These days, everyone’s talking about what Josh Bersin has dubbed power skills. Power skills, commonly and perhaps incorrectly labeled “soft skills”, focus on the behavioral aspects of a leader and include managerial qualities such as communication, collaboration and problem solving. A good manager must have the technical knowledge required for their job, but they also need the increasingly valuable ability to identify with and inspire their team members.
The challenge, however, is that it is notoriously difficult to measure and quantify power skills, especially in the area of leadership development. With coaches, you can ask your colleagues about their behavior, but only rarely, and these answers are subject to bias. HR and talent development managers want to see a consistent return on these investments, but are forced to rely on qualitative feedback to judge whether development programs and coaching are worth it.
A new generation of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered leadership development products attempts to address these and other challenges with a data-driven approach to coaching managers. These solutions analyze both active feedback from 360° feedback surveys and passive listening cues from workplace communication channels, such as Slack, Google Workspaces, Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams, to identify angles deaths of a manager as well as other coaching opportunities. They provide personalized behavioral insights and recommendations to the manager via nudges and a metric-rich personal dashboard.
The goal is to provide highly relevant coaching in the daily workflow, enabling managers to immediately practice their new skills, track their progress, stay engaged in the coaching process, and deliver faster impact for their team. By developing our own solution, Cultivate by Perceptyx, to understand behavior in the digital workplace, we were able to both measure and quantify changes in power skills.
To capture the magnitude of this improvement, we conducted analyzes examining the impact of simply using our product and nudging managers with targeted email interventions offering guidance on specific behavior that a manager decided to improve. We measured the percentage change between the time of the intervention and the following three months. This analysis included data from more than 2,500 anonymized managers at six different companies.
For some behaviors, we have seen that engagement with the Cultivate product and the resulting increased self-awareness was enough to positively change the behavior. For example, we saw sustained behavioral change over several months in expressions of kindness while giving feedback as well as in the amount of information shared by managers after being asked. (Kindness is defined as positive interactions in one-to-one communications coded by machine learning sentiment analysis.)
Compared to the same behaviors measured before signing up for the solution, we saw about a 20% increase in friendliness and response density (the length and thoroughness of answering questions) across all companies within a month. after the first connection of the managers. In some companies, this increase was as high as 75 percent. Two months after a manager’s first visit to the product dashboard, these behaviors increased further or remained about 20% higher than baseline.
After three months, kindness while giving feedback remained 20% above baseline, but feedback density returned to original levels without further intervention. This suggests that repeated interventions of an AI coaching product may be needed to maintain these results over time, although further research is needed to determine precisely what benefits this will provide.
For more targeted behavior change, we’ve designed an intervention we call an Opportunity Series. An opportunity is triggered when the solution identifies a discrepancy in a manager’s behavior towards their team members. Concretely, if a manager grants much less than average recognition or takes much longer to respond to certain team members, we offer a series of monthly nudges: a series of emails sent at intervals to remind managers of the behaviors they wanted to work on. as well as links to resources, such as
Harvard Business Review, from which they can learn more.
In fact, we saw an overall month-over-month improvement in recognition and response time when users are pushed. Managers across all companies increased their instances of recognition by 8% three months after interacting with an Opportunity Boost. In some companies, this behavior increased by up to 40% after three months. Similarly, responsiveness increased by 10% after three months and up to 50% in some companies. Once we let managers know they could still improve, we see them focus on that behavior, and it remains improved even three months later.
As we develop new tactics to change manager behaviors in the workplace, we will continue to learn and improve these digital interventions while giving users everything they need to ensure that positive behavior change is not a one-time event. Indeed, we are already seeing that some behavioral changes can be sustained for months, eventually becoming entrenched habits in today’s traditional, hybrid, and remote workplaces.
What benefits could an AI-powered coaching solution bring to your organization while helping managers cultivate these essential skills?
- Align the skills of the manager with the objectives. Empower managers to develop the skills that matter with coaching tailored to your unique leadership skills model or other skills gaps identified by a 360-degree feedback survey.
- Show the right next step. Continuously guide managers with highly personalized nudges based on their own behavior and digital signals from calendar, messaging and chat platforms.
- Expand access to coaching and improve return on investment (ROI). Improve human coaching with a scalable and always available solution for every manager.
- Create an engaging culture. Inspire confidence in managers with guided best practices that drive engagement and motivate their teams to do their best.
To learn more, download our free resource, A leader’s guide to intelligent coaching.