How can data help build a strong and growing business?

Fundamentally, any business must have three important things in place in order to be successful. They are:

  1. A business plan
  2. A financial plan
  3. A “people” plan

Of these three fundamentals, the one that is widely overlooked or underutilized is the people plan.

Most businesses build their companies by hiring competencies, often overlooking the Human (“H”) Factor data. The reality is that we must view the full human picture, not just a person’s skill sets. Hiring and developing the right people, who have the appropriate skill sets, are compatible with the corporate culture and will perform their function without stress is not nearly as hard as it may seem.

The heart of the matter is that merely hiring the right people is not enough. They must be kept on the right path, and their abilities maximized for the company to benefit. The following diagram will be used to help us remember the importance of not only hiring the right person but the value in the secondary steps, which must be individualized to help managers and employees attain their potential. Only then will they position themselves to impact corporate productivity, performance and profitability.


America’s most successful companies have found that an investment in data research and analysis yields significant returns. This is a huge advantage afforded large companies over medium and small organizations. Data directs them toward bottom-line results that cannot be obtained any other way to identify, develop and retain clients. Once acquired, the data creates efficiencies and opportunities for growth and development of their business.

The challenge for most organizations is acquiring the right data and applying the gained information in the proper context. What most organizations worldwide have failed to do at this point is to use the same types of research and analysis -- already used on their business and financial plans -- and apply them to the human factor.

We must realize that our job is not just to accumulate data about employees’ abilities, but rather to make sure we are gathering the right data and applying it correctly. In fact, many organizations do not know what they need to know.

Why? Because there is more data out there than they need. There are tens of thousands of validated assessments available for use. You must be astute enough to know which data mining tool will give you the information appropriate for your corporate culture, not just information for a seminar or the personnel file to justify the hire.


Developing Internal Support: Placing an employee on the fast track

Generic Growth Chart The key to approaching this process is to remember that you must lead your employees, not just manage their tasks. Make sure they see you are trying to help them by positioning them where they can learn and grow from others who have knowledge to share.

Remember that employees (in general) are somewhat independent and require personal attention. However, you want to make sure the attention is positive, based on their individual aspirations, and positioned so that they seem to be gaining position and stature as they build stronger industry relationships.

The primary issue you face is building your employees’ capacity. While competence is what most marketing managers must “acquire” in order to meet task demands, it is often within their reach if they knew what to look for in their people, or those from other departments.

If we acquire data and use it properly we get better long-term results. Each person wants the capacity to grow, develop and better themselves through the use of their natural abilities.

So, how do you as a leader and manager identify who and what to develop? We start with the theme established in January. As we learned at that time, jobs are easier to measure than people – they do not carry the “human factor,” and can be broken down into critical job elements and tasks.

If you are trying to build your department, the first step is to perform a work environment study (WES), or benchmark the behaviors and mindsets necessary to perform the tasks of every position in the department. You will want at least 4-5 people providing input.

The second step is to identify future needs that are going to require attention. Complete your studies or benchmarks on those prior to filling the position. Establish what is necessary for success in that position, so there is no doubt what you are looking for.

Once the process is complete, the third step is to take the data you have on your present employees and see how closely aligned they are to the scores needed for the position. If you have someone in the department at a junior level who possesses those attributes, they can be moved into the new position after training a replacement, saving the company money and illustrating capacity development in the process.

If you are solely trying to develop the capacities of each employee in your department you will want to slightly modify the process. You must always start with your work environment studies or job benchmarks to identify the requirements of the present positions. Your new second step will be to take the data and compare it to the profile of the individual performing the task.

You should see a fair amount of similarities. If you do not see similarities, you are possibly having challenges with this employee. In most cases you will see some variances that will provide you with insight as to why they struggle with certain tasks. If you do find this to be the case you have several options:

  1. Move the employee into a position that is more congruent with their behaviors and mindset.
  2. Shift some responsibilities to another employee who has a better ability to handle what will be challenging for this employee. Whatever is divested, can be replaced with other responsibilities.
  3. Institute direction and focus (perhaps a personal developmental plan) on learning the skill sets needed to enhance their present behaviors and mindsets through either internal or external developmental resources.
  4. Provide or be a coach/mentor/peer to assist the individual in acquiring the appropriate mindsets needed for their present responsibilities or future roles.

