Strength Based Performance Appraisals: A Win-Win Approach for Employees and Organizations
Do you ever dread going into a performance review at work (and feeling queasy coming out of one)?
It's not just you!
According to Gartner, 81% of HR managers are unhappy with traditional performance appraisals.
Traditional appraisals focus on what employees did wrong and where they need improvement, ignoring their strengths and potential.
But what if we approached evaluations with a different mindset focusing on what employees do well and how they can leverage their strengths to drive success?
Motivating employees to perform at better levels should be a critical objective of performance reviews.
A strength-based performance appraisal emphasizes identifying, appreciating, and encouraging the future use and development of employee strengths.
This article will dive into:
- The benefits of strength-based performance appraisals.
- The impact it has on employee and organizational success.
- How to implement this approach in your organization.
So, are you ready to embrace a new, more positive approach to performance evaluations? Read on to find out!
💪 What is a strength-based performance appraisal?
Strengths-based performance appraisals (SBPA) are a type of employee appraisal to value and develop an employee's strengths by considering the company's goals.
SBPA ensures that a person's natural skill, psychology, and personality align with role expectations and performance management.
However, this isn't to say that SBPA avoids discussing negative feedback. Instead, it focuses on preventive behaviors, and this is frequently successful in boosting motivation and output.
🔍 5 Key principles of SBPA
Feedforward instead of feedback
Feedforward interviews are a type of communication that focuses on providing anticipatory guidance and suggestions for future performance rather than evaluating past performance.
For example, instead of pointing out a problem with negative feedback on a past project, focusing on forward solutions that proactively enhance productivity and how to approach things moving forward is more productive.
This approach to performance management is less uncomfortable for the reviewee. It is also effective in getting ideal behaviors and results.
And the results are here to back it up.
Research from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point showed that when an individual tries to improve their weaknesses, improvement is limited to about 10%.
However, when an individual works to improve their strengths, the gain is substantial—from 100% improvement and beyond.
So, instead of using a deficit model that illustrates how a person's weaknesses are their opportunities to improve, focus on a feedforward interview to express appreciation for each employee's distinctive talents. When managers focus on strengths, people are more aware of their unique capabilities. As a result, they are more keep to widen and expand them.
SBPA draws some arguments from self-determination, a psychological theory that proposes how three innate needs drive human motivation: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
Highlighting strengths using the SBPA framework helps instill confidence as individuals feel capable and effective in their actions.
When individuals accomplish tasks and meet their goals, they feel they have skills and are in control of their actions, which align with their values.
The relatedness element refers to how people need to feel connected to others.
For example, when your people are seen and celebrated by their middle managers or teams, they think they positively impact others.
Autonomy, competence, and relatedness make individuals feel more motivated and satisfied at work.
Tip: Ensure that performance ratings help your people understand how they could further develop complementary strengths and apply these qualities more successfully in the workplace.
Help people uncover and be aware of their strengths
Strengths-based performance appraisals assist employees in becoming more aware of their strengths.
For example, the reflected best self-feedback (RBSF), developed by scientists from the University of Michigan and Harvard Business School, is a personal development tool that helps participants see who they are at their best.
The central thesis is that expressing appreciation to people for their talents while they're at their best might help increase their awareness of their strengths and motivate them to expand on these talents.
An excellent exercise of RBSF is to ask teammates for feedback on someone's "at their best" and analyze these stories to create a best-self audit. Individuals can then build on the results and identify goals to develop an action plan to leverage these unique strengths.
More happiness, more productivity
Success makes people happy, and being positive fosters success.
So, happier people are healthier, more collaborative, and perform more creatively than unhappy people.
Positive feelings indicate security, allowing for investments in greater experimentation and openness. This attitude then helps one develop fresh ideas for innovation and problem-solving.
Therefore, creating a cheerful atmosphere is key for SBPA.
Embracing an employee's strengths helps them perceive that they are on the same page as the wider team and organization.
When managers leverage the skills of their subordinates that address both personal development and business goals, this creates a win-win situation that promotes well-being.
Using natural skills that people enjoy using can help increase self-confidence and, at the same time, realize business needs.
🕵️♀️ How do you identify employee strengths?
"Understanding your strengths unlocks your potential and leads you to greater performance." Gallup.
🚨 Don't assume that your people are aware of their strengths. Unfortunately, many of your employees will frequently ignore or take their strongest talents for granted.
As a result, many forward-thinking organizations are now investing resources to help employees uncover their talents. Businesses can now assess employees' skills and abilities through various means such as interviews, tests, or work samples.
For example, over 9 million people have used Gallup's Clifton StrengthsFinder survey to identify their greatest skills. Businesses can use this tool as a springboard for fostering a strengths-based culture in the workplace.
💬 Employee performance appraisal strengths examples
"In the development of the school help desk software, Alex demonstrated exceptional technical proficiency and a deep understanding of the client's needs. The software's intuitive interface and robust functionality have received commendations from the school's administrative team, underlining Alex's dedication to creating user-centric solutions."
"Emma consistently showcases her ability to foster team unity and collaboration. Her willingness to share knowledge, support colleagues in their tasks, and encourage open communication has significantly boosted our department's cohesiveness and productivity."
