How to Maximize Human Capital ROI

WRITTEN August 27, 2015 Author: Rich Atkins

Appeared in HR Professionals Magazine | April 2012
by Richard J. Atkins
HR Professionals Magazine

What’s Good For the Goose (Is Not Always Good For the Gander)

Most leaders in industry have realized that employees are productive in different ways. Some work better in the morning, whereas others “come to life” at other times during the day. There are those who achieve best when they’re given very clear-cut direction, yet the opposite perception may see this as “micro-managing.” The questions about different productivity styles can go on – to achieve maximum productivity, does this person need authority present or nearby? Is a team setting right, or would working alone be better? These two employees disagree about bright and low light – which is better for them?  How can the Human Capital ROI be maximized?

productivity in the workplace“Clearly, my staff members prefer different things that make them more productive. How can I find out more?”

According to research, how we learn and are productive is 65% biological and 35% behavior-based. Basically, our unique productivity styles are very much ‘hard-wired’. If we can understand how individuals and groups produce, then companies and managers can adjust their strategic approach to maximize productivity and learning.

Productivity Styles

In April, one of the Arkansas SHRM State Conference’s strategic presentations, by Dr. Richard Atkins of Improving Communications in New York, offered a wealth of information about what employees need to be (more) productive. He talked about individual organizational productivity styles – how we work as well as how we process, absorb and retain new and different information. Attendees of the session were able to gain awareness of Learning & Productivity Styles as a vehicle for maximizing on-the-job performance. Also, they discovered ways to identify and capitalize on diversity of styles (complementary and opposing). This leads to understanding the BE Assessment as a tool for increasing productivity.

Atkins ensures that each participant in the Improving Communications Leadership & Management Development training completes the Building Excellence Profile. BE is a web-based online learning-style assessment for people in business. It identifies elements that may affect, positively or negatively, how each individual achieves and performs in work-based learning environments. These variables affect the way in which individuals concentrate, make decisions, solve problems, process information, approach and complete tasks, retain new and complex information, develop new skills, and interact with others.

Results, Results, Results

Using the Building Excellence Profile allows leaders and staff to understand themselves better, and develop a greater appreciation for the learning/productivity diversity within the organization. BE gives a comprehensive picture of unique learning/productivity strengths and preferences. This knowledge is used to develop individualized solutions and concrete action plans to improve learning and performance.

The BE Survey results in a comprehensive Learning and Productivity Style (LPS) Profile. From it, respondents get invaluable insights about their learning strengths and productivity preferences useful in developing individualized solutions and concrete action plans to improve learning and performance. By using the BE for companies and teams, staff and leaders develop new ways to embrace learning as a lifelong endeavor, assess individual learning needs, respectfully advocate for learning and productivity preferences, develop self-leadership skills, and become accountable and responsible.

The Building Excellence Survey, based on the Dunn & Dunn Learning Styles Mode, covers 28 variables within 6 categories:

  • Perceptual Elements—how we learn and retain new knowledge (auditory, visual, tactile and/or kinesthetic, and verbal).
  • Psychological Elements—how we process new information and for making decisions/solving problems (analytic/global, reflective/impulsive).
  • Environmental Elements—how the work environment contributes to or detracts from productivity (sound or quiet, bright or low light, warm or cool temperature, informal or formal seating).
  • Physiological Elements—how we remain energized and stay alert at work (time of day, intake, and mobility).
  • Emotional Elements—how quickly we complete challenging and complex tasks(internal or external motivation, single or multiple task persistence, more or less conformity, and more or less structure).
  • Sociological Elements—how we prefer to work and interact effectively with others(alone/pair/ small or large group, more or less authority, more or less variety).

Reports can show individual results and recommended strategies, and individual results can also be combined into a group report.

Focus on any one of these elements (especially one that you felt strongly about when you saw it above). When you are working, and that element is accommodated, according to your productivity style, it means that you will get more done! What would happen if many of these elements are accommodated? It always means greater productivity and getting more done. To see how these variables are applicable to typical workplace scenarios is quite easy actually.

Example #1 – Perceptual Elements

It’s easy to think about people at work who, when sent an email about a procedure to be followed, underperform. That same employee, however, when offered the opportunity to learn about something in a hands-on training session, may internalize the information much more. Are we dealing with someone who is auditory, or even tactile or kinesthetic? Certainly, delivering information in writing is not the way to go. Remember, that this is one individual. Her/his colleagues will have different strengths.

Example #2 – Psychological Elements

There are analytic processors, and there are global processors. A global wants to see the big picture first. From that s/he will determine the right steps to get to the result. On the other hand, an analytic will want to know all the steps first. That person will want guidelines and directions. (We all know people like these, don’t we?) Failure to understand style can lead to tremendous consequences for both of these types. For instance, if a global manager gives the analytic junior a big-picture concept and says “Just get us there,” the perception of “He doesn’t care” can be assumed. Conversely, the analytic manager who provides all the steps for work to be completed can be perceived as the micro-manager.

Example #3 – Environmental Elements

“To work well, I need low light, no music or background sound, and an easy chair leaned back as far as possible.” For some people at work, this would be a deal-breaker. Different people need specific elements present in their environments to get the most out of their work day. Whether it’s a formal work setting (like a desk and chair, instead of a couch), bright light, or silence, these factors have a quantifiable (and research-supported) effect on employee productivity.

Example #4 – Physiological Elements

Your finance manger is a morning person. Therefore, all her staff are morning people as well, right? Not necessarily. People are productive at different times of the day. Maybe they snack while working. Maybe they don’t. Most of us have seen the person who, while on a call, needs to be walking around the office when speaking on that phone. That one requires mobility when doing something challenging. The need for intake or mobility differs from person to person and will affect how productive s/he is.

Example #5 – Emotional Elements

What motivates us to work, and work harder – is it ourselves, or is it encouragement from an outsider? Certainly, this will impact how much a junior accomplishes. When staff members work, they complete projects with or without taking breaks – and this depends on their preference. They may work on many things over a period of time, or simply concentrate on one thing until it is completed and then move on to the next item. Most of us can easily identify the “non-conformist” in the office. His opposite is the rule-follower. Both types are beneficial to a work environment.

Example #6 – Sociological Elements

When it comes to work, would we rather work alone or in a group? Does it help or hurt to have authority figures present? Do I want variety in my work, or predictability? None of these preferences is better than another. It’s just the way people are productive.

Implications For the Workplace

Employees that understand their own productivity style stand a much better chance of being sympathetic to those who have opposing styles. In a very real sense, it’s very much like a diversity training. Staff members understand that they have one way of doing things, while others do things differently. Neither is “bad,” it’s just the way different people accomplish things.

As far as using the Building Excellence profile as a staff efficiency tool, it is priceless. Assembling teams, pairing employees, scheduling, determining appropriate work assignments, and even determining what employees are and are not allowed to do during the workday, based on their individual productivity preferences, will go a long way in ensuring that your staff is doing their best, and enjoying their work – and most of all, maximizing your human capital ROI.


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