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Partnering with a more human resource

Which Way is Up? Ask Compass.

By Jordan Birnbaum, ADP Chief Behavioral Economist, Talent Activation

This is the first in a series of new insights from Compass

Compass is an award-winning development tool that was created by ADP in 2015. Focused on driving positive changes in leadership and collaboration behaviors, the tool has created incredible results, generating 10% improvements in scores as rated by team members and colleagues.

It has since become one of ADP’s fastest-growing new products, with 220 live external clients within a few months.

There are several components that contribute to what makes Compass so great. The application of behavioral economics and design thinking makes using the product simple and enjoyable. The confidential reports help to frame feedback in a manner that encourages managers and collaborators to embrace it instead of opposing it. And the innovation of email-based coaching has proven to be the major differentiator – a sustainable and scalable source of measurable improvement in leaders and collaborators.

But for all those things to work, Compass first has to measure those leadership and collaboration behaviors that actually matter to the experiences of others. In constructing the product, the Compass team has identified more than 75 distinct leadership and collaboration behaviors to measure and coach.

This blog is devoted to those behaviors. Each month, we’ll identify one behavior from the Leadership Assessment, and one behavior from the Collaboration Assessment. We’ll offer an explanation as to why these matter, and what we try to coach around each of these items.

LEADERSHIP – I feel understood when I speak with my manager.

Helping people feel understood is a crucial component to being a great manager. The human brain literally releases different chemicals whether the individual feels understood (pleasant) or doesn’t feel understood (unpleasant). So not surprisingly, this has a huge impact on how people feel at work, and by extension, their levels of engagement with their jobs.

It is important to articulate that helping someone feel understood does not necessarily mean agreeing with them. Managers who understand that distinction have a much easier time in this regard.

To help managers understand how best to accomplish this, they can practice a technique known as “active listening.” Active listening involves repeating back what one has heard and understood, literally providing tangible evidence that a person has been understood. In addition, active listening involves demonstrating concern, asking questions (specific and open ended), and disclosing shared experiences.

But like with many things, the real challenge is not in teaching people what to do, but in encouraging people to care sufficiently.

COLLABORATION – (My colleague) delivers work I can use.

Delivering usable work is probably the most obvious expectation in any collaboration, which explains why the consequences are so significant when that expectation isn’t met. Having to re-do the work of a colleague takes as much of a toll on employee engagement as it does on productivity.

In fact, the Gallup Q121 (the list of the 12 most powerful predictors of employee engagement) includes this statement: My associates (fellow employees) are committed to doing quality work.

The good news is that issues around work quality can often be solved by improving the clarity around expectations. Very specific discussions, frequent check-ins, and unambiguous questions can help collaborators ensure that individual contributions serve the needs of the entire group’s objectives.

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