May 20, 2019

Creating a Human Advantage


Using Predictive Index data to design a dynamic workplace.

As workplace designers, it’s our job is to create environments that respond and adapt to the people inside them. To accomplish that mission, we first must understand those people down to an individual level. How do they work? How do they interact with each other? What do they hope to accomplish? And most importantly, how can we build an environment and culture that works with and around them?

To answer this question for ourselves, we turned the Predictive Index.

Predictive Index is a behavioral assessment designed to measure who people are, and how they prefer to work. It’s a free-choice, stimulus response measurement built to the standards of the American Psychological Association, International Test Commission, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychologists. And fortunately, it’s a process we’re familiar with because we’ve been using the Predictive Index to hire employees over the last 20 years.

But does it work?

In our case, absolutely. It tells us, on an individual level, whether an employee prefers variety, challenge, social interaction or privacy. Ultimately knowing how we like to work helps us all work more effectively together, it level sets expectations. It helps us create a cohesive, recognizable culture. In fact, the Predictive Index is so integral to how we operate that we encourage employees to have friends and family take the assessment.

Specifically, the Predictive Index measures four key areas:

1. Dominance

An employee’s need to influence people and events.

2. Extroversion

An employee’s drive for social interaction.

3. Patience

Measures the intensity of a person’s tension and pace.

4. Formality

An employee’s desire to conform to formal rules and structure.

It’s valuable data, no doubt about it. But what impact does it have on workplace design you might ask? And specifically, how did it influence the redesign of our own headquarters?

Human-driven data for a human-centered space.

We used data from the start of the project. When collected, analyzed, and applied correctly, data is innately human. So is the workplace – at least it should be. And when you’re creating a living, breathing space that adapts to the people inside, making that space more human centered influences every decision.

A key component of our Santa Clara redesign, Project URTO, was creating a theme embodying the Modern Village. You can read more about the Modern Village here link. But in a nutshell, our new space would consist of unassigned workspaces and flexible shared neighborhoods. All of which provided employees with more technology and a variety of spaces that let them work in different ways as projects, priorities, and preferences shift throughout the day.

As we designed each of these neighborhoods, the Predictive Index was a valuable tool. It provided an existing baseline knowledge of how each employee interacts with others and prefers to work. It also helped us develop a formula to determine the ratio and or density of individual desks to team members based on these behavioral patterns.

Grouping behaviors.

Our complete office redesign would generate a great amount of change that ultimately would impact our culture. Most importantly we were asking employees to forgo traditional assigned workstations for flexible seating arrangements and more autonomy. After a brief pilot of the new program, two groups emerged.

Proactive Pattern

High Dominance / Low Patience

These team members adapt easily to an agile work mode - requiring very little training, additional, tools, or resources. Team members with Proactive patterns tend to move quickly through various work modes and locations, make decisions on how and where to work easily, and are unimpeded by unexpected challenges, or unscheduled interruptions.

Supportive Pattern

Low Dominance / High Formality

Team members with a Supportive pattern want greater regularity during the work day and in their environment. Their work tools, resources, files, and technology must be easily accessible, consistent, and well understood. They also tend to desire higher levels of privacy, and are more easily effected by unexpected challenges or unscheduled interruptions.

Planning around people.

The PI data helped us design neighborhoods within our Modern Village in a way that supported and accommodated both groups. And the ratio of shared workspaces to employees corresponded to their behavior patterns.

Our design had to include answers for the following questions for each neighborhood:

The answers helped determine how the neighborhoods were designed and who would occupy them. Employees who need support and stability could find it while those who thrive on dynamic environments would get the variety and spontaneity they want.

Effective workplaces are more than shells.

Today, the office is so much more than a place where work happens. And it has to be. Employees expect more control, belonging, and purpose out of their work – and the workplace needs to deliver by adapting to those needs on an individual level.

To get there, however, takes much more than a standard approach. To understand employees and build a workplace that optimizes them and the work they do, organizations need to apply human-centered, data-driven listening with an open mind and a curious heart. For us, the Predictive Index helped build a cultural and an organizational framework to design a flexible, adaptive new headquarters around. What approach willwork for you?

To learn more about Project URTO, the Modern Village, and what happened when we redesigned our own headquarters, click here and subscribe to our URTOnomy newsletter.