A “sense of belonging” holds greater significance in the workplace as a rising number of organizations acknowledge the correlation of hiring practices, corporate culture, leadership and profit. The greater challenge is to discern the right combination of resources to build and develop a vibrant workforce that drives exponential growth.
Leaders are gradually discovering the value of behavioral analytics as a core competency for creating inclusive and highly productive work environments that attract and retain top talent. Professional communicators who incorporate these tools as a skillset can improve effectiveness when working across cultures, departments and amidst a diverse field of personalities. How better to know and support your internal audience than to understand what drives them, as well as yourself?
Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Lindsay Perez, Ph.D., is an industrial and organizational (I/O) psychologist specializing in employee workplace behavior. “Organizations need help sooner than when they finally call for our help,” she explains. By the time they reach out, most are experiencing high turnover, struggling with succession planning or their business model just isn’t working. “They don’t look to us when everything is going well,” she laughs.
As organizations discover I/O psychologists, many hire them for assistance with training and development. But the scope of an I/O psychologist also includes assessing and providing tools to improve hiring practices, leadership, business planning, culture, change management, team building, conflict resolution and communication.
Although human resource (HR) departments address many of these areas, I/O psychologists take a deeper dive, such as teaching organizations how to apply emotional intelligence and behavioral analytics. “We’re not just a mediator or a safe person to talk to. We diagnose and solve problems through practical applications,” Dr. Perez explains. “When you go to the doctor and say, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong, I just don’t feel well,’ the doctor asks a lot of questions, makes a diagnosis and gives you a treatment plan. I’m kind of like a doctor for organizations.”
An 'Army Brat' Perspective
Mike McCloskey is the oldest of three kids. His father served in the Army, moving with each new assignment as military families often do. McCloskey and his siblings learned early and often what it felt like to be the new kid at school. “I felt disconnected to any sense of team or belonging,” McCloskey shares.
Although his father loved his work among the ranks of military leadership, McCloskey recalls that his dad “didn’t really like the other leaders.” McCloskey also realized that to make new friends, he would have to make the first move to forge new bonds. Most of the kids he encountered didn’t have the confidence or desire to welcome him into their established groups.
McCloskey’s experience growing up in a military family stimulated his empathy for “new kids” as he progressed through his career. He was particularly interested in how leaders lead and how organizations select and integrate new hires. “It started with how people treated me when I changed schools. Being an Army brat helped me understand how new hires feel,” McCloskey says.
While attending college, McCloskey worked as the director of learning for a company with a workforce of 60,000, spanning from Chicago to Honolulu. “My biggest frustration was that the people leading had all the book smarts in the world, but their classroom-based training was hypothetical. Unless they worked their way up, many could not relate to their employees’ experiences. They had no clue about how to coach or interact with people."
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The Difference Maker
McCloskey’s work and training focused on teaching emotional intelligence and leadership competencies, earning him a fast-paced promotion to vice president of operations. Many he once reported to now reported to him.
What did McCloskey have that launched him to the front of the leadership line? A deep-set interest in everyone working with, for and around him. "Many get excited from bottom-line results," he explains. "I get excited watching personal growth because I know the by-product of that is bottom line results."
McCloskey is now the founder and CEO of HumanLytics, a consulting agency that offers executive coaching and provides tools and training that empower organizations to accurately assess individual strengths. They match those strengths to jobs, teams and projects to produce faster, better, more cost-effective results.
Under McCloskey’s coaching model, employees are set up for success at the point of hire. People managers become better leaders. Teams become highly collaborative, valuing diverse skill sets and perspectives while rowing in the same direction. Organizations benefit by recruiting the right talent faster, reducing or eliminating time wasted on workplace drama and significantly higher profit margins, resulting from a highly functioning, well-matched team managed by strong leaders who produce future leaders.
The obvious next question is: given the significant investment in human resources, why do so few organizations invest in the right hiring and training tools on the front end, only to spend a mind-boggling percent of their budget to correct bad hires, missed goals, high employee turnover and other avoidable consequences? And why do so many leaders refuse to invest in the next generation of leaders by developing their teams?
“Many leaders don’t understand the cost of a bad hire by not having these resources in place,” Dr. Perez says. “For an executive-level position, you could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
McCloskey adds, “We put so much time and resources into hiring people but don’t remove obstacles for them to succeed at the job they were hired to do.” His work with HumanLytics offers one case study after another about the benefits of organizations that invest in finding and developing the right talent for the job.
I/O psychologists work with executives and HR departments to assess and improve workplace challenges to reduce turnover, improve employee satisfaction and increase productivity. Much of their focus, according to Dr. Perez, is on improving communication in all directions.
As master-trained Predictive Index (PI) analysts, both Dr. Perez and McCloskey use PI to measure individual behavioral drives. This multi-layered assessment tool predicts the likely success of job candidates based on four inherent drive factors. Using specific data points, it also can show whether current employees are in a role that capitalizes on their strengths or if there's another position that might be a better match. Additionally, leaders can learn how to avoid and resolve conflict and build highly functional teams using PI data. Employees at all levels learn to understand how others are "wired" and how to adapt their communication styles to collaborate more effectively.
“The tool is essential in communications,” Dr. Perez says. “I pair it with emotional intelligence training, making sure people have an understanding of both. Just knowing someone doesn’t mean you communicate well with them.”
Dr. Perez explains that what sets Predictive Index apart from others such as Meyers-Briggs, DiSC or The Kolbe Index is that Predictive Index is EEOC-compliant and can therefore be used for hiring with hundreds of validity studies to back it. It’s a tool companies can use to leverage employee strengths, build a diverse and inclusive culture and provide employees with a clear understanding of how they contribute to the collective success of their organization while respecting inherent differences.
“There’s a black-and-white price tag for PI, but not for a bad hire or a dysfunctional culture,” Dr. Perez says. “Knowing one another’s PI can make all the difference in the world.”
Tara Mogan Blom, MMC, ABC
A strategic communications consultant, Tara Mogan Blom is CEO and founder of DGA Communications and a master-certified Predictive Index facilitator. She is an active and accredited member of IABC, serving as vice president of communications for IABC DC Metro.