Part Art, Part Science: Recognising the SQN Way

Although we are not in the human capital space to earn recognition, it is always an honour when industry leaders acknowledge the innovation that governs our approach.

In their new book on optimal human capital performance and waste reduction, Bain business writers Michael Mankins and Eric Garton explore The SQN Way in detail, citing it as a start up with a smart approach to data.

Here is an extract from Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Teams Productive Power.

A number of startups have created innovations in the field of developing behavioral signatures. London-based Sinequanon, for example, has developed well-tested techniques for helping companies define the required leadership behavioral signature (trademarked as Performance or Leadership Signature).

The company, known as sqn, has also created robust assessment and coaching systems based on periodic feedback; the feedback draws on advanced analytics, proprietary machine learning-artificial intelligence modeling, and intelligent surveying techniques.

Building a leadership development program using sqn’s methodology is a three-step process.

Step one is to translate your company’s strategy into a set of requirements defining the behaviors that make for success, given your company’s strategic and cultural context. Part art and part science, this step draws on data-mining techniques and sqn’s proprietary database.

Step two is to launch a robust 360-degree feedback effort to create a gap assessment for each leader. Leaders are not expected to excel on every facet of the behavioral signature; rather, they are expected to spike on some areas and reach a given threshold in others. As a group, the leadership team should have different spikes but excel on the overall behavioral signature.

Step three, finally, is to develop a coaching program, individual interventions, and organization-wide interventions to close the gaps. Only with the right set of interventions, delivered at the right frequency with appropriate reinforcements, will the behavioral change stick.

The experience of a European financial firm illustrates the process. This company, a subsidiary of a larger regional group, is the number-two player in its market, with two retail brands and more than three hundred branches. Though it had been a solid performer in the past, it was facing a rapidly-changing market, and new leaders decided that they needed to upgrade their talent. With sqn’s help, the firm targeted four hundred and twenty-five total staff for behavioral evaluation and gap assessment.

Figure 4.3 shows the behavioral signature developed for this company. It includes four “energies” labeled “tough love”, “inspires”, “winner”, and “delivers”. These attributes were composed of fifteen discrete behaviors and mindsets.

The process to develop the signature was critical: it combined senior leaders’ judgment, a deep understanding of the industry context, and sqn’s database, and it involved employees from the beginning to aid in buy-in. Labels and language were carefully chosen to resonate with the cultural context of the country where the company operated.

With the behavioral signature in place, the company could complete the gap identification process using sqn’s online behavior measurement platform. That data, filtered through an analytical engine, created predictive and actionable feedback. The company also developed tailored online dashboards, to be updated quarterly for each leader.

Rigorous implementation of this process can lead to impressive results. In the European firm’s case, productivity growth increased from approximately 5 percent to more than 20 percent.

The company moved from bottom quartile to top quartile versus in terms of overall competitive performance (externally benchmarked against 40 peers). According to internal surveys, leadership effectiveness increased from 33 percent to 70 percent, while engagement grew from 50 percent to 75 percent.Thank you to the the authors for such positive commentary on our approach.

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