Boosting Canada’s Productivity With Workplace Analytics

By David Lahey

The Conference Board of Canada has found that the majority of provinces continue to show weak growth in labour productivity. They also report that the productivity gap between the U.S. and Canada is growing. In addition, figures from Statistics Canada show productivity continuing to drop by a further 0.1% during the first quarter of 2015, proving this is not a passing trend. As a management consultant, these numbers suggest that Canadian leaders are not taking full advantage of their employees’ abilities.

Fine-Tuning the Engine

Employees are the engine of every organization and they are most effective when their natural tendencies and behaviours fit the needs of the job they are performing. Perfecting this equation comes down to clearly defining the role, hiring the right person and then making sure they receive the required coaching to let their natural aptitudes related to their new position flourish.

Behavioural analytics can help managers to create a job description, craft relevant interview questions and measure the candidate against specific behaviours required by the job. Relying on the numbers rather than ‘golden gut’ feelings, enables hiring managers to identify candidates who are truly the best fit for the position. Once on board, employee behavioural data continues to add value by predicting how the employee will react in certain work situations. The data can also be a valuable tool for designing specifically tailored professional development and coaching programs for the individual.

In almost all businesses, the employees who interact with subordinates most regularly are the front line supervisors. Unfortunately, our research shows that they are also the ones who receive the least behaviour analysis training. This perfect storm means that they typically lack the key knowledge required to skillfully manage and coach their employees to success. Without knowing each employee’s individual motivating behaviours, it is impossible to build a team that reaches maximum productivity.

Data Enables 20/20 Vision

Without the benefit of knowing each employee’s key motivating factors, front line supervisors can only manage their teams by intuition. This guesswork typically leads to tasks being assigned for which the employee is not suited, leading to stress, frustration and underperformance. The subsequent low employee engagement becomes a precursor to turnover that is above the industry average and leads to a further deterioration of the workplace culture. Ultimately, this means project delivery or service delays and customer dissatisfaction.

This was the case with Town Shoes, Canada’s largest branded footwear retailer with 200 locations across the country. Experiencing 47% turnover, 26% above the industry average, Town Shoes was starting to suffer from an unhealthy company culture and lack of employee engagement across all their locations. By implementing behavioural analytics from senior management down to the front lines, Town Shoes was able to ensure that staff at all levels were placed in roles that matched their abilities. This resulted in an immediate improvement in engagement and culture and, over the past three years, turnover has decreased to 20%, just below the industry norm.

Knowledge is Power… and Productivity

To lead, it is important for supervisors to understand the answer to one simple question: What unique needs does each employee have? Behavioural analytics answers this question by comparing working style, management style and motivational factors. It also enables leaders to examine the employee’s basic drivers, including their perception of how they should perform at work, versus how they actually perform. Knowing this allows a leader to motivate each member of their team by satisfying their individual needs which leads to much a more productive work environment.

As Big Brothers Big Sisters struggled with staff dispersed over 122 local agencies throughout Canada, they found that many employees were not matched to their positions, making it hard to form a cohesive corporate culture. Facing inefficiencies and slipping morale, Big Brothers Big Sisters found a solution in big data analytics. With behavioural analytics, they were able to define each position within their organization and identify the ideal characteristics that an employee should possess to successfully execute the role. What’s more, Big Brothers Big Sisters has now been able to improve employee engagement by using behavioural data to connect with each team member based on their individual interests. This has resulted in a highly motivated and productive national workforce.

While behavioural analytics can be a remedy for organizations facing human resources issues, many organizations use it as a proactive part of their business strategy. For the City of Toronto’s Chief Information Officer, Rob Meikle, there wasn’t an underlying problem that encouraged the idea of using behavioural data. Rob simply believed that excellent results would be a natural outcome of a high performing team. So he set out to build a team that could provide the highest performance possible, and workplace analytics was the most appropriate catalyst. He selected champions throughout the organization for analytics training and implemented the process for current employees as well as new hires. Since implementation, the City of Toronto has seen some impressive results with increases in customer satisfaction and project delivery rates of six% and 10% respectively. And absenteeism has reached an all-time low.

By adopting and paying attention to workplace analytics, companies can gain insight into employees’ potential, what motivates them, how they prefer to communicate, how they would perform in a specific role and whether they will be a fit with the organization’s culture. By using behavioural analytics to hire employees and tailor training and coaching programs, organizations are able to retain workers over the long term to build a skilled, knowledgeable and engaged staff that outperforms the competition. As more and more companies adopt this approach, it just might be that the Conference Board of Canada’s next productivity study will show an increase in Canada’s labour productivity.

David Lahey, MBA, is president of Predictive Success Corporation (www.predictivesuccess.com) 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 dlahey@predictivesuccess.com or 905-430-9788.

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