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Humankind | 9 August 2019

Is your work culture determined by the personalities of your people?

For decades, employers have screened prospective employees with personality tests, aptitude tests and logic skills, trying to find that perfect fit for their team. And we’ve been debating the effectiveness of all these tests for just as long.

In 2018, Google Labs wanted to find the secret recipe for a perfect team to settle the debate once and for all! They called this: “Project Aristotle”.

But Google found that a team’s productivity comes down to more than just the individual personalities. Try as they might (and they tried very hard), they could not find any patterns between their most productive teams.

Teams that looked the same from the outside might perform completely differently from one another. They couldn’t find any patterns in things like personality type mix; gender ratios in a team; democratic teams or teams with a self-appointed leader. Some of their top performing teams were really sociable and loved hanging out with each other outside of work too; other top performers just got together and got the job done without any extra banter.

For all Google’s vast amount of research and data, there just seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it. But when they looked at how team members felt at work, they found something amazing.

From its huge array of workplace data, Google found that "enhanced teams" display 5 key things...

  • Psychological safety
    People feel like they can take risks in their workplace and not be punished for it.
  • Dependability
    There is trust that everyone in the team is delivering a high standard of work, on time.
  • Structure and clarity
    Everyone knows what their specific expectations are. These expectations must be challenging yet attainable.
  • Meaning
    Everyone has a sense of purpose in their work
  • Impact
    Everyone can see the result of their work and how it plays a part in the bigger picture.

Does this sound familiar? This is all employee experience.

When we’re conducting employee engagement surveys, we’re doing exactly what Google did wrong over and over again: we are reducing people to statistics. But of course the way we interact and produce work as teams is so much more complex than that.

To truly understand how our teams are working (or not working) and how we can improve work-life for our people, we need to talk to them about how they feel.

We also need to realise that every organisation is different. A software development team in one organisation might not be as productive as a software development team in the same conditions at another organisation. Why? Because they are simply different people.

The stories your people tell you are crucial. And all it really boils down to is essentially the same as what Google Labs found.

How do they feel at work? Do they feel safe to share their vulnerabilities? Can they express their opinions freely and without fear? What moments matter most to them at work? What is something you could change to make their workplace even better? Can they see the impact of their work? Do they feel purposeful at work? Do they feel like their team is dependable? And so on.

Are you curious about this in your team?

Your organisation’s EX is under your control, you just need to know where your strengths and opportunities lie. Indeed, you may have been actively managing EX for years, and achieved some great results.

The Humankind Employee Experience Awards programme is for organisations who would like to learn about their employee experience, and get recommendations to improve.

Entries for the Humankind Employee Experience Awards close on Friday 30 August.