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How tech giant Cisco encourages engagement by allowing employees to play to their strengths

The challenge of employee engagement is persistent across a wide variety of workplace situations, whether enterprise leaders are contending with layoffs, hiring freezes, or workforce expansion. Employees who don’t feel connected to each other and their work can sour the workplace experience, stifling productivity and inhibiting well-being efforts for themselves and their colleagues.

Tech giant Cisco takes a strength-based approach to addressing the challenge of employee engagement. Simplistically, leaders within a strength-based organization look for and encourage greatness among employees rather than focus on and address employees’ weaknesses. As Roxanne Bisby Davis, Cisco’s senior director of People Research and Intelligence, noted during a a recent Metrigy podcast, this flips traditional emphasis from low performance to high performance.

For business leaders, a strength-based approach starts with taking the time to understand not just what an employee is good at, but what they actually like to do. Unfortunately, these two are often conflated within the workplace, even though each can lead an individual to a very different sentiment about their experience and willingness to engage at work. Continuously asking someone to undertake tasks that they’re good at but don’t enjoy doing will likely result in fatigue and disenfranchisement. Conversely, homing in on what excites an employee will energize that individual and make them want to expend discretionary effort on the task, Bisby Davis says.

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