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The Powerful Duo of Strengths and Engagement

The Powerful Duo of Strengths and Engagement

by Brian J. Brim, Ed.D., and Jim Asplund

Story Highlights

  • Organizations can survive disruption by combining engagement and strengths
  • Engagement using employee strengths creates sustainable high performance
  • Replicate conditions already existing in your highest-performing teams

Be the Organization That Helps Employees Become the Best Version of Themselves

Organizations today are in a constant state of flux. Since the disruption of the pandemic, companies continue to search for their identity and their way of working. Leaders are still deciding how many days in the office will keep their culture alive or how to ensure that fully on-site employees feel appreciated. Wellbeing initiatives are on the rise, as are efforts to clarify or even rebuild culture and values. How can organizations survive all this disruption -- or, better yet, how can they thrive?


Regardless of whether an employee is a fully on-site worker, fully remote or hybrid, two key factors can help to create a sense of stability in an employee’s life while also helping them to feel hopeful about their contributions, learning opportunities and growth in their career. Each of these factors has a significant impact on its own, but they are most powerful in combination. The first: building a culture of engagement (i.e., an organization that helps employees feel valued, involved and understood), and second: building on each person’s strengths -- those natural patterns of thought, feeling and behavior that help employees be the most authentic version of themselves. Together, engagement and strengths create a culture of sustainable high performance.

Building a Culture of Engagement

Gallup’s Q12 meta-analysis shows that companies with more engaged employees have much better performance, as measured by several organizational outcomes.

At first glance, the evidence can be somewhat hard to believe. Engaged teams experience 81% lower absenteeism than their less-engaged peers, 41% fewer quality defects and 43% lower turnover. You may be thinking, “Is this really possible?”


Think about the best employees you have ever had the chance to work with. How do they work? How do they interact with their peers, customers and team members? Now, think about your most disengaged colleagues. Suddenly the differences in performance become much more real and believable.

Gallup’s engagement measures illustrate why highly engaged employees have the impact they do. Gallup’s Q12 is a heavily researched metric for measuring engagement in organizations. Each of the 12 items was selected because they met three criteria:

  • High-performing teams answer them more positively.
  • Local teams in their everyday work environment can influence them.
  • They link to real business outcomes.

These 12 elements are the building blocks for creating a sense of involvement, value and growth for each employee. The hard work of engaging employees begins with one employee at a time with a manager who pays careful attention to each of the engagement dimensions the Q12 measures. These engagement needs are best addressed individually to match the unique strengths and perspective of each employee.

Building on Each Person’s Strengths

CliftonStrengths offers clear benefits that can be achieved by helping employees build a stronger awareness of how to harness their natural patterns of thought, feeling and behavior. Gallup’s strengths meta-analysis highlights the difference.

Teams in organizations with a strong focus on strengths development experience some very different outcomes from teams that don’t. Strengths-based teams see 72% lower attrition and 59% fewer safety incidents, for example. How is that possible? Again, stop to consider your own experience.

Have you ever encountered a leader, coach or teacher who helped you focus on what is best about you? Someone who saw what makes you unique and helped you think about how to put those traits into practice? If so, that person was practicing strengths-based leadership. It didn’t mean they ignored your weaknesses or struggles -- they helped you overcome them by focusing on what was most natural to who you are.


CliftonStrengths offers clear benefits that can be achieved by helping employees build a stronger awareness of how to harness their natural patterns of thought, feeling and behavior.

Imagine a work environment where people want to stay, where they are focused on working more safely and where they can perform at higher levels because they’re able to use their strengths each day. This meta-analysis included data from 2.1 million employees in 111 countries -- proof that strengths interventions have been developed and used in a wide range of organizations worldwide.

Gallup helps individuals and teams focus on their strengths using the CliftonStrengths assessment.

Create Sustainable High Performance Through Strengths and Engagement

Now that we have examined the power of engagement and strengths separately, let’s look at what happens when we bring them together. Ultimately, it comes down to one thing: creating sustainable high performance. Sustainable high performance is a powerful goal for individuals, teams and organizations.

Gallup hears leaders talk about having “high-performance cultures,” but sustainability is the key. After all, an organization or team can propel performance out of fear, but a sustainable high-performance culture means that employees are performing from a place of involvement, value, engagement and belonging. Their behaviors lead to performance and employee engagement.

Gallup’s decades of work on strengths and engagement can be summed up in this one sentence: Focusing on engagement and strengths helps organizations create sustainable high performance by replicating the conditions that already exist in their highest-performing teams.

Time and time again, as Gallup studies its best clients, there are already pockets of excellence at play -- those teams or business units focus on creating a culture of engagement and on what people do best. Gallup’s work is to provide the metrics, tools and learning that make it possible for organizations to replicate those best practices and spread them far and wide across their organization.

Gallup combines strengths and engagement in a wide variety of opportunities. Learning and development provides practical ways to create highly engaged teams that focus on leading through strengths. One such approach is Gallup’s Boss to Coach Journey. Boss to Coach teaches leaders how to coach employees, value them as individuals, and help them understand and build their strengths -- all of which contribute to a culture of strengths-driven engagement.

Focusing on engagement and strengths helps organizations create sustainable high performance by replicating the conditions that already exist in their highest-performing teams.

In a recent meta-analysis, Gallup found that employee engagement improved by up to 22% for those participating in Boss to Coach, relative to similar nonparticipants in the same companies. The teams led by participants also improved their engagement by up to 18% more than similar teams with nonparticipating managers. Additionally, participants had a 20% to 28% higher likelihood of performance improvements relative to peers, and their teams had 21% to 28% less turnover.

Employee engagement efforts on their own can have a positive impact. Strengths efforts on their own can have a positive impact. Combined, however, those impacts are multiplied. Combined, engagement and strengths help each employee understand how to embrace and connect to their day-to-day work to perform, develop and grow.

It comes down to this: Organizations flourish when they work to create more teams like their best. Employees want an organization and team that make them feel like they are a part of something -- a place where they feel valued and understood and can continue to learn and grow through their strengths. Human beings want to contribute and matter. Building a culture of engagement and strengths brings that to life and ultimately results in sustainable high performance.

Get started building a culture of engagement and strengths.


Brian J. Brim, Ed.D., is a Senior Practice Consultant at Gallup.

Jim Asplund is Chief Scientist, Strengths-Based Development at Gallup.

Rachael Smith contributed to this article.

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