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Decode the Human
David Lahey

The Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness notes that business leaders spend 80% or more of their time communicating. How their messages are interpreted by employees directly impacts employee engagement. Done well, communicating with employees can reinforce a sense of purpose, decrease turnover and increase engagement. But since no two people are alike, is it possible for leaders to individually tailor their messages to motivate each and every person on their team? With the right tools and training, the answer is yes.

David Lahey
Behavioural analytics like those provided by the Predictive Index allow leaders to identify and use specific communication preferences and styles with individual employees and groups. From one-on-one conversations in the hallway, to coaching, to professional development opportunities, this data-driven approach to communication creates a workplace where information and feedback flow freely between employees and managers.

Four keys to behaviour based employee communications

Solicit and provide feedback

Leaders know that top-down approaches don’t foster teamwork. In fact, according to research from Gallup, such approaches can result in nine out of ten employees actively seeking to work elsewhere. To build a positive corporate culture, companies must ensure that every communication channel is a two-way street.

This is the approach taken by Flynn Canada, Canada’s largest contractor for combined roofing, glazing and curtain wall services. Flynn was concerned that their dramatic annual growth rate of 10-15% over the past decade would increase formality and force the organization to adopt a top-down, policy-driven culture that no longer put people first.

Using the Predictive Index from Predictive Success Corporation, Flynn gathers analytic data that helps the management team understand employee needs and motivations. Comprehensive behaviour profiles on each employee help Flynn’s managers identify communication preferences so they can adapt how messages are delivered. And by understanding their own behaviour profiles, employees are more self-aware about their workplace motivations.

Flynn also uses behavioural data for conflict resolution. When employees learn insights about themselves and their co-workers, they gain a fuller understanding of the situation. They can then modify their communication approach to work together more effectively. With both management and employees leveraging behavioural data, Flynn has been able to aggressively expand while preserving their close-knit, high-touch culture. And it’s working. Flynn has consistently been named one of Canada's 50 best-managed companies since 1999.

Clearly communicate corporate objectives

When a workforce doesn’t meet company expectations, it's often because employees are not clear on the corporate direction and objectives. Miscommunication between managers and employees leads to mistrust and errors that can quickly spread across the organization.

In business for almost a century, Stanley Manufacturing understands the value of open and clear communication. Details about deadlines and budgets need to be shared so projects can be completed accurately and on time. By applying behavioural analytics, Stanley Manufacturing’s executive team was able to clearly define the specific role that each employee played in delivering their product to customers. Identifying the employee behaviours required for success at each step of the process helped managers communicate and reinforce exactly what each employee had to do to achieve success for themselves and the entire team. With this clarity of purpose, Stanley Manufacturing reduced miscommunication and errors while experiencing a corresponding increase in productivity.

Inspire continuous improvement

Professional development opportunities tailored to individual employees can quickly turn into a competitive advantage.

Gordon Food Service, North America’s largest privately owned food distribution company, initially implemented a behavioural assessment tool to ensure that they were placing employees in the right roles. Seeing the benefits that human analytics played, the management team decided to also leverage the data to drive professional development throughout the organization. By implementing Predictive Success’ learning indicator assessments and customer focused selling training programs, Gordon Food Service saw sales skyrocket by 13 per cent, the largest leap in sales since before the 2008 recession. Professional development workshops based on behavioural data have also improved engagement levels and cross-organizational communication throughout Gordon Food Service’s seven divisions within Canada.

Encourage collaboration

Leaders that inspire collaboration know how to identify which tasks align best with each individual’s motivating drives and behaviours. Behavioural assessment tools can be used to identify these preferences, including which team members are analytical and which members are relationship-driven. This information helps managers delegate tasks accordingly.

Todd Finlayson, co-owner and operator of one of the fastest growing McDonalds’ franchises in Ontario, needed to hire hundreds of additional staff. The hiring decisions were critical to ensuring the new employees would be a perfect fit for both their job and the collaborative corporate culture with the organization. Behavioural analytics allowed managers to develop job models with the required behaviours and qualities and compare the candidates against these models. They found that the closer they hired to the ideal profile, the greater the success. In fact, the range of performance was 20% to 50% higher when they hired against the profile. Understanding the motivations of the new employees using behavioural analytics also allowed Finlayson and his leadership team to adjust their managerial, motivational and coaching styles to match individual employee needs. This approach resulted in a highly engaged workforce and drove productivity to levels between 17-30% higher than similar franchises.

The Holmes Report notes that the cost of poor communications can be as much as $26,000 per employee in lost productivity. For a mid-to-large sized company with 100 plus employees, this figure could significantly impact the bottom line. The implementation of behavioural analytics tools like the Predictive Index, offered by Predictive Success, define communications throughout the organization. Using the insights presented by this data, managers can provide coaching, encouragement and solicit feedback according to the communication style preferences of each team member. The end result is a culture of continuous communication and a more engaged, harmonious and motivated workforce.

David Lahey, MBA, is the founder and president of Predictive Success Corporation ( and the author of “Predicting Success: Evidence Based Strategies to Hire the Right People and Build the Best Team.” Predictive Success leverages the Predictive Index to optimize organizational development. David can be reached at or 905-430-9788.

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Decode the Human

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