Client relationship management
"Michael has an innate ability to build and nurture relationships with our clients. His proactive approach to understanding client needs, addressing their concerns promptly, and anticipating future requirements has resulted in a 25% increase in client retention this year."
"Nina's knack for strategic thinking has proven invaluable to our division. Her ability to foresee market trends, align our initiatives accordingly, and pivot when necessary has given us a competitive edge and drove a 15% increase in revenue."
"Lucas consistently delivers projects on time and within budget, showcasing his excellent project management skills. His thorough planning, delegation, and monitoring techniques have ensured that our team always knows their tasks and deadlines, reducing last-minute rushes."
Problem solving skills
"Sarah has an exceptional ability to approach challenges with a solution-oriented mindset. When faced with unexpected setbacks, she remains calm, assesses the situation, and devises strategies that not only address the immediate issue but also prevent future occurrences."
"Robert's communication abilities are a benchmark for the entire team. He is able to distill complex information into understandable and engaging presentations, ensuring all stakeholders, regardless of their background, remain informed and aligned."
🏆 7 Best practices for incorporating a strengths-based approach into your performance management system
1. Management training
Provide training for managers on identifying and utilizing employee strengths in the performance management process.
Help them develop performance management skills by defining objectives, giving feedback, coaching, and managing underperformance.
A strength-based performance appraisal process will create better relationships between supervisor and employee. The outcomes for employees and the effects of strength-based discussions will vary based on the context of performance appraisal, the relational approach used, and future applications of strength.
2. Consider strengths when setting employee goals
Use employee strengths as a foundation for setting performance goals and objectives.
When personal strengths are acknowledged by oneself and others, they create feelings of competence. One of the modern human resources practices is to use recognition as a powerful signal and psychological capital to leverage the impact of strength-based interventions.
💡 Learn how to set effective employee performance goals (+33 skill-based examples).
3. Leverage existing strengths in personal development plans
Incorporate employee strengths into their personal development plans and career advancement opportunities. The effectiveness and application of strengths during performance evaluations will motivate employees to work on those unique talents.
4. Equip your managers to know their strengths
Leaders have to walk the talk, so organizations must enable their managers to enable their teams to do their best work.
And it starts with being self-aware.
When you encourage better communication between managers and for them to understand their strengths, their clarity leads to harnessing their direct reports' unique talents and skillsets.
5. Consider workforce strengths in new role design
When designing new roles and forming a strategic business unit, consider the strengths of the current workforce and how they can be leveraged in those roles, especially during times of change and restructuring. As employees understand their skills and uncover their interests that play to those strengths, managers can place them in positions that allow them to perform what they do best every day.
6. Provide feedback-specific training across teams
Provide training for managers on how to give effective, strengths-based feedback.
For example, research shows that establishing a positive-to-negative emotions ratio of 3:1 helps cultivate psychological safety and better team performance.
Tip: Offering teammates workshops on how to focus 360 reviews on strengths and the 3:1 ratio will improve collaboration.
🎯 Discover 14 steps to ensure employees align with your organizational goals.
7. Offer strength-based performance coaching
Performance coaching involves setting clear goals and helping individuals develop positive competence based on their strengths. When a manager offers support for employees to work towards their goals and understand their strengths, they can navigate roadblocks and overcome self-defeating mindsets. As a result, they'll help their people get out of their comfort zone and better contribute to the organization.
Tip: Using employee development software can help create visibility of career progression by tracking conversation notes and then following up to optimize the coaching process.
🙌 Learn how to improve employee performance with 17 proven methods.
🪜 4 Steps to maximize your employees' strengths
Set realistic job expectations
A performance review doesn't start by sitting down in the meeting room. Business managers must be explicit about evaluation procedures and align on role clarity from the outset.
Tip: Have a performance planning meeting with your direct reports at the start of the year to review your expectations and their goals.
🏆 Your employees' performance will improve because everyone knows their boss and team's expectations.
Offer challenging and exciting work
Managers frequently assess performance without necessarily knowing a person's long-term professional goals.
You don't have to be one of them.
Find ways to widen your direct reports' professional experiences by being aware of what they desire from their careers.
Tip #1: One-on-ones are a great container to explore this.
Tip #2: Ensure that the job challenges and motivates employees but does not overwhelm them.
There's a sweet spot between challenging work and satisfying projects of interest.
Tip #3: Pay close attention to your employees' personal goals because how you evaluate their progress may have to align with them.
Give opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge
The adaptability of people is often overlooked.
As new demands arise or positions open up, offering opportunities for employees to learn new skills can be an effective way to nurture strengths, increase engagement, and reduce turnover.
There are many ways to help employees learn and grow through training programs, mentorship, and other development opportunities.
Provide different perspectives
From project stakeholders to teammates, a regular 360 review can involve multiple parties to provide a holistic view of career progress and personal stress.
Employees will also pay closer attention to their particular strengths if their employers regularly discuss their strengths with them.
For example, during a team meeting, leaders can encourage coworkers to become aware of each other's talents and how they might complement or work together.
