Dr Andy Brown is the Co-founder and CEO of ENGAGE, a boutique research and consulting firm which helps organisations perform better by supporting them in the creation and leadership of an engaged workforce.
ENGAGE works with large FTSE 100s and global brands, right through to smaller, investor-based, fast-growth start-ups. Every organisation, no matter their size, industry or background has a unique set of challenges and opportunities, and ENGAGE works to put people at the centre of addressing these to achieve strategic objectives.
Understanding the role of people in an organisation’s success has always been Andy’s focus. Before founding ENGAGE, he held positions as Head of Research at Gallup, Global Practice Leader at Manpower’s strategic consulting division and a Partner at Mercer Consulting. Andy spoke with us at CEO Today about the upcoming world of business, leadership, and what companies can do to prepare for a data-centric and technological future.
What do you think will be critical for the future success of businesses?
Businesses are operating in a constantly changing, ever more competitive world against a backdrop of fast-paced digital transformation. To perform at their best in the future, organisations will need to have two critical elements in place: clear leadership, where leaders can communicate corporate goals and bring people with them to achieve those goals; and engaged employees, who buy in to the corporate vision and want to fulfil their role in achieving that.
This requires a carefully-balanced approach to leadership effectiveness and engagement strategy. Our experience shows that implementing a bespoke blend of agile listening, integrated analytics, insight and improvement creates better connections between leaders, employees and customers at every level.
Underpinning all of this is smart data: tailored, firm-specific 360s, hand-chosen psychometric assessments and in-depth qualitative insights.
It’s no longer enough to implement generic coaching or development programmes – businesses need clear measurement and fact-driven action if they’re to outperform their competition.
We’re already beginning to see a much more focused, data-driven approach to leadership within organisations, where assessment of leadership strengths, risks and decision-making is based on clear insight from structured, smart research.
What will companies need to do to leverage data-driven leadership?
Organisations have become hugely data-driven around their finances and operations, and, more recently, around their customers. Data is real-time and sophisticated. For example, they can now segment their customers down to the nth degree and engage with them in a tailored way accordingly to optimise revenue.
Businesses are now starting to do the same with their broad employee base, learning more from their people metrics to maximise engagement and drive performance.
However, when it comes to leadership, too many decisions are still based on ‘gut feel’ and assumptions rather than on smart data. Data-driven leadership changes this by:
Measuring leadership effectiveness
Organisations need to become more systematic about assessing their leadership capability, creating a ‘forensic kit’ of leadership data. We believe it’s the combination of data sources and the use of tailored assessments which makes the difference here, ensuring leadership data is much more predictive of hard business outcomes.
Building bespoke leadership blueprints
Our approach uses specific data analysis techniques that help to create a tailored ‘blueprint’ for each leader and for the leadership team as a whole, defining a clear path of action and measurement milestones.
Integrating leadership data with organisational outcomes
Companies need to connect their data on leadership to other hard business outcome metrics to assess where they are getting real leadership ROI. This includes people metrics (retention of top talent), customer data (client spend or customer NPS scores) and financial metrics (such as revenue or profit growth).
What’s the evidence that this data-driven approach to leadership can help firms to succeed in the future?
We’re one of the few leadership and engagement consultancies to take this approach, but our own experience has already delivered strong evidence about the ROI of data-driven leadership.
Just one example is our ongoing work with a global financial technology organisation, which has seen senior leadership approval ratings rise by 25%, while qualitative 360° feedback has shown rapid improvement.
As a result, employee engagement levels in the firm have risen by over a third (38%) and talent retention has improved amongst high potentials. Succession planning processes at the senior level in the firm have also improved significantly. Over the time we’ve worked with the client, the firm’s stock price has risen from around $30 to $180 per share.
We have many similar stories – and we’re beginning to see a much greater interest in the concept of data-driven leadership as organisations understand more clearly the critical role that a combined, analytical approach to leadership and engagement will play in their long-term success.
Dr Andy Brown