The challenge of employee engagement is persistent across a wide variety of workplace situations, whether enterprise leaders are contending with layoffs, hiring freezes, or workforce expansion. Employees who don’t feel connected to each other and their work can sour the workplace experience, stifling productivity and inhibiting well-being efforts for themselves and their colleagues.
Tech giant Cisco takes a strength-based approach to addressing the challenge of employee engagement. Simplistically, leaders within a strength-based organization look for and encourage greatness among employees rather than focus on and address employees' weaknesses. As Roxanne Bisby Davis, Cisco’s senior director of People Research and Intelligence, noted during a a recent Metrigy podcast, this flips traditional emphasis from low performance to high performance.
For business leaders, a strength-based approach starts with taking the time to understand not just what an employee is good at, but what they actually like to do. Unfortunately, these two are often conflated within the workplace, even though each can lead an individual to a very different sentiment about their experience and willingness to engage at work. Continuously asking someone to undertake tasks that they’re good at but don’t enjoy doing will likely result in fatigue and disenfranchisement. Conversely, homing in on what excites an employee will energize that individual and make them want to expend discretionary effort on the task, Bisby Davis says.
With that level-setting on aptitude vs. excitement, business leaders and team members can have more open, engaging conversations about what they like and don’t like doing at work. This in turn, helps elevate them and makes them feel like they’re playing to their strengths at work, Bisby Davis says. Allowing people to play to their strengths may sound like a platitude. But from her team’s research, Cisco knows this to be one of the strongest drivers of its best teams, she explains.
Teams are only as strong as their individual members. For Cisco, that means helping an individual realize what they’re good at and what they’d like to do more of from day one on the job, as well as being able to articulate those tasks or projects to their leaders. Leaders, in turn, are encouraged to structure work around what resonates with their team members––even if that requires some trade-offs.
“Attention is pivotal,” Bisby Davis says. As humans, particularly in today’s work environment, if you’re asking or bidding for attention, whether you do or do not receive itreally does have an impact for the individual and beyond.
For more on how Cisco leads with people research and intelligence to encourage an engaged workforce, tune in to our Metrigy interview with Bisby Davis here!