Episode 19: The Predictive Index and MVP Results Take a Scientific Approach to Talent Optimization and Retention


Adam Honig: Hello and welcome to Make it. Move it. Sell it. On this podcast, I talk with company leaders about how they’re modernizing the business of making, moving, and selling products and of course having fun along the way. I’m your host, Adam Honig, the CEO of Spiro.ai. We make amazing AI software for companies in the supply chain, but we’re not talking about that today. Instead, today we’re talking with one of my favorite people, Jim Speredelozzi, who’s the senior vice president at The Predictive Index. We’ll tell you about that in a minute. And Carissa Gudenkauf, senior director of Talent Optimization at a company called MVP-Results. We’ll let them introduce themselves and what that’s all about in a minute. But welcome to the show, Jim and Carissa.

Jim Speredelozzi: Thanks for having us.

Carissa Gudenkauf: Thank you.

Adam Honig: So Jim, let’s just start with you, tell us the Predictive Index. What is that all about?

Jim Speredelozzi: Well, The Predictive Index has been around for quite some time. We were founded in 1955 and we were founded to bring science to the world of business and in particular people science, helping folks understand the people they’re hiring, the people they have on staff, and the teams they’re building. And how in the context of their business they should lead those people and how to attract the right kinds of people for the business they’re running and those kinds of things. More recently we’ve defined what we do as the discipline of talent optimization, which combines hiring best practices, inspiring or leadership best practices with team design, we call it the design discipline as well as diagnose or diagnosing the overall engagement of your employee base to understand what you need to do to help get them to be more productive. Get them to be more engaged at work and overall make their lives better by making sure that they’re happy at work and also making your business run better as a result.

Adam Honig: Thank you for that. And Carissa, how does MVP Results fit into all of this?

Carissa Gudenkauf: If I can call it on the frontline, working directly with leaders and really all up and down the organizational chart so that they can implement this data, being able to use it for team cohesion and getting that friction that occurs just naturally in organizations to not be such a factor anymore. So people actually do go home happy and as PI has a better work, better world, our goal is to ensure that when people have better work, they’re gonna go home and make it a better world through their families, their communities. There’s no limits to it, but really the front line of how you use the data and be able to use it on a daily basis if needed to be the best leader you can.

Adam Honig: So we’ve been having people on this podcast talking about all kinds of challenges in business in the supply chain and talent is, I feel like, maybe the number one challenge that people are facing today and I’m really excited to have you guys on the program to be able to talk about this. The primary topic, the way that we often get into this discussion with leaders is when they start talking about what’s been called the great resignation. This seems to be particularly acute in manufacturing companies also because they’ve been having sort of double whammy of dealing with an aging workforce at the same time. So people have been retiring and resigning at the same time. Has this been something, Carissa, that you’ve been seeing as you work with companies?

Carissa Gudenkauf: Yes, and even when I first started in the mid-nineties, people were already talking about, you’re gonna be replacing me, right? Like I’m retiring in another 5, 10 years, so you’re gonna be replacing me, let me teach you everything I know, but it’s accelerated with everything that’s happened. But yeah, I’ve always seen that and if I can talk, the retirement part is a big part of it because it’s kind of predictable, you know what age people are at and where they’re going. Mostly it’s the attrition when people leave because it’s not working out for them. That’s the part that I tend to focus on more because to me that’s the part that you can do something about. One of my clients just recently said, if we can keep someone for three to five years, we consider it a success. And it just kind of hurts that that’s part of the business plan is that you’ve put so much into a person and three to five years is what you consider a success. Nothing specific against the company. So many companies see this just because of today’s market, but yeah, I would say it’s still happening.

Adam Honig: Three to five years seems really short to me. I mean I just know at Spiro it can take a year for somebody to get fully up to speed on everything and if they’re only with us a couple more years, that’s pretty expensive. When we think about helping companies deal with the resignation, you kind of said it in your intro a little bit, so I guess creating the right work environment is one of the strategies that you’re recommending to people.

Carissa Gudenkauf: Four parts to it actually. First part, number one is job fit. When a person’s particular drives what their strengths are, we call them superpowers. When you can align your superpowers to what the job is asking you to do, your roles, your responsibilities, and the tasks, that’s the number one engagement that will keep you there. I get to use my strengths and I’m not reminded of my weaknesses all the time. The manager, does the manager get me and understand what’s important to me and how I like to be managed? The platinum rule instead of the golden rule, don’t treat others as you would wanna be treated. Treat them as they would like to be treated. That was a big learning experience for me when I first started out of college. But then also the team, is the team taking advantage of where my strengths are and I’m able to really be very open about here’s my strength and here’s where I’m not so good at, so please don’t ask me to do those things that I’m not so good at, let’s find someone else. And then lastly, culture is the other big one that is a big part of retention. If my values don’t line up with the company’s culture, where they’re putting their time, resources, and efforts, then I’m going to go find somewhere else to go because it’s kind of miserable when you’re in an environment where that culture does not match yours. There’s kind of four parts to it, and they’re not super sexy or rocket science, but when paid attention to it makes a big difference.

