director analyzes people data at work

3 ways to put people data to good use

January 13, 2016

3 ways to put people data to good use

By Matt Poepsel PhD January 13, 2016

Valuable people data is all around us—it’s up to us to put it to good use.

It was about this time last year that I purchased a high tech fitness tracker. I was immediately awash in a steady stream of health data ranging from how many steps I had taken to calories burned to heart rate zones. Olympic athletes of yesteryear had far less insight into how their bodies perform. I finally had all of the information I’d need to reclaim the Adonis-like physique of my distant youth.

Sadly, my master plan hit two major snags.

The first snag happened when I caved and bought my ultra-competitive bride a matching device. (Hell has no fury like a woman who is determined to crush you no matter what it takes.)

The second snag was even more nefarious: I never put all of that great data to good use. It was there the whole time, but I neglected to press it into action. It was a major missed opportunity.

Businesses have a treasure trove of people data.

Thankfully, your business success relies less on what I ate for breakfast and more on what I call your people data. This treasure trove can include information gleaned from pre-hire candidate interviews, employee satisfaction ratings, culture surveys of your organization at large, and more.

As a performance psychologist, one of my go-to sources of information is the beloved personality assessment. Instruments like the Predictive Index measure an individual’s drives and needs in a way that helps me predict workplace behavior, develop coaching plans, and counsel others in team situations. Let’s see your activity tracker do that.

It seems that I’m not alone. The use of personality assessments in pre-hire situations is at an all-time high. If you’re already using behavioral assessments at your organization, you’re able to prioritize candidates by determining their relative fit to the work you’ll be asking them to do. Look at you go!

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But there’s a catch.

I’ve found that while pre-hire personality assessments are getting more common, too many companies aren’t using that people data much—if at all—after the hiring decision is made.

When new hires show up for their first day of work, has valuable people data about their behavioral drives and needs been shared with their direct manager? Has that people data been used to personalize their onboarding process? Will the data be used to help them gel with their new team?

You have perfectly good people data. Now you just need to put it to good use.

3 ways to put your workplace people data to use

In keeping with the fitness theme, here are three exercises you can use to put your people data to great use:

1. Improve communication.

Some people are naturally extroverted and very socially-driven. They enjoy interacting with others and opportunities to be persuasive. As a manager, even if I’m not similarly inclined, I want to make sure I provide these team members copious amounts of face time and not rely solely on email and other less personal modes of communication. I also want to give them opportunities to talk things out aloud. For my less extroverted team members, I’ll take a very different approach. Knowing my people data helps me tailor my communication style to what each person needs most from me as his or her manager.

2. Right-size decision making.

Say I have a team member whose innate drive creates a need to avoid making mistakes. He will really want to understand my expectations and the right way to get something done. As his manager, I want to put an emphasis on structure, process, and systems. When I need him to make a decision, how do you think he will approach it? In this case, my people data tells me that I can expect a thorough and deliberate process rather than something more off-the-cuff. If I force him to quickly make a decision with very little information, his experience – and the outcome – will be very different than it would be for someone who is more naturally venturesome and comfortable taking risks.

3. Resolve conflicts.

As a manager, I may have several different personalities on my team. When a team performs a lot of cross-functional work together, it’s not uncommon for two people to experience challenges when working together. Each person may be very successful in their own right, but they may still find themselves at odds in some ways on a given project.

It’s helpful for me to understand each employee’s personality and how those innate behavioral drives play out as observable workplace behaviors. Often, a given person’s own natural behavioral style may inadvertently be causing challenges for the other team member. For example, I may have a proactive and dynamic team individual who likes rapid change coupled with another team member who’s more steady and consistent. The team’s overall performance may need both traits in their respective roles, so having insight into each personality allows me to diagnose and coach them relative to each person’s natural style. People data helps me help them meet in the middle while recognizing the value they each bring to our team.

These are just a few examples of how the people data you likely already have can really help you to transform your workplace.

employees using people data in workplace

This same people data that I gathered before bringing team members onto my team continues to help me well after they’ve shown up for their first day. I’m sure you have other powerful examples and applications, and I invite you to share these in the comments section below!

By using the data you already have to help guide interactions among your entire team, how you encourage them, and how you coach them, you’ll be more successful in unlocking potential—theirs and yours—that would otherwise be wasted.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get in a few more laps around my desk before I head home.

Experience PI for yourself.

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