Promote Employee Strengths Ask What They Want

There are two strategies to promoting employee strengths that will be mutually beneficial to both employees and companies.

If you’re a new, growing or even developed business, creating or maintaining an efficient and high-energy workforce is essential to making your company successful. Many look at developing employees from an HR perspective: an employee is doing well, their manager lets HR know and together they create a new job description with increased functions, develop a promotional level, clear a payroll increase with finance and then let the employee know. But in that process, you’ve overlooked two game-changing ideas.
First is looking at your company from a global level: Is there another department that could use someone with that employee’s strengths more than their current department? In other words, where can they have the greatest impact? Second—and this is the big one—have you asked the employee what they want?
In the former case, you’ve missed a golden opportunity to strengthen the foundation that will let your company grow and maintain the quality you’ve created. For the latter, don’t be surprised if that employee is gone in the next three months. Many lower level employees in this market are millennials, a generation that’s always looking for the next big opportunity. By promoting them without consulting them, you’ve sent the message that, not only are they a valuable asset that might be able to get something better somewhere else, but that something else might be closer to what they really want to do—which you still don’t know, because you didn’t ask.

New strategies

There are two strategies to promoting employee strengths that will be mutually beneficial to both employees and companies.
If you don’t already have an organizational chart, make one. Outline all of your business functions, divide them into departments and then break those departments down by members. Even if you’re a small business, you should be able to easily identify who falls where within each department.
There should always be a clear leader who supports the team they work with. If there isn’t, start identifying employees that you think would be able to rise to that opportunity. If, during this process, you identify voids within your structure, consider whether or not you have the workload and budget to hire someone to fill that need, or, if it’s manageable, assign those functions to another position. 
Now it’s time to talk to your employees. When you meet with them, don’t blatantly ask which of the positions you’ve identified they might want. Rather, this meeting would be about letting the employee talk about their vision. Ask:
• What’s your favorite duty in your current position? Why?
• If you had the ability to add more job responsibility, what functions would you want to take on? Why?
• If you were offered your dream job tomorrow, what would it be? Why is it your dream job?
This is your opportunity to reiterate goals, let them know you heard them and then clearly outline some expectations you have that will help them meet those goals. This will engage them and make them feel appreciated. It will also strengthen your business by improving your employees’ skill levels within their current positions. The key is letting team members access their strengths and feel satisfied in their job.
Set up a regular check in schedule (keep this manageable, maybe once every six months) so they know what the realistic timeline is for a possible change. At these meetings, reiterate what you heard in your last meeting with them. After you’ve restated those points, let them know the key functions you want them to take on. If they’re unhappy with any new tasks, they’ll realize they need to be clear about what they want. It will also give them an opportunity to voice those concerns on the spot. If they’re happy, then you’ve just successfully engaged and reenergized your staff.
Mariah Shields grew-up watching her father become a bigger part of people’s lives through his work in the benefits industry. She now leads alongside him, carving out her own brand of excellence in the industry. Mariah is a principal at Arrow Benefits Group where she hires, trains and helps develop the internal culture and organization of the company. She also facilitates many of the company’s efforts in the community by actively working with local nonprofits. You can reach her at (415) 493-4953 or

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