Decoding to Improve Performance

Let us ask you a deceptively simple question: What if you understood your people better than you understand your customers?

What if you learned to decode the real story embedded in the data trail that follows your people and every project they work on? What if you put its messages to use—not to get the better of your talent but to get the best from them, to make their jobs better and to improve the performance of the whole organization?

The answer, it turns out, is radically transformative.

Answering it is something we’ve been working on at Klick for nearly 17 years. It’s the secret to our success. What is the key to a sustainable competitive advantage? Become a decoded company: Talent centric, data driven, flexible and fast.

As consumers we intuitively understand the benefits of being decoded. Amazon shows us things we’re interested in. Facebook curates our individual newsfeeds. Spotify and Netflix use learning algorithms to customize our experience. At home, we choose companies that have figured out how to personalize our news, shopping, entertainment, travel and learning needs.

At most workplaces, it’s still one-size-fits-all policies, processes and tools. But some companies such as Google, Starbucks and Whole Foods have turned their algorithms inward to decode their talent and lead their industries. We’ve distilled what these companies are doing into three decoded principles. You can put these same principals to work for your company:

1. Technology as a coach and trainer: Transform your existing technology into a coach that brings out the best in your people rather than a referee that just yells “offside.” The technologies that power Amazon, Netflix, Google and eHarmony can be used to engage, motivate and train your people. We’re all aware of the benefits of personalization for customers in marketing and product design. The same is true for your people.

2. Data as a sixth sense: UPS, 37signals, Bank of America and Whole Foods give their people decision-making superpowers by pairing instincts with analytics to gain a perspective that’s grounded in data but tempered by experience. You’re already collecting all the data you need to roll out early warning systems to your people. Empower them with your data and watch mistakes dwindle.

3. Engineered ecosystems: Culture brought feedback to Salesforce.com, poured the heart into Starbucks’s rebirth, and drove Valve’s incredible $3 billion in revenue. Ecosystems outperform and are more flexible than hierarchies. Ecosystems require an intensive and intentional commitment to culture to thrive.

The technologies and methods these decoded companies use are available to every manager in any size organization. They can be used to personalize each employee’s experience, increase emotional engagement, speed up mastery of new skills and maximize your entire team’s potential.

It’s all in the data. A movement is already underway. The barriers to becoming decoded are very low, and the reward and satisfaction are significant.

Over the next few months we’ll dive into the decoded principles in this column in more detail, with examples that you can put into practice with your teams. As always, if you have questions or comments, please reach out to us directly.

  • Leerom Segal

    Leerom Segal is a pioneer of the “Decoded” movement and CEO of Klick, a $100M company with an award-winning culture that puts employees first and uses technology and data to fuel its 30% annual growth. He is also co-author of "The Decoded Company" and a winner of the “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” award from Ernst and Young.

    • Jay Goldman

      Jay Goldman is a Managing Director at Klick Health and leads Kick’s Sensei Labs team in addition to heading the company’s Innovation group. He is a co-author of the New York Times bestseller “The Decoded Company” and has been published in the “Harvard Business Review.”

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