It seems like everybody is talking about power skills these days. Power skills, previously known as “soft skills,” focus on the behavioral aspects of a leader and include important managerial qualities such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. A good manager must have the technical knowledge required for their job, yes, but they also need the ever more valuable ability to relate to and inspire their team members.

The challenge, however, is that it is notoriously difficult to measure and quantify power skills, especially in the leadership development space. With human coaches, you can ask coworkers about the person’s behavior, but only infrequently, and those answers are subject to myriad biases. Human resources departments and people analytics want to see consistent ROI, but often must rely on mostly qualitative feedback to judge whether development programs and coaching are worth the investment.

Fortunately, through Cultivate’s novel approach to understanding digital workplace behavior, we have been able to both measure and quantify change in power skills.

We ran analyses examining the impact of certain interventions on behavior change over time using linear mixed effects models. In this post, the interventions we explore are Cultivate dashboard visits and interactions with our targeted opportunity series nudges. We measure percent change from the time of the intervention over the following three months. This analysis includes data from over 2,500 anonymized managers across six different enterprise companies.

For certain behaviors, simply using Cultivate is sufficient to positively change behavior. For instance, we see sustained behavior change over multiple months in kindness while giving feedback and the amount of information managers share after being asked for feedback.

Measured from before people started using Cultivate, we see a roughly 20% increase in kindness and response density across all of our companies one month after managers first visit their Cultivate dashboard. At some companies, that increase is as high as 75%. After two months of using the platform, those behaviors rise slightly more or remain around 20% higher than initial values.

After three months, kindness while giving feedback remains 20% higher than baseline, but feedback density drops back to original levels without further intervention. Thus our next challenge is to determine how to help managers sustain their improved behaviors for even longer periods of time.

For more targeted behavior change, we designed an intervention that we call an opportunity series. An opportunity is triggered when we notice a discrepancy in how a manager behaves towards members of their team. Specifically, if a manager gives significantly less recognition than average or takes much longer to respond to certain team members, we offer a month-long nudge series offering the opportunity to focus on bringing those behaviors closer to the mean for the affected team members.

In fact, we see a global improvement month over month on both giving recognition and response time when users interact with an opportunity series from Cultivate. Managers across all companies increase their instances of giving recognition by 8% three months after interacting with an opportunity nudge. At certain companies, that behavior increased by as much as 40% after three months. Similarly, responsiveness increased 10% after three months, and as much as 50% at some companies. After we let managers know they have room for improvement, we see them focus on that behavior and it remains improved even three months later.

This analysis shows definitively that Cultivate can change digital workplace behaviors.

Next we want to explore which types of behaviors respond best to which types of interventions and to continue to develop new interventions targeting different digital behaviors. For instance, we recently released a cognitive load tracker which will allow users to recognize in real time when they or their coworkers need some help or some space. This intervention is designed to help reduce after hours work, burnout, and multitasking.

As we pioneer new methods to change workplace behaviors, we will continue to learn and improve our interventions, while simultaneously giving users the tools to ensure that positive behavior change is not a one-off event. Indeed, we already see that some behavior changes can be sustained over months, eventually becoming ingrained habits in this new hybrid and remote workplace.

Rachel Habbert, PhD

Rachel Habbert, PhD

Rachel is the Senior People Scientist at Cultivate. As a psychologist, she’s always been interested in people: how we think, grow, evolve, and interact. She is excited to help Cultivate users interpret their behaviors through a scientific, research-based lens.