During the 2008 Great Recession, the mentality of "do more with less" became all too familiar. It was the mission and mantra of almost every employer out there – and the key to even staying in business. Unfortunately, as the recession began to recede, this way of running a company did not follow suit. And, in response to an unstable market and increased government regulations, doing more with less seems to be gaining an even greater foothold.

What’s an Employer to Do?

Whether it’s due to health care changes, wage worries, lack of skilled workers, or a multitude of other reasons, the reality is that businesses still have to do more with less. That’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either. Rather than focusing on reductions and doing without, one solution is for businesses to take advantage of what they already have. By maximizing current employees and utilizing them to their full potential, businesses can grow without increasing their size. Recognize your employees when they do an outstanding job and you’ll likely see an increase in not only retention, but engagement and overall job satisfaction from your team.

Capitalize on Strengths

There is no perfect employee – everyone has his or her own unique strengths and weaknesses. So which one should your business’ leadership focus on? According to Gallup Business Journal, “building employees’ strengths is a far more effective approach to improving performance than trying to improve weaknesses.” By shifting the focus onto what each employee does well and then assigning tasks and projects accordingly, a business can greatly increase its chances of success. In fact, Gallup revealed that “people who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job.” And their Gallup’s of research have shown that more engaged workers also perform better and are less likely to leave, which in turn means more profits and higher quality work for the employer.

Empower The Passions

There is more to an individual than just that person’s strengths. While there may be several strengths an employee has, they also have passions that can positively impact your long term success. Those passions are what employers need to tap into. Specifically, Harvard Business Review recommends giving employees some freedom in choosing their projects and tasks. There are certainly limitations to this, but the journal found that because employees will usually choose what they are interested in doing, they have a higher chance of success. Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Report echoed the same sentiment, saying that the most highly engaged, successful organizations “get the most from their employees by tapping into their passion, potential, and discretionary efforts.” Google’s 20% rule is a perfect example. Employees are allowed to put 20% of their time and efforts into “passion projects.” And, reportedly, those result in half of all Google’s new projects. Passionate employees are the root of an innovative company.

Respect The Limits

Understand, however, that maximizing your employees potential does not mean working them to death. Research from Gallup has shown that “those who use their strengths for 10 hours or more each day are more likely to say they have enough energy to get things done.” And, Inc. Magazine reported that there are short-term benefits for brief, infrequent bursts of overtime. But that must also be balanced with other realities. The article from Inc. went on to say that consistently clocking more than 40 hours per week results in unproductive, tired employees, and the increased hours worked is not equivalent to an increase in production.

Employees are a business’ single greatest asset. They are also often the least utilized, which makes them the most likely solution for the “do more with less” conundrum. Every business owner wants to see their company succeed. And in today’s business world, that means maximizing what you already have, by recognizing and capitalizing on the strengths of your people, while providing them the opportunity to become leaders and be creative.

Alyssa Chumbley is vice president of Express Employment Professionals.

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