Adam Honig: I think that there is some science behind it. That’s kind of what I’m picking up a little bit from Jim, that there’s been some real analysis done on this, especially from my understanding around the fit in the role, which was the first point, making sure that we’re playing to a team member’s strengths. That was the first of the four-point plan to keep people happier and retained at a business.

Jim Speredelozzi: That’s right, yeah. It’s super important that folks feel like they’re, as Carissa said, leveraging their own personal strengths. It’s also important that you recognize that there are always areas of a job that’s sort of, I described this as the reason we call it work is because there’s some work to do and sometimes your work to do is simply adjusting your natural style to the style that’s required for the work that you’re doing. And that’s normal for people to have to do some of that. The question is how much for how long, and then are you giving them tools to make those stretches? Are you giving them coaching and leadership around like hey, I recognize that this part of the job probably isn’t your favorite to do, let’s talk about how you can be better at that part of the job. In my particular behavioral pattern, I’m a low detail-oriented person because I lead a lot of people, they have a lot of questions for me and they want the details. I have to do things to get better at providing those details. 

So as an example, if I run a team meeting because I know this about myself, I always make a point to be the one who takes the notes about that team meeting and signs my own action items back to myself so that I make sure that I remember them because that’s not a strength for me. So having those tools to understand your weak areas can create engagement because you can also overcome them better. My example is about all people, the magic of talent optimization is that PI can bring the science, sort of say this is what that person is all about and this is what you need to watch out for in this type of job. But our consulting partners like Carissa bring that context, which is super important, the context of what it’s like to work in a manufacturing or logistics environment. And by combining that science that we bring to the table with the expertise of folks like Carissa, they can talk to you about what specific things to watch out for in your roles and in your environment look like and how to marry the science with that. 

Carissa Gudenkauf: Can I give an example?

Adam Honig: That would be awesome. 

Carissa Gudenkauf: Manufacturing, process engineer, working under the engineering department, which is very much detail-oriented, and structured. There are standards, there are regulations, there are procedures.

Adam Honig: Sounds like we don’t want Jim in that role.

Jim Speredelozzi: No, I wouldn’t work there.

Carissa Gudenkauf: Move that process engineer through the company, working to be better. Instead of reporting to engineering, now reports to operations which is fast-paced, air on the side of action. We need to get things done quickly and now this person who was doing so well, same role supporting the facility but now is working for a different manager that has different expectations of them. We don’t need you to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s, we need it done now, that person’s gonna struggle. And their job didn’t necessarily change, but the expectations from the manager changed and so the tool gives you that this is what is gonna make that person successful. And when you put them in a different role or expectations, you’re asking a lot of them. And so it helps to know what someone’s superpowers are instead of trying to guess it over the next six months to getting to know them. The tool tells you here it is, this is what a process engineer prefers.

Adam Honig: So I wanna talk about the tool, but I wanna just draw the line back to employee retention. The science here is if somebody’s excelling at their job, they’re more likely to stay. That’s the goal that we have. And so the tool which is I guess the predictive index platform or product, Jim, that’s designed to tell us what the person’s strengths are.

Jim Speredelozzi: We call it the talent optimization platform. And one of the core components that we have is something called a behavioral assessment. And this allows you to gather data on the person, understanding their overall level of dominance, their level of extroversion, their overall level of patience, and their overall level of formality, which is the detail orientation that we’ve been speaking about. And by looking at those four factors, which are four commonly leveraged workplace behavioral traits, you can understand them better. And then we pair that because I mentioned context is really important with something we call the job assessment. So we have a behavioral assessment that allows you to see what makes that person how they’re wired, and then we can also assess the job that you’re asking them to do and sort of match those two together. And do they match? Is this a job for a dominant person or is it a job for someone who’s more team-oriented? Is it a job for an introvert where it does have that like I’m gonna be alone a lot, but I gotta get into the details and into the weeds? Or is it a job for someone who needs to speak in front of people and influence others? So understanding the differences and the similarities between the person and the job is where this magic happens. And again, people like Carissa can really help you hone in on that perfect job target for your business and your industry by mixing it up with your actual business leaders and teasing that out of them.

Adam Honig: This assessment, this isn’t like a bunch of people with clipboards going into a facility and watching what happens all day, is it? It’s not one of those kind of things.

Jim Speredelozzi: We have no people with clipboards, I don’t know, Carissa, do you have a clipboard? She might.

