McKinsey & Gallup start Organisational Science Initiative

09 September 2015

Businesses are increasingly coming to question all elements of their existence as new techniques arise through which businesses can be quantified. The human side – the organisation – which includes leadership, change, culture and employee engagement, is also increasingly coming under the purview of analysis. In line with this development, McKinsey & Company and Gallup have launched the Organisational Science Initiative, which aims at creating new approaches for using data to improve the performance of organisations.

One of the key issues many businesses face is that staff around the world is not engaged in their work. A recent Gallup report finds that a mere 13% of the world’s full-time employees are ‘engaged’. The lack of engagement is a serious concern for businesses, as disengaged workers are generally less productive and interested in achieving businesses ends.

To find out what is stopping businesses and workers being engaged with each other, and how to improve the organisational side of businesses, Gallup and McKinsey & Company have launched the Organisational Science Initiative. This initiative aims at developing next-generation analytics that will improve the performance of organisations. By bringing together Gallup’s expertise in measuring engagement, talent and management and McKinsey’s strength in analytics, strategy and leadership a solution to the issue of engagement may be found.

Organisational Science Initiative

The key concept for the initiative is organisational health. As it stands, executives sit on a trove of relevant information, which includes, among others, the performance of workers, productivity, sales and cash flow. The problem remains however, that much of this information is not about to provide insights or material for decisions. Furthermore, the mind-set and behaviour of employees – and the management techniques that attempt to influence them for business ends – remain difficult to understand yet play a considerable role in performance.

Organisational Science Initiative
The new initiative is set to develop common standards for data, standards that will form the basis for a ‘cross platform analysis’ that range over companies, industries, and regions to get a firm grasp of why employees are disengaged. Chris Gagnon, a McKinsey partner and leader of McKinsey's organisation analytics group, explains: “The problem is that no single firm has the ability to take all this data and translate it into a complete picture of organisational health. Combining the data and knowledge is going to mean we can look at organisational health in ways that haven’t been possible before.”

Organizational Science Initiative summit

Initiatives for the venture going forward include:

  • The joint development of a research agenda: this is expected to be drawn from Gallup’s long running employee engagement survey, which has been administered by hundreds of organisations since the late 1990s, combined with insights drawn from McKinsey's Organisational Health Index of over 900 companies.
  • The establishment of a global advisory board: the partners are building a global advisory board, made up predominantly of C-suite HR executives from large organisations.
  • The setting up of regional summits for advisory board members: board members will be invited to join regional summits with other experts to help develop a long term plan as well as discuss practical business priorities for current management issues – in cities including New York City, London and Singapore – to brief global advisory board members and key industry executives.

“We think there’s a lot to be gained by integrating our strength in organisational strategy and health with Gallup’s deep insight into the attitudes and behaviours of individual employees,” concludes Bill Schaninger, a McKinsey partner with a PhD in organisational psychology who leads Advanced Analytics for McKinsey’s global Organisation Practice.


Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.