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Here’s How to Unleash your Employee’s Full Potential

According to a Cascade HR survey, completed by 447 Human Resources professionals, 44% believe that the workforce does not have enough support to thrive. At Cognisess we strive to change this statistic one assessment at a time. To support your organisations journey to full potential we have collated a guide to nurture potential in your employees.

Discover Individual’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Maximum potential can only be unleashed if employees are aware of their abilities and their job performance. People who lack the knowledge to perform well are usually unaware of this. This behaviour leads them to make incorrect decisions, making them unaware they are stunting their potential. Justin Kruger and David Dunning uncovered this in their study titled Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognising One’s Own Incompetence Leads to Inflated Self-Assessments.

Cognisess has the tools and data for your employees to reach their potential on one platform. Cognisess Pro’s 120+ cognitive, emotional and base skills assessments will give you an understanding of your employee’s current knowledge and a projection of their future performance. The data will assist in planning your employees next step in fulfilling their potential.

See Cognisess Pro Video for more detail here.

Construct a Psychologically Safe Environment

A two-year study by Google uncovered psychological safety as a trait of a high performing team. Psychological safety refers to a person’s perception of how safe it is to make a mistake. This behaviour is also measurable with Cognisess Pro through our Lens Pro and Team Fit assessments. Our software combines each users openness to experience, emotional intelligence and agreeableness to calculate a psychological safety score.  A person who feels psychologically safe will exercise moderate risk taking, be more creative and confident in unfamiliar situations and tasks – these are all traits that can help an employee reach their full potential. Potential cannot thrive if a person is scared to make a mistake. A manager needs to react appropriately to an error to create a psychologically safe environment for their employees.

Help People to Solve their Problem  – but don’t Resolve it for them

Collaborate with employees when problems arise. Humans feel failure more strongly than success. If an employee thinks they have failed they will counterbalance this with criticism and disengagement, which is a form of workplace – learned helplessness. This will stunt the growth of employees potential. To avoid this do not blame an employee, instead be curious. Adopt a learning mindset to gather the facts of the situation, if a manager presumes they know what the team member is already thinking, they are not ready to approach the conversation. Use neutral language to present their problematic behaviour as an observation, for instance ‘Within the last month you’ve seemed distant and not as motivated to meet your targets’.

Uncover what the underlying problem is together and ask for solutions from them, this allows them to take an active role and become the answer to the problem. The process will show the team member that mistakes may occasionally happen, but they have the ability to solve them without encountering repercussions for it. This mindset eases the individual into focusing on their growth, instead of whether they will lose their job.

In order to improve your technique ask for feedback, not only to enhance your potential but to model to your employees that leaders still need to develop. This increases trust in management. Cognisess Pro’s PeopleSense survey measures a team’s trust in leadership as well as if they believe the company is helping them reach their potential. The opportunity for feedback will give managers the chance to adjust their management style accordingly. Paul Santagata, Head of Industry at Google, uses these questions to conclude a difficult conversation:

  • What worked and what didn’t work in my delivery?
  • How did it feel to hear this message?
  • How could I have presented it more effectively?

Santagata’s team regularly complete surveys on how psychologically safe they feel, with questions such as how confident are you that you won’t receive retaliation or criticism if you admit an error or make a mistake?  Amongst the many features of Cognisess Pro managers are able to send a range of default and custom surveys to their team, utilise this feature to monitor a good level of psychological safety within your team.

It is clear that the modern working environment thrives when its open and safe for employees and managers to express themselves and address shortcomings. The use of People Analytics is becoming essential to support constructive and fact/data driven conversations rather than subjective ones. By having insight and information that is supported by data, the conversation has less chance of feeling personal or critical, increasing the chance of being objective and helpful.

Unlock your team’s potential by contacting us today to schedule a free demo.

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Matching IT outliers to organisations

Dr Boris Altemeyer, CSO of Cognisess, has written an article for IT Pro Portal discussing how matching IT outliers can help organisations retain talent and make the most of its team members.

It seems ridiculous that organisations rarely place a value on their most important asset – their people. In IT this makes even less sense. Take a computer software company for example. The value of the business doesn’t lie in the bricks and mortar of the office building or the computer hardware within it. The real value lies in the team. That’s why organisations need to fully understand the skills and abilities they already possess.