Carissa Gudenkauf: I learned from my father, if you wanna get somewhere quickly grab a clipboard and walk through that, you can walk through the factory floor with no one bothering you. So that’s the one thing for a clipboard. If I could kind of put a little bit of an example on it, say like a logistics coordinator, someone that is well in the company that I work the most with is moving bulk vessels across the world. And in usual times, if that’s such a thing anymore, these ships are moving over long periods of time, there’s changes happening, right? Weather comes into play, different schedules. With the volatility that we have now and adding that digitalization on top of it, having someone that can process complex information has a certain level of comfort with risk, right? Because depending on the industry and what type of products you’re moving, the risk is depending on that group and being decisive. Those are kind of key traits that you look for in a logistics coordinator that is gonna be able to handle when things go wrong. Or is the software really giving me back good information or do I need to make a call on my own? Knowing those things about a person’s natural tendencies, basically it’s making it a lot easier for the manager because they don’t have to coach someone into something that they naturally are going to do. A certain level of risk is part of their natural tendencies, they’re just gonna do it. So the manager has a much easier job and can focus on other things.

Adam Honig: So it sounds like this could be really helpful in recruiting as well as kind of like seeing if people are in the right spots in the organization.

Jim Speredelozzi: It’s certainly used very heavily in recruiting. We actually find that once people adopt the platform, they usually adopt it because they wanna hire better, but then they start to learn that they can use it for leading better. And more of our, when we measure software usage comes through what we call the inspire platform. When people start to realize oh, this is great for candidates, but I also have more employees working for me than I have candidates to think about and I’m more interested in them. It’s certainly true that it’s just like in selling, it’s easier to keep a client and less costly than it is to get a new one. Same thing with employees, it’s much easier to keep an employee engaged and happy. And oftentimes that comes down to the relationship they have with their leadership and their managers. And so tools that can help the leaders understand that person and what makes them tick and then give them ability to have a better relationship by leading them the way they like to be led, creates that magic sort of between the leader and their employee and just makes folks feel better about working for that leader. And in a lot of industries, I would guess manufacturing is here too. People get promoted into leadership positions because they’re really good at doing a job. Certainly, that happens in the sales profession, the best sellers become leaders, but that’s not always true that they’re great leaders. So having tools that are simple and easy to use and deployed across whole organizations without a lot of overhead to increase managers’ ability to become leaders as something we found really impactful.

Adam Honig: What I’d like to do is just shift just a little bit here and I know we touched upon recruiting for a minute, but one of the challenges that I feel like a lot of companies in the supply chain are facing is just the talent pool who’s interested in working for these kind of companies. We were talking with people about different strategies, about promoting, manufacturing or wholesaling to colleges and populations of people, what’s your thoughts on ways that we can expand the pool of potential recruits?

Carissa Gudenkauf: I’m just gonna start by saying the branding, how companies position themselves. I do a lot of work with society, women engineers, and it is a very leaky pipeline from kindergarten on up into every level of experience that people will leave. And a lot of it has to do with the branding that’s attracting them in the first place, using words that mean more to other groups than not. 

Adam Honig: To expand the pool of employees, one of the things you just touched upon, which I’ve been reading a lot about is changing the wording of job descriptions. Is that kind of part of what you’re suggesting? I’ve been reading some studies that say when women read certain job descriptions and men read the same job descriptions, they get completely different views on what the job is sometimes. Have you been seeing information about that?

Carissa Gudenkauf: Yes. If you go to middle school, when you ask a female student what she wants to do, it’s more about teachers and veterinarians, and doctors helping. It’s kind of a key thing that that kind of comes up. Letting them know that engineering and other areas support supply chain, et cetera, is about helping people and making the world a better place and making the world a more consistent, sustainable place. When you think about sustainability, there are a ton of women that are in biomedical, they just are attracted to that field of engineering specifically because of that factor. And I think the other parts of engineering and other industries just don’t do as well of a job of letting people know this is how you help others through making it a better place to be.

Adam Honig: We have many customers in many different parts of the supply chain, but they tend to be very focused on the product, shout out to our customer suburban bolts. They’re all about the bolts, that’s their thing. They’re not like hey, we may help people screw things together or whatever the outcome would be of using the bolts, but they’re really about the bolts. And so I think you’re right, I think shifting the perspective for other groups of people to kind of come into the recruiting pipeline might be really helpful.

Carissa Gudenkauf: For people that are recruiting for leaders, one of the many things that attracted me to doing predictive index long term, to invest in this tool, this platform to help others, is the idea that there are just as many women as there are men that are high dominant level that like to drive. And there’s just as many men that are low dominant who are more accommodating as accepting as there are women. It doesn’t matter the gender, it doesn’t matter the race, doesn’t matter the generational level either. We have people across the board and when leaders, recruiters start to see people as what their behavioral drives are, what their tendencies are, and not necessarily, oh you’re female so you’re more feminine, we need a masculine here, that doesn’t exist and the science backs people up. I send that message every time I can that you can be yourself and that companies need to pay attention to that. And the assessment really does help with that process because it’s showing you exactly who you’re going to get. This person’s gonna be high risk, they’re gonna be decisive, whatever it is that you’re looking for, it really does kind of level the playing field for recruiting and removing that unconscious bias that just comes up naturally.