Developing the synergy and internal support for “fast-tracking” each employee

Building the 4Cs into your department can occur more efficiently than you might believe. Depending on the size of your organization, integration can happen within several weeks to a few months. You may want to have a corporate executive introduce the concept to your team and then you can explain the steps that will be occurring as the process is implemented.

During this communication you want team members to understand the purpose and reasoning behind this new focus – their well-being, growth and development as well as excellence within the department.

This program does not need to be expensive. You may already have the data you need, but just may not be aware of it. Even if you have to spend money, in the long run, you may end up saving the company many times more than the investment. Here is your outline to fast-tracking your department:

  1. Meet with HR and identify any pertinent data gathered during the hiring and developmental processes.
  2. Use your personal files, semi-annual and/or annual review information to complete as many other aspects of the matrix as possible.
  3. Identify psychometric tools that will quantify data that is missing from any or all of the 4Cs. If you cannot afford any investment at all, there are a myriad of free assessments on the Internet that may help. Even if you have no data, some of the best tools available are very reasonably priced at $200-$400.
  4. Assess the accumulated data and with it determine what changes need to be made in departmental or task alignment. Develop your (departmental) strategic plan.
  5. Assess the accumulated data on each employee and determine what path will be appropriate for their management and development. With their help develop a strategic plan for their progress.


Focus on the Data that Brings the Greatest ROI

Let’s use the example of information you can gather to fill in the column on “Assessments and Talent Management” for the rubric on the previous blog. Most companies focus on data that does not bring comparatively strong ROI. If you analyze the information above you will see the first thing a manager needs to know about candidates, is whether or not they match the job description, and if they can bring to you a mentality needed for excellence. While this appears to be somewhat elementary, you can see roughly half of marketing managers are looking for what they need in a employee. When a manager uncovers a good match, he/she will immediately settle the competency questions, and allow themselves their first look into the employee’s character.

As you move down the chart you can see that interest indexes are the second-most effective tools available. A employee’s interests provide a “heads up” to the marketing manager so they can identify possible competencies that the employee may possess. If there is an interest in aligned skills the employee needs to be directed toward learning or mentoring opportunities that will allow them to expand a knowledge base into those areas.

For example, if you have a employee that is very objective, you do not want to focus them on development of creative or conceptual marketing aspects. They are much more suited for research and data analysis. If you do not understand the mental priorities of how employees approach issues, you will never be able to maximize their potential.

The third-most effective aid is an abilities indicator. Most psychometricians believe they will become more widely used in the future as more leaders understand the value in the information they provide. These ability indicators come in two forms – competencies and capacities.

You will find with each that about 23-25 different skill sets can be measured. Competencies, such as problem solving, self-management, resiliency and interpersonal skills, provide information on where the individual has attained certain levels of competence. Both intra-personal and interpersonal skills are measured and graded as follows:

1. Well-developed

2. Developed

3. Moderately developed

4. Needs development

Competency measurement helps you identify current skill levels. Here is an example of how they can be illustrated (collectively) based in the individual’s scores:



Capacities, on the other hand, identify the range of capacity an individual has in a certain area. They illustrate where a person has the aptitude to perform. It is not designed to measure specifically where the person is right now or where they will perform each and every time – it’s just where they have an ability to grow and develop. The most important thing for you to remember is that this tool can alert you to the bright and upcoming stars of the future.

Capacities must be developed, not simply assigned. You must identify how the person learns best and then focus their attention on growth in a manner that will expand the capacities, not confuse them. Capacities are measured and compared to national norms (individually).

The most commonly used tools by companies are personality assessments, which only provide 39% effectiveness according to Personnel Psychology Magazine. They are frequently used by organizations who want to help employees better communicate, and see if they can find something in common with their peers. They are common as part of a training that exposes the department or organization to behavioral-type profiles. The sessions are designed to tell you about yourself, and show you a graphic representation to help you compare yourself to others.

What they normally do NOT do is help you see how the information can be used on a daily basis – there is no application. Organizational leaders have learned that personality profiles can be helpful if used properly, perhaps as a benchmark for specific jobs.

(According to surveys, 80% of employees have completed personality profiles.)