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Making people ... productive: Group helping companies get better returns on their biggest investment — Their talent

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From left are Steve Mazzarese, sales executive; Frank Wander, founder and CEO; and Jack Killion, director of strategic development, PeopleProductive.
From left are Steve Mazzarese, sales executive; Frank Wander, founder and CEO; and Jack Killion, director of strategic development, PeopleProductive. - ()

After delving into more than 75 years of research on psychology and sociology in the workplace, Frank Wander discovered a gaping blind spot in the human side of business.

“We worry about our processes, our financials, our products, our marketing — but we don’t have a way to measure, manage and motivate our people that is reliable and useful,” he said. “We can do so much better and get much bigger returns on talent if we would just actually take the time to understand what drives the productivity of the modern workforce.”

Wander, founder and CEO of PeopleProductive in Hillsborough, created a tool with which to do just that in 2014.

The technology-driven human capital management company — currently manned by a seasoned staff of 10 senior executives, published authors and recognized speakers — focuses entirely on workforce productivity and performance acceleration.

“We build software and help companies improve their returns on people to create better bottom lines,” Wander said. “If people are 60 percent of the expense of the company, they should be the most important thing.”

Wander would know.

With more than 15 years’ of career experience as senior director for Merrill Lynch and 12 years as chief information officer for companies such as Prudential, The Harry Fox Agency and Guardian Life Insurance of America, Wander had seen enough to know the root causes of unrest within organizations.

Five factors of productivity
What is the No. 1 issue companies face today when it comes to productivity?
Ignoring their employees, Frank Wander, founder and CEO of PeopleProductive, said.
“I think the deepest issue in most companies today is the fact that people fundamentally don’t feel companies care about them and their needs,” he said. “Leaders actually care about their people and create environments that allow their teams to flourish.”  
Here’s how to improve productivity by altering leadership methodology, according to Wander:

1. Choose and create a style of influence.
The SAS Institute in Cary, North Carolina, has been consistently and consecutively ranked one of the best companies in the world to work for by media outlets and organizations such as Fortune Magazine, the Great Place to Work Institute and the Top Employers Institute.
“(CEO Jim) Goodnight made his people the centerpiece of The SAS Institutes’ mission,” Wander said. “He said, ’95 percent of my assets drive out the gate every evening; it is my job to maintain a work environment that keeps those people coming back every morning.’”
Influence can be created in many ways, Wander said. Strategic trust — or trusting that a management team, regardless of leadership style, will lead a company to great success — also can be proven useful.
For example, Steve Jobs — a man not exactly known for his kindness, Wander said — still had people who wanted to work for Apple because they knew they’d be hugely successful.

2. Exhibit working relationship skills.Regardless of being loved or feared, the No. 1 quality successful leaders must exhibit is vulnerability, Wander said. Executives must be willing to be themselves in front of their people in order to empower them.
“If the leadership models behaviors and encourages the formation of working relationships, you are going to have a workplace in which people are much more cohesive,” Wander said. “That ultimately drives the speed of collaboration.”

3. Encourage fun …

4. And using one’s brain.
“People not only know how to do their job well via the institutional knowledge provided, but also need an environment that supports their ability to think without being interrupted every five minutes,” Wander said.

5. Cultivate passion.
Lastly, employees must intrinsically be or made to feel passionate about what the company does.
“If achievement needs are being met — if employees really believe in the mission and the vision of the company — you can link what you do to results,” Wander said.

“I saw the exact same symptoms over and over,” he said.

Symptoms that, according to Wander, date all the way back to the Industrial Era.

“Productive craftsmen had great pride in their work, were incredibly knowledgeable and were therefore valued and invested in,” he said. “But when all of their knowledge was essentially put into processes, machines replaced a lot of the work that craftsmen did and humans became nothing more than extensions of machines.

“Craftsmen, who in a prior era would have made works of art, ultimately got turned into parts on assembly lines.”

PeopleProductive has been gearing up since 2014 to help today’s companies reverse that frame of thought.

The company acts as a consultancy, providing workforce assessments, best practices and tools that organizations may use to alter and evolve their culture.

Fairly typical, aside from one important fact: PeopleProductive does not leave a fractured organization to improve after administering engagement surveys, Wander said.

With Talent-OS — PeopleProductive’s proprietary, cloud-based software — the company can provide continuous guidance and help organizations create higher returns by gathering intelligent data based on employee and management responses that help monitor, assess, manage and improve workforce productivity every three to four months.

“You can literally dial into any part of the company to see what’s happening,” Wander said. “You can see the dials and the velocity of work for every part of the company.”

How does it work?  
Like any tool or process, Frank Wander believes companies should be properly trained to continuously use Talent-OS.
“We really want them in the driver’s seat,” the founder of PeopleProductive said.
Here’s how PeopleProductive goes about achieving such independence:

Step 1

Conduct up to eight confidential interviews with eight different employees across various levels of the company in order to achieve adequate background information of the organization.

Step 2

Customize the online Workforce Velocity Analyzer — a baseline, cultural assessment consisting of 100 questions measuring the five major workforce velocity factors: organizational climate, passion, leadership influence, workplace relationships and speed of thought — and conduct the survey companywide.

Step 3

Analyze and share the results found using PeopleProductive’s maturity model of the five major workforce velocity factors.

Step 4

Identify areas of opportunity and provide a detailed set of recommendations to the client.

Step 5

Begin the performance acceleration process, or Speed Quest, by helping a self-selected acceleration team of both company leaders and employees develop key ROI metrics and goals on which they would like the company to improve upon. Help the acceleration team put in place strategies to achieve these milestones while improving the bottom line results of the company.

Step 6
Meet with the acceleration team for an hour every week for training, insights and ideas on how to continue improving.
“We will then conduct a product assessment at the end of the quarter and adjust course as necessary,” Wander said. “Our role in the second quarter should be very minimal. We can train them and be there as a coach or adviser, but the drive is now on them. That is what is very attractive about what we do.”

PeopleProductive recently conducted multiple, simultaneous assessments using Talent-OS for a 600-person IT division of a 1,100-person company across three countries.

Its goal is to continue working with larger organizations in various vertical markets, such as law and accounting firms, banks, manufacturers and universities, while licensing Talent-OS to international firms and solutions providers that are already positioned to conduct ongoing cultural and performance consulting.

“They have a lot more existing accounts,” Wander said.

In this way, Wander expects PeopleProductive to earn over $1 million in revenue over the next year as it accelerates and expands. Two years from now, he hopes the company will earn closer to $10 million.

The additional marketing, sales and software updates required, however, will cost nearly $2 million in funds over the next few months.

“Competition today is just so much faster. Companies spring up out of nowhere and become global overnight that could threaten any industry,” Wander said. “The only way to compete is to increase speed of decision making, interaction and problem solving.”

PeopleProductive will continue to increase its own speed of business by unveiling a new website and social media push, as well as by adding Portuguese to its multilingual platform in order to conduct business in Brazil.

“We want to be the first workforce productivity company that is able to link improvements in employee management to improvements in the bottom line.

“No one else has ever been able to do that.”

E-mail to: megf@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @megfry3

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