Build and nurture employees’ natural strengths | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Build and nurture employees’ natural strengths

5 February, 2023

Do you want your team members to think and act like the rest of your team and bring in the same or similar value or do you want them to have what you don’t have so that you have more collective power as a team? Do we consider differences as an asset?

The world is fast paced, consumer tastes keep changing too frequently, competition makes you outdated pretty fast and good employee retention has become more challenging than ever before. Like every human being, each employee is unique and authentic in many ways and when nurtured can offer real business benefits.

We all look for the right “organisational and cultural fit” when hiring new employees; questions are asked to ascertain and affirm that the new employees can jell well with the existing employees for harmony. Does accepting and encouraging authenticity help the business?

Living with conventional wisdom, Sri Lankan businesses rarely have promoted or invested in employee authenticity as a major competitive advantage, a value-creating factor and driver of growth in the dynamic field of business. Modern global management thinking has tested and concluded that it is a crucial asset worth building, hence widely practiced.

Much of our mental energy, our ideas, our passions, our physical effort and our time are deployed at work. The work we do goes some way to describing who we are, what we stand for. The very same innovation and creativity we preach all the time can get stifled when authenticity is discouraged.

Most of us engage in self-presentation in the workplace at least occasionally. We actively manage our behaviour, emotions, or the way we are perceived by coworkers and bosses. We do it for a variety of reasons: Some people feel they cannot freely express emotions at work, others believe they cannot share their sense of humour, and still others feel they must “have it all together” or risk hurting their reputation or credibility.

Be authentic at work

Think of authenticity as the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit or character, despite external pressure, enforced or shaped by the legacy practices of the co-workers.

People are themselves at work as they are in their private life. They recognise who they are, without pretending to be something different, without wearing a mask to make themselves more palatable to others, and without suppressing their own important styles and values.

They bring the whole self to work ‘every day’ within which the ‘best of each individual’ comes out. The prize that this offers at an individual level is significant. It includes greater levels of engagement, well-being, productivity, and commitment.

People have high levels of motivation by applying their own thoughts and experience to the task in hand. They take pride in the work they do and leverage their particular strengths to the job. They also learn much more due to a deeper personal application.

Do your employees believe that being genuine creates stronger and better relationships with customers and coworkers because of a greater understanding of one another and higher level of trust?

Leadership commitment to authenticity

Although employee authenticity boosts productivity and creates a positive work environment, it is equally important that leaders welcome authenticity from their employees. Creating an open-minded and accepting environment in which differences in perspective and opinions are encouraged to set the foundation for an authentic workplace.

Employees should be encouraged to express themselves and not simply follow the crowd, because differences in viewpoints often lead to innovative, novel solutions.

Creating a workplace that is inclusive of diverse employees is highly dependent upon a leaders’ behaviour. Inclusive leaders must model comfort with diversity, alter rules for acceptable behaviour to ensure wide application, create opportunities for dialogue about and across differences, demonstrate an interest in learning and be authentic about their own challenges and triumphs to encourage authenticity in others to ensure that employees feel a sense of group acceptance and value for their individual uniqueness.

In essence, employees who feel included are more likely to experience greater self-worth. Where there is greater authenticity organisations will adapt more quickly and much more effectively to the volatile circumstances of the operating environment. This is a ‘win-win’ that is worth fighting for and investing in to build competitive advantage.

While differences between people can stimulate progress and innovation, large discrepancies or non-value creating behaviors have to be managed to really benefit from the concept of authentic employee.