The Decoded Company

"Decoded Companies don’t want to control their people; they want to unleash them."

- The Decoded Company, page 67

The way that companies and organizations manage their talent is outdated and broken.

At least that’s what the authors of The Decoded Company are proposing. This book is a refreshingly new approach to management and to the way leaders attract and retain top talent – showing the reader that it’s important to understand your talent more than you understand your customers.

So what is a Decoded Company?

It’s an organization or company of any size that truly believes its people are more important than customers or profits. It invests in the systems and processes that allow it to understand its people better than it understands its customers and is characterized by increased agility and speed, evidence-based decision making, decreased bureaucracy, and the ability to predict problems before they occur.

The goal and the real advantage is to become a “center of gravity” for talent.

A Decoded Company attracts and retains the best people that your industry has to offer and, in the process, fosters incredibly high engagement from that talent.

It does this by focusing on the Decoded Model: three principles and the tools to support implementing them:

  1. Technology as a Coach and Trainer – Move away from the “one size fits all” approach to training and toward using technology as a way to provide “just-in-time” training and coaching.
  2. Data as a Sixth Sense – Use the data-rich environment that is around us as a way to inform our intuition and make better decisions.
  3. Engineered Ecosystems – The ability to use data as a way to foster a particular set of behaviours within an organization. Deliberately creating better corporate environments that are driven by the new digital social norms: transparency, connectedness, and community.

The Decoded Company provides a new way of thinking about your people based on considerable amounts of data, research and intuition combined.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

When it comes to engaging your talent, personalize everything

"Most CEOs, even of non-Decoded Companies, rate talent attraction and retention as the biggest challenges facing their organizations..."
- The Decoded Company, page 49

We’ve entered into a new age of business, an age where talent is becoming the key competitive differentiator and where finding and retaining the right talent has to be a critical strategic priority. We’ve entered the “human age”.

Where financial incentive was once good enough to keep your top talent, that’s just not going to cut it anymore. Today’s top talent is looking for more than just financial gain, they’re looking for autonomy, mastery and purpose. (See Dan Pink’s book, Drive, for more on this.)

In order to address this, today’s leaders need to personalize their talents’ experiences. Just as consumer experiences are now tailored to the individual buying habits and data collected, creating a personalized online shopping experience, our experiences in the workplace need to be tailored to meet the individual needs of the employee. That can be everything from the technology they require to do their jobs effectively to the hours they work if they are balancing work and family. How we manage talent can no longer be a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

What that means is that there’s a very good chance that if you’re responsible for providing your team with the tools they need to excel in their jobs and you’re not consulting with them before you implement these tools, you could be doing more harm than good.

People use the technologies that appeal to them, not the ones that are forced on them.

This book illustrates that most workplace systems are built around business needs, processes, and metrics and, unfortunately, almost always designed or purchased by those who won’t be forced to actually use them.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

The Rule of 5 Degrees

"Traditional annual performance reviews assume that the goals you identified at the beginning of the year are going to be still relevant twelve months later."
- The Decoded Company, page 51

Supporting the belief that we need to personalize the experience of our people as much as possible is the understanding that a small course correction at the start of a journey is much easier than having to make larger corrections later one. It’s called “The Rule of 5 Degrees”.

Basically the Rule of 5 degrees tells us that if you start 5 degrees off course, over time you will completely miss your mark. Rather, it’s easier to get back on track if you’re checking in and providing constructive feedback on a regular (i.e. weekly) basis.

Why this is important:

  • Issues can be flagged early on, before they become massive problems later.
  • Building in regular dialogue between managers and employees makes it a part of their weekly routine and removes the stress that often comes with more formal evaluations.
  • This approach provides regular, tangible and quantifiable feedback.

How to do it:

  • Schedule a 20-30 minute meeting with your team members to evaluate goals, check in on progress, and provide consistent feedback. This allows you to replace the much loathed annual review with fifty-two opportunities to make sure your team is engaged, driven, and productive.
  • It also allows you to identify moments for coaching and inspiration.

By taking this approach, you’re able to use data to help inform your intuition – which can be difficult to rely on by itself (though many of us often do).

As a result, we are better able to track goals on a daily or weekly basis – which is also a more effective way to track performance.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Find the Teachable Moments

"It’s ironic that we collectively know so much about the psychology of learning, through generations of studying schools and natural learning, and yet we’re still delivering ineffective, one-size-fits-all training programs."
- The Decoded Company, page 112

According to the authors, there are three crucial factors that influence any training program’s effectiveness:

  1. Context – Materials are more likely to be retained when they include information relevant to the task at the time you need to do it.
  2. Practice – The ability to apply what you’ve learned immediately, in your day-to-day job.
  3. Feedback – The necessary fine-tuning that helps to identify those opportunities to improve performance.

When you combine these three factors, you’ve got yourself a program that can be deeply personalized to the individual. And as a result, more effective.

When we can recognize this using real-time data analysis, a teachable moment becomes the exact instant when an employee should receive training, delivered in a customized way that caters to that employee’s needs.

This is real-time learning: acquiring a skill exactly when you need to.

Delivering just-in-time training is a great start, but in order to provide real value, training needs to meet the learner’s unique needs.

This will ultimately be how companies and organizations provide the greatest value for their people.

As the authors state, “Employee expectations are changing, and meeting individual needs through customized delivery creates happier employees.”

The Decoded Company reminds readers what’s really important when it comes to the success of any business or organization: its people.

With loads of insight, useful references and an accompanying resources website, this book is surely one you’ll continue to reference as you set out to change the status quo of your company or organization.

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Matt Tod

ABOUT Matt Tod

Matt Tod is an international speaker, leadership facilitator, published writer and is passionate about helping people reach their full potential. Matt is the former Executive Director of Youth Programs for the Institute for Health and Human Potential and the current Director of Training & Development for North America’s largest youth-run Charity and Educational partner, Free The Children the innovative social enterprise, Me to We...
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