Managers can consider discussing the top five strengths of each contributor and brainstorm using them more efficiently.
Plus, continuous feedback can aid employees in further identifying their skills and putting them to better use at work.
😔 How about the weaknesses? How do you address them?
Conducting a strength-based performance conversation doesn't mean turning a blind eye to mistakes or areas that need improvement.
Here's how to address weaknesses under the SBPA framework.
Identify issues that employees can address
Encourage staff members to take responsibility for their growth and performance by having them evaluate their strengths and limitations. Open communication requires both parties to see what's happening and align on observations.
Tip: To address an employee's deficiencies constructively, make sure you have clear examples with facts to back up the situation and propose a better way to tackle the problem in the future.
Managers can emphasize the measures that lead to improvements rather than concentrating on the negative parts of their performance.
Be open to changing roles according to different strengths
When you unravel a specific strength, there comes the point where you might consider whether or not a particular employee would be better for a different role.
Instead of feeling frustrated about fixing weaknesses, managers should consider whether the employee's role needs restructuring to utilize their talents better and, when appropriate, reallocate work to other, more qualified team members.
A team will typically have various individual skills and weaknesses; the goal is to capitalize on these for the benefit of your organization.
Flexibility in job functions and roles will lead to happier, more engaged, and highly motivated workers.
Part of competence development is considering retention, succession planning, and playing to specific skills and strengths.
For example, suppose a key opportunity opens up, and a worker indicates interest in lateral movement. In that case, it may be better for the individual and organization to move in this direction.
Frame weakness as a challenge and opportunity for building strength
Supervisors can reframe weaknesses as a challenge to strengthening the qualities of employees rather than seeing them as a negative component of performance.
Employees will be inspired to adopt a development mindset and to view their shortcomings as chances for learning and improvement rather than as predetermined conditions.
After all, organizations that embody a culture of learning will harness continuous development and improvement by constantly enhancing skills and abilities.
💡 4 Reasons why focusing on employee strengths benefits organizations
According to Gallup, employee engagement can increase up to six times when employees use their strengths in the workplace every day.
When employees feel like their strengths are applied frequently, individuals and organizations will likely benefit from:
- stronger motivation;
- better well-being;
- higher self-confidence;
- improved career satisfaction;
- healthier work relationships between supervisors and individuals;
- reduced turnover.
Evidence points to the wisdom of considering the human strengths and contributions your employees already provide.
Only 10.4% of American workers reported feeling engaged after receiving negative feedback, and 4 out of 5 indicated they were actively or passively looking for a new job, per Gallup research.
Let's break down the many benefits of adopting an SBPA feedback model.
The psychology of positive thinking
Imagine a world where employees and managers look forward to a performance discussion.
Employees are likelier to have a positive attitude toward their work and the organization by focusing on individual strengths.
These positive emotions can lead to increased engagement and productivity. Positive psychology argues that a strengths-driven and positive atmosphere will increase employee engagement and retention. As a result, employee complaints and disputes will likely decrease.
Intrinsic motivation to improve
Our brains are hardwired for negativity, so chances are employees hyper-focus on negative feedback rather than what they've achieved. As a result, employees are more likely to be motivated to improve and develop their strengths when the conversation revolves around strengths and how to harness them.
Tip: As leaders recognize employee accomplishments, workers will perceive their contributions to the company as fulfilling their purpose rather than just putting in time at a job.
Perceived manager support
Employees need to decipher their supervisors' messages when receiving a disappointing performance rating.
When their performance interviews go well, it's natural for employees to know they are appreciated.
Plus, due to the interpersonal nature of these discussions, when performance appraisals are more strength-based, the perception of supervisor support increases.
A focus on employee strengths and how leaders may nurture them feels more inclusive and collaborative as plans are more future-oriented rather than just hindsight about things to improve.
Growth-focused discussions will make your people feel like the company is invested in their skills, making them feel supported and valued by their manager.
The result? 🤩 Increased job satisfaction and loyalty.
Most people appreciate feedback as they want to do better at their jobs or advance to a higher position.
When employees gain momentum in developing their strengths, organizations can identify and promote leaders within the team with relevant skills and talents.
Rather than focusing on weaknesses, building on your employees' existing talents through strength-based performance conversations can help them be more motivated, perform better, and stay on the job longer.
All of this contributes to your organization's bottom line.
💡 Tip: Incorporate the SBPA model when curating your business' leadership training to develop star employees and help them reach their potential.
➡️ Enable employee strengths with Zavvy
Feedback is a crucial tool to communicate and develop your employees. By adopting a strength-based performance appraisal, you'll inspire your employees to improve with a review that emphasizes their talents and gives them a sense of support from their managers.
When designing feedback, the goal should be to assist people in developing and progressing rather than just categorizing them.
Zavvy's performance review software is the perfect tool for highlighting your employees' strengths so appraisals are more efficient and effective.
After all, implementing a strength-based performance appraisal will elevate your organization's learning culture and support the development of managers.
With Zavvy, you'll turn people managers into coaches, put employees in the driver's seat, and boost company performance.
Create a culture of development by adopting a strength-based performance appraisal using Zavvy.
Get in touch for a free 30 minutes demo!