New research published by the CIPD shows that line managers can improve the performance of their teams by focusing on building their strengths rather than trying to fix their weaknesses.
The CIPD study (called 'Strengths-based Performance Conversations') was based on performance management outcomes in the UK civil service.
It involved ‘before and after’ measures, comparing control groups who were not given any training or support with treatment groups who attended a training workshop on how to lead strengths-based performance conversations.
Employee feedback demonstrated that they found conversations about their performance to be significantly more useful when they were focused on strengths.
In those groups who experienced the new approach, there was a 10% increase in employees who agreed with the statement, ‘My meetings with my line manager help me learn and develop as a professional’. In the same groups, there was an average 7.4% increase in employees who agreed that, ‘My meetings with my line manager help to improve my performance’.
According to the study, employee performance can therefore be improved by a simple training intervention which focuses on building strengths instead of fixing weaknesses. However, the CIPD added that the positive impact on performance can be boosted still further by effective communication, HR policy updates and management training.
Jonny Gifford, senior research adviser for organisational behaviour at the CIPD, said:
“The strengths-based approach marks a big shift in mindset for many, if not most of us. Our default mode when looking for improvements tends to be deficit-oriented – we hone in on what’s gone wrong and consider how we can avoid that in the future. There will always be cases where it’s imperative to do this, but our research shows the benefit of making the norm in performance conversations to reflect instead on what worked well, why, and how it can be replicated.”
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