Use of Strengths

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    Limit your focus. It can be tempting to try to develop all a person's strengths at once. However, it's better to really focus on one or two strengths at a time. Focusing on too many can lead to no strengths being developed because your energy and the person's energy is focused too thinly.[10]
    • One way you can choose is to pick the top places a person really stands out.
    • Another option is to look at where a person has raw talent that still needs development rather than the person's strengths that are already in full swing. In other words, if a person is already great at technology, maybe skip developing that right now in favor of working on her written communication skills, where she shows promise but could use more development.
    • A third option is focusing on skills the company particularly needs. If you're having trouble deciding between two strengths, go with the one that would benefit the company the most.[11]
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    Let employees use their strengths. Once you realize what an employee is best at, it's important to put them to work in those areas. Not only do you get a benefit from an employee doing well in that area, the employee gets a chance to practice even more and become better over time.[12]
    • For instance, someone whose strength lies in verbal communication may be wasted in an area that has no contact with customers.
    • On the other hand, you may find someone who's good at technology who isn't being utilized that way. Expanding that person's job description to include technological work can benefit both of you and give the employee needed challenges.
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    Provide challenges. One way to help people develop their skills is to challenge them a bit. If the same person is always doing the same job, they become complacent, and their skills don't grow. Tasks that require a higher skill level make people rise to the challenge.[13]
    • Try to challenge people just above their current skill level. That is, you don't want someone who's barely learned the phone system to try to learn how to code a website. Maybe a better challenge would be to learn how to provide feedback through the website, which requires them to learn how to navigate the website.
    • You don't want to throw the person in the deep end, but you do want to challenge them just enough that they must grow and learn to meet the challenge.
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    Use continuing education to your advantage. Continuing education, such as workshops, conferences, and classes, help employees to develop or renew strengths. Encouraging your employees to take advantage of these opportunities will only serve to develop strengths.[14]
    • Try to take away as many hurdles as possible between your employees and continuing education classes.
    • Of course, you can require a certain number a year, but you can also encourage employees to take advantage of opportunities by paying for continuing education, making sure employees are paid for their time while there, and even providing opportunities for continuing education in office.
    • For instance, you can bring in experts to lead workshops on certain skills and strengths to help employees improve.
    • Don't forget that some continuing education can be done online.
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    Allow space for volunteering. Volunteering in the community is a great way to develop strengths. In addition, encouraging your employees to volunteer not only helps the community, it makes your company look good in the process.[15]
    • One way to encourage volunteering is to allow employees a certain amount of paid time off a week to go volunteer, such as an hour or two.[16]
    • Another way to encourage volunteering is to have incentives. For instance, you could have a race to see who can get the most volunteer hours, with prizes going to the top contenders.[17]
    • How you set up the volunteering is up to you. You could handpick volunteering opportunities to encourage certain skills. However, employees may resent being forced into volunteering at places they don't want to be. If you let employees choose, they'll likely gravitate to places that use their skills, anyway.

Part 3
Encouraging Strengths Through Other Employees

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    Set up mentorship programs. You have obviously have employees who are more experienced in your company and ones that are less experienced. Through a mentorship program, the more experienced employees can help the less experienced develop their strengths.[18]
    • Decide whether the program will be voluntary or mandatory. If it's voluntary, you may want to offer incentives for joining the program.
    • Try to pair employees with like skills. For instance, if you notice an employee with good written communication skills who, at the same time, could still use a little work, try pairing him with a more experienced staff member whose skills are excellent.
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    Build teams mindfully. When putting together teams of people to work on projects, consider how their skill sets would mesh. If you can, try putting people together who can learn from each other as they work together.[19]
    • For instance, one team member may be good at numbers while another one is better at seeing the big picture. The numbers person can help the big-picture person pay attention to the details, while the big-picture person can help the numbers person look beyond the minutia, helping to develop new strengths.
    • Another way of look at this step is to put more experienced members with less experienced members. That way, the experienced people can help the less experienced members develop their skills in the group.
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    Try job shadowing. Job shadowing is when one employee goes about her job while another person follows her to see how it is done. The first person should provide some explanation of what she is doing as it is possible.[20]
    • Shadowing helps employees learn or develop skills by watching someone more skilled at work. How long one employee shadows another employee depends on you, the employer, and what exactly you want the person shadowing to gain from the experience. For instance, if you just want him to get an idea of what the job is like, a day or so is probably fine. If you want him to spend time developing strengths, you probably want to let it go on for longer.
    • Usually, a person lower in the hierarchy follows someone higher up, or one person from one department follows someone from another department for cross-training.
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    Use job rotation. Job rotation is when employees switch out jobs to learn different skills. It is somewhat like job shadowing, except the employee is actually doing the job rather than watching someone else do it.[21]
    • This step works well because it gives employees a chance to actually practice the skills rather than just watch.
    • Job rotations can be short-term or long-term. You can have a day of rotation, or jobs could switch out every year.[22]
    • However, it's important to leave some people in place who know what they're doing, so they can help the people rotating to figure out what's going on.

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Categories: Workplace Management Skills