The Power of Strengths
By Stephanie Scherle
While they have been used and investigated in the context of social work and mental health care for several decades, strength-based approaches in the workplace are still emerging (Bakker & Woerkom, 2018). Many employees and employers have some idea about what strengths-use in the workplace looks like, but often, there are still questions that need to be answered. In this blog post, we are trying to answer some of these questions.
What are strengths?
Wood et al. (2011) define strengths as “the characteristics of a person that allow them to perform well or at their personal best” (p. 15). Strengths can be physical, intellectual or emotional and they can be expressed in various contexts. Their expression can lead to a number of positive outcomes.
Is resilience a strength?
Absolutely. Resilience can be considered an important resource that can have positive effects for those who foster and use it (Sheldon et al., 2015). Additionally, resilience can be the result of strength-use (Meyers & van Woerkom, 2016).
Why should I use my strengths in the workplace?
As mentioned above, using your strengths can have a number of positive outcomes in the workplace: it can lead to increased wellbeing, performance, stress tolerance, feelings of competence, self-esteem and decreased absenteeism and turnover (Bakker & Woerkom, 2018; Peterson & Seligman, 2004; Stander & Mosert, 2013; van Woerkom et al., 2016; Wood et al., 2011). This is likely because employees who use their strengths in the workplace feel like they are acting in accordance with their most authentic self, are performing meaningful work and are doing well at their jobs, which makes them happier and more productive (Cropanzano & Wright, 2001).
It feels like I am not using my strengths with the tasks I do at work – what should I do?
If your job allows for it, you could always try job crafting. Job crafting is the process of modifying work tasks and resources. You could try to work on projects and tasks that align better with your strengths or speak to your supervisor to adjust your responsibilities to better match what you’re good at and enjoy. This might give you an opportunity to balance what the organisation wants with your own preferences, abilities and passions (Tims et al., 2016).
Can I use my strengths whatever job I am in?
While there are some jobs which offer more opportunities for strength-use than others, you can incorporate your strengths in every job that you do. If you cannot change your tasks, you can change how you go about them and incorporate strengths in that way.
I am a manager – how can I make sure I support my team in using their strengths?
First of all, well done for realising the power of using strengths in the workplace. There are lots of options to support your team with their strength-use.
1. Help them discover their strengths: because humans are preprogrammed to pay attention to their weaknesses rather than strengths, many people have trouble identifying what they are good at (Bakker & Woerkom, 2018). You could point out to employees the strengths that you have noticed in their work. You could also have a conversation with them about whether they would like to do more work involving those strengths. Additionally, you could get your team to fill out a strength-inventory to identify their strengths – TalentPredix is the perfect tool for this.
2. Assign them tasks that match their strengths: if you have spoken to your employees and they have shared their strengths with you, make a conscious effort to assign them tasks that fit their strength-profile or, if this is not possible, suggest ways to them in which they can incorporate their strengths in the tasks they already have.
3. Empower your employees: where possible, give your employees the autonomy to job-craft in line with their strengths.
4. Do a strength-use intervention with your employees.
Can you teach me a strength-use intervention?
Of course! This intervention can be used by individuals and organisations alike.
Step 1: Identify your top 5 strengths – TalentPredix can help with this.
Step 2: Use your top 5 strengths in a new and different way each day for one week. If your strength is understanding others, for instance, make an effort to seriously consider that co-worker’s points of view that you usually always disagree with in meetings.
Step 3: Reap the rewards! Doing this simple exercise can have long-term effects on your motivation and wellbeing. And the more you practice your strengths, the more it will become a habit and the more positive the outcomes of strength-use will be.
For questions or to book your strength assessment today, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Bakker, A. B. & van Woerkom, M. (2018). Strengths Use in Organizations: A Positive Approach of Occupational Health. Canadian Psychology, 59(1), 38-46. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cap0000120.
Cropanzano, R., & Wright, T. A. (2001). When a “Happy” Worker is Really a “Productive” Worker: A Review and Further Refinement of the Happy– Productive Worker Thesis. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 53, 182–199.
Meyers, M. C., & van Woerkom, M. (2016). Effects of a Strengths Intervention on General and Work-Related Well-Being: The Mediating Role of Positive Affect. Journal of Happiness Studies. Advance Online Publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10902-016-9745-x.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. Oxford University Press.
Sheldon, K. M., Jose, P. E., Kashdan, T. B., & Jarden, A. (2015). Personality, Effective Goal-Striving, and Enhanced Well-Being: Comparing 10 Candidate Personality Strengths. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41, 575–585. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0146167215573211.
Stander, F. W., & Mostert, K. (2013). Assessing the Organisational and Individual Strengths Use and Deficit Improvement Amongst Sport Coaches. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 39, 1–13. http://dx.doi.org/10 .4102/sajip.v39i2.1160.
Tims, M., Derks, D., & Bakker, A. B. (2016). Job Crafting and its Relationships with Person–Job Fit and Meaningfulness: A Three-Wave Study. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 92, 44–53. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j .jvb.2015.11.007.
van Woerkom, M., Bakker, A. B., & Nishii, L. H. (2016). Accumulative Job Demands and Support for Strength Use: Fine-Tuning the Job Demands–Resources Model Using Conservation of Resources Theory. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101, 141–150. http://dx.doi.org/10 .1037/apl0000033.
Wood, A. M., Linley, P. A., Maltby, J., Kashdan, T. B., & Hurling, R. (2011). Using Personal and Psychological Strengths Leads to Increases in Well-Being Over Time: A Longitudinal Study and the Development of the Strengths Use Questionnaire. Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 15–19. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.08.004.