Maureen Moriarty writes in the Puget Sound Business Journal that wise companies and bosses understand the importance of aligning worker roles to their strengths. If you are interested in increasing performance, morale and employee satisfaction, helping an employee discover, see and then play to his or her “strengths” is critical.

We all have parts of our human selves that we are “blind” to; areas that others know about us that we can’t see. The best leaders help their employees see their capabilities (and potential) and then create conditions to help them bring their best forward in their jobs. Part of that formula is first identifying worker talent — or their strength versus skill.

Talent is something you are born with — it doesn’t go away. It allows us to do things consistently and at the top of our game. For example, being analytic or strategic are talents. Talent can’t be trained in workers — it is either there or it isn’t. In contrast, skills can be trained but aren’t innate. For example, learning how to successfully “check out a retail customer” is a skill — it usually involves learning the steps. In the same way, learning a new software program is a skill; it can be taught.

Best practice leadership includes helping people identify, own and reinforce their core strengths and talents. People at work who are doing activities aligned with their talents feel powerful, enthusiastic, confident and passionate. In contrast, those who are doing activities not aligned with their talents are often frustrated, drained, bored and wondering if their workday will ever end.

Marcus Buckingham, best-selling author for his “Strength” based approach to work, identifies through his Gallup research with over 2 million people a direct correlation of an individual’s core talents (strengths) to high performance. He defines a strength as not simply something you are good at but something you find so satisfying that you look forward to doing it again and again. My own experience as a career coach confirms Buckingham’s premise that people are more satisfied and productive in jobs that allow them to do what they naturally do best.

As a career coach, I find it sad that Buckingham’s research shows that only 17 percent of the work force believe they use all of their strengths on the job. How can this be?

Part of the answer is many workers settle for jobs that don’t allow them to do what they do best; they take jobs that simply aren’t the best fit for their talents and gifts. This can lead to worker boredom or even anxiety if the worker doesn’t have the core talent required to be effective in the position. Consider, for example, someone who lacks interpersonal effectiveness working in a sales or leadership role, or someone who isn’t detail-oriented being required to spend the day doing spreadsheet tasks.

But management is also part of the problem. Too often hiring managers get overly focused on experience and skills versus hiring for the core talents and strengths that would allow someone to work optimally in the position.

What can managers do?

Establish a method to identify individual strengths. Buckingham offers a “Strengthfinder” assessment (for the price of a book) and there are various other personality profile tools to help individuals and companies identify core strengths.

Read More at: Puget Sound Business Journal