We inhabit a fast-moving high-skills economy and no more so than in IT. Those with the right skills are in demand and can be hard to find. And our environment is constantly changing. A 2017 McKinsey report, Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transitions in a Time of Automation, estimated that jobs related to developing and deploying new technology will grow in line with a potential for increased spending on technology between 2015 and 2030 of more than 50 percent. About half would be on information-technology services.

With this ever growing skills gap, new and expanding IT organisations must make the most of their existing employees, identifying the outliers with unearthed potential. Does your organisation have people with outlying skills or abilities? Do you know what they are? Are these skills being deployed in your organisation? Or are they hidden and under-utilised?

Potential not performance
In the past, organisations haven’t been very good at finding their hidden gems. The standard approach is to identify high-potential employees (or HIPOs as they are often called) and place them in an expensive talent development programme. But these so called high-potential programmes are badly named.

Tools such as KPIs and subjective management appraisals only assess current contribution. They do not help you to understand potential. This is particularly the case with outliers, whose talents often go unnoticed or not understood. Looking for HIPOs will not help you to find the exceptional programmer, unhappy and underperforming in a management role as it’s the only way to progress. Or the new team member brimming with up to date knowledge and great ideas but lacking the confidence to come forward. Your existing employees can often step up and comfortably meet those difficult to fill skills gaps.

I have a friend who already has a successful career as an emergency doctor under his belt. Now with a young family and desire for a change – and a better work life balance – he is working as a senior software developer. He is using his problem solving skills, ability to think outside the box and his calm systematic approach in much the same way that he did to save lives in the aftermath of a road traffic accident. He has taken his programming hobby and turned it into a new career. But what are the options if your employees don’t have an obvious hobby or talent to pursue?

Unlocking hidden talent
We now have the unprecedented opportunity to harness artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and the power of predictive analytics to find out where hidden talent lies. Through the use of AI, millions of data points can now be processed. Something which is beyond the abilities of even the most experienced HR professional or senior manager.

We can process and analyse hiring, workforce and external performance data to provide invaluable insights around the best fit for people’s talent and potential. Not just when they are recruited, but throughout the life-cycle of their employment, allowing you to go far beyond a CV and an annual performance appraisal. And these developments are all shaped and informed by our increased understanding of cognitive neuroscience.

Another critical aspect is how you can now identify strengths which are currently under utilised. People with potential can then be employed dynamically in the right circumstances and context. This becomes particularly important when trying to build cognitively diverse teams where change or transformation are mission critical. With the lifespan of organisations now shorter than ever before, all companies need to focus on creativity and innovation in order to survive.

Measurements can assess cognitive attributes, emotional intelligence, health & wellbeing, personality, behaviour, culture and team fit, as well as other core skills and competencies. New possibilities include advanced computer vision, which can analyse micro facial expressions and process audio recordings, video and written content. It’s an accurate, consistent and fair way of getting the right people into the right roles.

Real employee engagement
We know that employees with a good job fit are happier, more productive and loyal. This is particularly worth considering when research by Gallup shows that only 30% of workers are engaged in what they do.

Despite the high pay and well publicised perks, tech industry giants such as Amazon and Google are not immune. According to Payscale’s employee turnover report, the turnover rate among Fortune 500 companies in the IT industry is the highest among all the industries surveyed.

A possible explanation is that IT and tech companies hire smart young people. People who thrive on constant change and challenge. People who are likely to get bored quickly and move on. And in the current climate there won’t be a shortage of job offers. By providing new opportunities internally you will be holding onto a valuable asset.

The benefits of keeping good people are multiple. It’s tough out there and using your existing resource will save you money and time. As well as significantly reducing organisational risk. It’s now possible to combine statistical analysis with the latest machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to scientifically and accurately predict current and future performance. This simultaneously creates the internal feedback loops which inform machine learning, keeping you ahead of the curve when it comes to identifying and filling your own skills gap.

