The case can quickly be made for the significance of signature strengths from not only the science that has emerged over the last couple decades but also from the perspective of the problem of chronic disengagement across organizations, relationships, and individuals.
Here’s a snapshot of both.
Disengagement of individuals – A lack of flourishing. Research has found that less than 25% of the US population is flourishing (Keyes, 2003), and similar results are found in other countries such as New Zealand, (Hone, Jarden, Duncan, & Schofield, 2015). This means that people are not functioning with a high level of well-being, socially and psychologically.
Support for strengths.
One study found that those people who use their strengths a lot are 18 times more likely to be flourishing than those who do not use their strengths (Hone et al., 2015). Each of the core elements of flourishing – positive emotions, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and achievement (Seligman, 2011) – are significantly linked with character strengths
Disengagement of individuals – A general unawareness of strengths. Survey research has shown that two-thirds of people are unaware of their strengths (Linley, 2008). Thus, if people don’t know who they are and what they’re capable of, how can they be expected to perform well on the job or in life?
Support for strengths. A representative sample of New Zealand workers found that those who were highly aware of their strengths were nine times more likely to be flourishing than those who were unaware (Hone et al., 2015).
Disengagement of couples – Relationships are suffering, with high divorce rates for new marriages. Support for strengths. Research is mounting not only for the value of appreciation but, in particular, for strengths appreciation. In studies of couples, those who report that their partner both recognizes and appreciates their signature strengths have higher relationship satisfaction, are more committed to the relationship, and report their basic needs are getting met (Kashdan et al., 2017).
Several studies draw connections between character strengths and relationship health (e.g., Lavy, Littman-Ovadia, & Bareli, 2014a, 2014b).
Disengagement of employees. Worker disengagement rates are above 70% according to the Gallup Organization, and there is a misalignment between character strengths required of individuals and character strengths that come naturally to them (Money, Hillenbrand, & Camara, 2008).
Support for strengths. Signature strengths use is connected with work engagement, productivity, work satisfaction, and work-as-a-calling (e.g., Harzer & Ruch, 2015, 2016; Lavy & Littman-Ovadia, 2016; Littman-Ovadia & Davidovitch, 2010). A 3-year analysis of employee engagement found that signature strengths were one of the most crucial drivers (Crabb, 2011). The Gallup Organization has found that employees who have the opportunity to use their strengths are six times more likely to be engaged in their work (Sorenson, 2014).
Disengagement appears to be remarkably high across the many domains of our life. This calls for new action. Signature strengths are emerging across domains as not only an important source of engagement but also as a central pathway.