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Despite an ever-increasing skills gap leading American companies to report they can't find skilled employees, a majority of Americans say they aren't using their talents at work. In fact, 57 percent of people recently surveyed said they use their strengths for just six hours or fewer a day.
A change in that dynamic could not only help solve the jobs problem, but could help improve workers' work-life balance, researchers say. The research, conducted by Gallup, defines strengths as an activity which people can perform consistently at a high level. Women said they used their strengths more than men throughout the day (7.1 hours a day). Men, on the other hand, used their strengths for just 6.6 hours a day. Just 24 percent of people overall said that they used their strengths for more than 10 hours a day.
"The majority of Americans do not maximize their strengths on a daily basis, suggesting a possible avenue for improvement in important life and work outcomes," the Gallup poll said. "This opportunity is even greater among those in the least-educated and lowest-income households. It is possible that these individuals will be better positioned for success upon learning, understanding and using their strengths, relative to where they currently stand."
Income also played a role in the amount of time that people that people used their strengths. Individuals with an annual income of $24,000 reported using their strengths for 5.8 hours a day while higher-earning individuals averaged 6.7 to 7 hours a day.
"It is also possible that those with higher incomes and education have achieved these outcomes in part because they better leveraged their strengths over time," the Gallup poll said. "Considering the value — in terms of well-being and productivity — that using one's strengths creates, if more Americans learn about their own strengths and put them to use, it could create a positive economic impact in the U.S. for businesses, communities and individuals."
That impact is seen in workers who exhibited higher self-confidence, hope, altruism and overall well-being. Additionally, the research found that workers were also more likely to be engaged in their work, perform at a higher level and less likely to leave an organization when they were using their strengths at work. That provides companies with a big opportunity to keep their employees happy by setting them up to use their strengths at work.
"Business units whose employees receive feedback on their strengths are, on average, higher-performing. And managers who receive feedback on their strengths have employees who are more engaged, profitable and productive," the Gallup poll said.
The research was based on the responses of 5,049 adults in a telephone interviews.