Has your company stopped delivering on its sales and profit targets? Is everyone knee-deep digging the numbers and crunching the data to figure out why? More often than not, the answer does not lie in metrics, systems, and processes. It lies in the people. Has anyone paid close attention to the employees working on the business? Do you know their strengths? What are you doing to keep them engaged and motivated so they deliver the stellar results you are looking for?
Do you know Millennials (aka Gen Y) make-up 50% of your organization today and will take over to 75% by 2030? Do you understand them and their needs? Millennials aren’t all about the money. Based on the Deloitte Millennial survey, half of the members said they would “rather have no job than a job they hate.” Among the top options for job desirability, “loving what I do” outranked salaries and big bonuses. 83% are “looking for a job where my creativity is valued,” while more than 9 in 10 millennials are “motivated to work harder when I know where my work is going” and want managers, and leadership to listen to their ideas.
Millennials view work as a key part of life, not a separate activity that needs to be “balanced” by it. For that reason, they place a strong emphasis on finding work that’s personally fulfilling. They want work to afford them the opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills, and connect to a larger purpose.
Knowing the above, how should your organization keep millennials engaged and motivated to deliver peak performance? By focusing on a strengths-based HR program that is grounded in their individualized unique contribution and needs and does not apply a one size fits all approach. Strength is an activity where we experience high performance and energy. And which is consistently a performance and energy asset to both us, and others. When people are strong at something, they have the necessary knowledge, skill, talent, passion and the right level of situational awareness to get the job done. Here are 5 concrete tips that can help you get started.
Are you making hiring decisions based on network and referrals, relying mainly on experience and results? Do you struggle with performance issues simply because the right people are not in the right jobs? If yes, you might want to rethink your hiring strategy and plan. Yes, it is important to tick the boxes on industry experience and job role but not at the expense of overlooking if the person’s strengths are well suited for the job at hand. And here I’m not referring to a superficial exercise of ensuring that someone with good communication, negotiation, and PR skills is hired as a sales manager.
Go deeper than that. What are the top 5-10 strengths this person possesses? What are the contribution and needs of those strengths? How is the person currently leveraging those strengths in his work? Where are the gaps? How can his unique strengths, skills, and abilities be used to design a job role that fits like a glove and enables peak performance? Achieving excellent role fit requires putting people in jobs they love to do, where they can find a deep connection with their strengths.
Gallup’s research suggests the chances that we can find someone with the same strengths that we have, in the same order we have them, is one in 33 million. We do have something very special to contribute. Millennials specifically have this insatiable hunger to contribute in a value-added way. When they make a difference, they feel they really belong because they have a place that was created through their contribution. Finding and clarifying their unique, value-adding contribution gives them the deeper why they are after and offers them both direction and purpose. Knowing this can be a game-changer for your organization.
When employees are coached on how to accelerate their performance by leveraging their strengths, they experience 6x higher engagement in the work they do. To ensure you are meeting your millennial employees’ needs of rigorous learning and growth, you need to learn how to effectively adapt your leadership style for maximum influence, depending upon the individual’s strengths, competence, and context. Here’s the thing. When you develop an organization or business unit-wide learning and development plan and ask everyone to participate in it, it defeats the purpose of individualized strengths-based learning.
What you should be after is to increase their ability to be the best version of themselves. You want your millennials employees to find strength in their strengths to do tasks that might seem tough or challenging. This way you increase the contribution of your employees because they are spending their time and energy growing the part of themselves that is most responsive to growth. For instance, one of my top strengths is ‘Strategic’. The managers who knew this always tried to answer the big ‘Why’ for me before sharing a new project or idea. They gave me work where I was able to demonstrate this strength and sharpen it further.
When employees learn how to apply their strengths effectively, they experience 36% higher performance and 43% higher productivity. No brainer on where your focus should be, but it is not. The society we live in fosters a weak fixing mindset. We bring the same deficit frame of reference to the organizations we work for. We tell our employees that they cannot grow in the company if they don’t ‘fix’ their weaknesses. So instead of focusing on the areas they are moderately good at, and exploding their growth where they could learn the fastest, and earn the most rewards, they turn their attention to what is not working. Spending time on identifying their biggest, most debilitating weakness and then preparing an action plan to fix it, robs them from the same time that could have been spent in working on what is possible with their strengths, and what potentially could be unleashed. 80% of millennials want regular feedback and check-ins from their managers. Create an environment where Millennial employees feel guided, supported, and valued by their direct manager.
The process of achieving a perfect role fit, investing time and resources in individualized, customized coaching and training, and then evaluating their performance based on their strengths is in itself highly rewarding for your millennials employees. As they learn to rely on their own internal validation, they stop seeking external validation to feel strong and confident. Research indicates that when the above happens, employees can expect a 33-50% higher financial return on their efforts. Can any rewards & recognition program beat that?
Working with teams, the most common pitfall is to view everyone’s actions and decisions through the lens of your own strengths. Each strength has corresponding needs which when ignored or misunderstood, can trip a person unknowingly into ineffective behavior patterns. For example, if you have the strength of ‘Focus’, you also need others to be focused and unconsciously expect everyone to be goal-driven, have the clarity of outcomes and priority. If the team working with you doesn’t have this strength, they might approach the task in their own way, causing you frustration along the way.
When the entire team goes through a strengths-based learning program and is not only aware of their own strengths but also the strengths, contributions, and needs that their teammates bring, a profound level of understanding and empathy is generated. When we use our strengths to make a difference, we inadvertently create a genuine, authentic, and meaningful relationship with others. Employees effectively leveraging their strengths are 83% more likely to be part of a high performing team. They are working interdependently where the toxic behaviors of defensiveness, contempt, blame, criticism, and stonewalling are highly minimized.
Employee engagement remains the number one priority for organizations worldwide yet year on year it continues to deteriorate. So next time you think about fun team offsite, yoga classes in the office, or football matches to boost productivity among the young lot, think about these 5 concrete tips.