Adam Honig: It’s interesting, we see a lot of family-run businesses in the supply chain, even some really big companies, and I actually see a little bit more of a gender balance at the family-run companies. I wonder if it’s because they’ve gotten to know the family members over a longer period of time, so they’ve kind of done an assessment in that way to know their personalities in the way that you couldn’t in just a regular job interview. Maybe it’s easier that way.

Jim Speredelozzi: It’s likely true, but one thing we’ve seen with family-run businesses, this isn’t specific to manufacturing or otherwise, but families know each other so deeply but don’t always have words to say what they know. So they’re like, I don’t know why, but mom really gets to me. I can’t get along with mom on this particular topic. And my understanding maybe that mom is highly dominant and you’re not, that sort of allows you to have the words to say, you know what it is about mom that really gets to me, it’s her overall level of dominance where I don’t respond that well to that particular trait. And then just having that conversation even with your family can just make it that much easier to get along and get to the results you’re looking for.

Adam Honig: The more tools we have to know about ourselves and the people we work with, it definitely follows that we should be able to work better together and be able to figure out how to put the puzzle piece of an organization together, which is really ultimately what people are trying to do here.

Jim Speredelozzi: We are hearing a lot about attracting candidates into organizations and that’s certainly not something that the manufacturing and supply chain are immune to. And anytime you increase the diversity of your candidate pool, you just get more opportunity to attract more people and get better results. So there’s certainly the diversity part of that. Another part of that is just lowering the bar on experience. Anytime you lower the bar on experience, you open up more candidates and it’s difficult to do that if you don’t have something else to do. Most people go, well, the only thing I have is a resume, we call that sort of the briefcase. But if you start to measure what we call the head and the heart, like how quickly does somebody learn and their natural behavioral drives, those two factors can actually outweigh the briefcase or the resume. And without having to require that resume, then you can actually start to make entry-level jobs entry level again. If you have entry-level jobs that require five years of experience, is that really entry level and are you artificially restricting your candidate pool? 

And another thing that you can do is you can look internally within your organization and say hey, there could be some people that don’t have the experience we’re looking for in terms of process engineering, but they have the smarts and they have the behavioral alignment and they have organizational knowledge about our business. And if we can do what we call internal mobility, we can bring them along and give them a promotion of sorts that takes them in a direction they hadn’t necessarily thought of that can really have huge benefits for your organization and also the overall morale as you see other people moving up and over. Then you say wow, anything’s possible at this organization, I wanna stick around here because this is the kind of place that looks after their employees and has their best interests at heart.

Adam Honig: I think those are all great strategies. I mean, this has been a great episode. I think we’ve come up with some really good approaches to help companies in the supply chain deal with some of the recruiting and talent challenges that they’ve been having. Carissa, I really love the idea of making sure that the team members’ superpowers are used in their job roles and getting that level of satisfaction to the employee to make sure that they see themselves as really fulfilling their role in the company and then wanting to stick around. And Jim, I totally agree with you, we were talking with a company that makes spray foam and they have recruited their entire sales team from construction workers, guys who knew a lot about spray foam and they did exactly that. They looked at the type of skills and behavioral characteristics that they wanted and they were like, this is what we need. And even though those guys didn’t have a sales background, it worked out great and they just sold the company for just a ton of money, is my understanding. It can definitely work. If people wanna learn more about the Predictive Index or Carissa, your organization, how can they find out more about that? Jim, maybe you can tell us.

Jim Speredelozzi: I’d love to make sure that Carissa gets the chance to talk about MVP Results, which is one of our top partners, but if you just wanna learn the basics, you can go to thepredictiveindex.com and check us out and see what we’re doing there.

Carissa Gudenkauf: MVP Results, I am one of many of these superpowered people, you can just go to mvp-results.com and see anything there. There are some freebies there too that if you wanna test the waters yourself, we’d be happy to help you out.

Adam Honig: It’s been amazing to have you guys on the podcast, I really appreciate it. Just as a quick reminder for listeners out there, you can find every episode of the Make it. Move it. Sell it. podcast at Spirit.ai/podcast. And I don’t know, if you thought this was a good episode, maybe people should give us a like or a good review or something like that. Carissa, do you agree?

Jim Speredelozzi: Of course.

Carissa Gudenkauf: Smash that subscribe button.

Adam Honig: Let’s definitely remind people to subscribe. Well listen, this has been awesome, really appreciate everybody for tuning in, and we look forward to talking with you on the next episode.