We instinctively know people are happier when they are engaged. (We aren’t referring to those who are engaged to be married, although admittedly that’s typically a blissful group.) Common sense, coupled with years of research, tells us that people who are engaged in their work are happier, healthier, more dependable, more productive and more positive.
If you pictured the people that were just described and you want them on your team, you are now asking a crucial question: “What leads to engagement?”
Interestingly, there are some parallels to the romantic process. When you are dating, you get to
know someone and take note of his or her special traits and talents, you find out what s/he enjoys, and you spend time in those activities that make him or her happy.
In the workplace, you get to know your employees, learn what their strengths are, and to the degree that you can, you assign projects that utilize those abilities. You observe your employees, help them discover their natural talents, and develop those strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses.
If a weakness is due to a lack of experience or training, then improvement will come with time and instruction. If a weakness is due to a lack of natural talent in that area, to continue to focus on it drains the employee of his or her energy and confidence.
So how can you identify your employees’ natural talents? What do they learn quickly? Which assignments do they seem to enjoy doing and do well? Is there excitement in her voice when she talks about the project? Or does he keep procrastinating on a particular type of assignment?
Some organizations utilize profiles such as the StrengthsFinder profile developed by the Gallup International Research and Education Center to identify the natural talents of their employees. One city department recently participated in an assessment to determine strengths, then created an Excel spreadsheet that listed all of the employees with a mark indicating their strengths. They learned that their team included such a variety of strengths, they had them all covered! And they created a visual system to quickly identify which employee has specific strengths. Can you imagine what a great tool that would be for a manager who is deciding project assignments?
What about the job satisfaction for the employee who is spending the majority of the work day matched to projects where s/he excels? How much more happy and engaged would employees be if they were able to work on projects they naturally enjoy, are energized by, and where they have the opportunity to further develop their talents?
What if you are the unhappy, disengaged employee seeking a new job? What steps can you take to make sure you are a good match for a potential position? Identify your strengths through a profile like the one mentioned above, or through your own observation of when you enjoy and excel on specific aspects of work. Sometimes a colleague can help you see where you seem to naturally thrive and shine.
When you prepare your resume, don’t just list your current and past job responsibilities. List the specific parts of the job that best utilized your strengths and that you enjoyed. If you were responsible for compiling data into a monthly report but you dreaded it and felt your energy drained when you worked on it, don’t list that on your resume.
Market yourself for the position that is the best match of your strengths, natural talents, and abilities. When you interview, ask questions to determine the requirements of the job with your strengths in mind. The new position should be a great marriage of your talents, qualifications, and strengths with the primary responsibilities of the job.
Matchmaking in the workplace? It’s a concept that can definitely be espoused!
Executive Search Manager