By getting your people into the best roles for them, you will reduce churn and increase productivity. And by identifying the outliers in your organisation you will be tapping into an incredible (and existing) organisational resource. Are there individuals within your organisation with extraordinary abilities who could be transformative for your business? It would seem foolish not to look.

For more information about how Cognisess helps organisations retain talent and make the most out of their team members contact us at

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Are our strengths any real indication of our potential or performance?

Dr Boris Altemeyer, Chief Scientific Officer, Cognisess explores the pros and cons of basing organisational strategy on strengths versus potential.

As human beings, we all have our strengths and enjoy being reminded of them or praised for them.  It is easy to concentrate on those, as they appear to come naturally to us and often without too much effort. But that doesn’t necessarily make us the rounded individuals or leaders we really aspire to be. Often it is the areas we find hardest to apply ourselves to, which are the ones we need to concentrate more on in order to become better. If not careful, our strengths are something we can hide in rather than open ourselves to the more challenging of rigours and adventures – particularly where we are facing new environments, challenges, threats or opportunities. One of the most misquoted aphorisms used in the modern context is the belief that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution stated ‘only the strongest survive’. He didn’t say that. He in fact said – ‘the most adaptable species were most likely to survive’.

And whilst our strengths are attributes we can and should draw upon to compliment the range of tools we have at our disposal, it must not be forgotten that these are limited to a personal status quo and usually within a single or particular area of application.

At Cognisess, we assess the whole potential and preferences of a person (or team), which can be applied across many different areas and can be developed on further.  Knowing your strengths alone may help you get better at what you are already good at, but it will not in itself necessarily contribute to making a great organisation or culture – particularly if that strength is in over-abundance or possibly not essential to the prevailing challenge. More critically it is about profiling strengths with potential and how these can be applied dynamically in the right circumstances and context. This becomes particularly important when trying to build cognitively diverse teams where innovation, change or transformation are mission critical. After all, if you stick to your status quo – then you are only ever likely to get more status quo. However, if entrenchment is the main strategy for the business – then those status quo strengths may indeed help you achieve that – and probably with some to spare.

A personal development plan based on some strengths is certainly a good starting point – particularly for building confidence. However we believe that personal development plans need to take into account much more than just strengths that already exist. Very often it is the potential and hidden strengths you didn’t know (or think) you had – or were told you didn’t have – that equate to higher performance and greater fulfilment. Often – where there is no clearly defined pathway, or problems are getting increasingly complex and inter-connected within the business – it is having a greater understanding of a person’s or team’s entire skills mix and potential that is crucial. It is this insight within the context dependent situation that makes people (and often the least expected candidates) highly valuable in an organisational context.

From a commercial perspective, there are also very distinct financial differences between the deployments of a multi-dimensional platform like Cognisess versus a simple, one-use, strength-based assessment. Cognisess Pro is not only designed to be a strategic tool that maps whole organisational talent pools and potential, it is also flexible enough to inform quick, tactical decision making in terms of team building, talent profiling, recruitment and development needs assessments.

Because it is very cost effective in comparison to other assessment tools, it is more widely available and affordable to profile entire functions and divisions, rather than be only used by a select group of high-level individuals or high performers.

Furthermore, because the Cognisess system, powered by Deep Learn™ our predictive analytics engine, is based on a recursive learning structure it is powerfully able to ingest people assessment data alongside available workforce and market specific data. This supports the strategic management of human capital and helps identify where minor adjustments in talent deployment and training may lead to significant benefits in terms of performance and ROI. This is particularly useful when used for its performance appraisal features whereby someone’s strengths, talents and potential can be assessed against actual performance outputs.

Our Cognisess Pro assessment platform provides a suite of over 40 assessments, plus the ability to analyse video, audio, and linguistics, for a very competitive price – which is, per candidate / employee, often lower as a per annum subscription than a single strength based assessment.

Increasingly within most organisations, the strength of a person today may not be the answer to competitive edge tomorrow. Adaptability and learning are therefore at the core of everything that Cognisess Deep Learn™ does to predict future performance of a team or individual in a highly dynamic environment.

Identifying potential and making it actionable where it counts – welcome to Cognisess Deep Learn™.

For more information about Cognisess Pro and how it is powered by Deep Learn™ get in touch at