By Sunny Klein Lurie
What does “engaged” mean? It’s feeling motivated at work, routinely applying your strengths and interests in your job, and being committed to performing well and curious to learn and grow in your field. Unfortunately, statistics reveal 71 percent of U.S. employees are not engaged in their work.
Gallup research shows a strong connection between employee engagement and performance. The more actively engaged we are, the more likely we will raise productivity, customer service, job satisfaction, and reduce sick days. A significant factor in feeling engaged is having the opportunity to use our strengths regularly on the job. People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged and three times as likely to report an excellent quality of life (Marcus Buckingham). When employees are engaged and thriving in their overall lives, even during difficult times in their organization, they often maintain strong work performance. That is why more corporate wellness programs are including employee engagement in their wellbeing initiatives.
It is 2015 and we are never going back to thinking employees are “hired hands.” High-performing organizations understand that healthy companies focus on the “whole person” at work. They appreciate the mind-body connection and the impact employee engagement has on organizational success.
So, who is responsible for helping employees become more engaged? Employers may help empower their team to become more engaged in their work, which is a great beginning. However, ownership of engagement, satisfaction, and career success is also on each of our shoulders. Going after our goals with healthy enthusiasm for a more fulfilling life — making that happen is up to each of us.
Whether you are a business owner, manager or employee, you may be thinking, “How can I become more engaged or how can I help my employees?” The answer involves uncovering and applying individual strengths as described in the following three steps.
1) Clarify skills/strengths that help you feel strong. Begin by brainstorming what you do well, what triggers your enthusiasm and motivates you. Also, you may want to complete the quick online Strengthsfinder assessment of your top five strengths. What is a strength? Activities that energize you, that you are drawn to and feel easy and natural doing. Strengths are made up of talents, skills, and knowledge. Talents you are born with; skills and knowledge you obtain through learning and practice. Here are some examples:
Technical/resolving computer challenges
Artistic/selecting color and fabric to design a room
2) List your work responsibilities and top priorities and find areas to apply your strengths. Identify one to two strengths you want to incorporate, and match each with a current or new responsibility where you can contribute to your goals and/or organizational goals. For example, if your strength is writing and you would like a chance to do it more often, look for a new or existing opportunity or project involving writing in the organization. Specify ways you can assist, possibly for the corporate blog or customer newsletter.
3) Have an open discussion with your manager to suggest ways to build one to two strengths into your work. Plan out the discussion. Remember, the object of this exercise is to help improve your job satisfaction AND fulfill a need for the organization.
Here are sample phrases you might want to use in your conversation. “I’m looking for opportunities to build on my top strengths to ensure my maximum contribution. I’ve found a couple ways I can align my skills with some of our current goals. Before I go into detail, what are your thoughts on giving this a try? My key strengths are ____. My ideas to apply and build them are _____. How does this sound? What suggestions do you have for me to use my strengths more often?”
Note: This is not a discussion about your weaknesses. Those are much more difficult to improve because weaknesses typically deplete us. The point here is that it is less time and effort to concentrate on developing areas in which we feel strong. The end result is to set goals and expectations every week based on our strengths. Step three may be the most challenging; however, being bold and speaking up is essential to advancing your career.
Best of luck accelerating your success by getting engaged.
Sunny Klein Lurie, Ph.D., is the CEO of Advanced Performance Inc. and its division, Fast Focus Careers, which help companies and individuals excel.