A system used to determine instinctual abilities is giving managers and owners new insight into employee effectiveness.

Some agri-retailers are exploring new and different ways to improve communication, delegate tasks and make employee interactions as stress-free as possible to create better work environments for their teams. 

Having the right team in place directly contributes to the success of an agri-retail business, but it can be challenging to know whether a new hire or current employee is a good fit for a certain task or work group. Different communication styles, interests and backgrounds can factor into a candidate’s performance, which can affect all aspects of business operations.

There are a variety of tools and resources available online, and one in particular promises to help employers gain significant insight into the unique work-related tendencies of their employees. At the 2016 CAAR Conference Retail Management Workshop, a session led by Mike Bossy of accounting and business consulting firm Bossy Nagy Group introduced CAAR members to the Kolbe A Index. (See what you missed at the 2016 CAAR Conference – learn more about the Kolbe A Index, and more! Click here to view the interactive timeline).

The Kolbe A Index is a 36-question assessment that measures a person’s instincts (also known as conative strengths). Rather than focusing on personality or learned skills, the assessment is designed to measure people’s actions in particular situations. According to the Kolbe website (www.kolbe.com), the assessment is backed by 35 years of research and has been used by companies around the world.

Avonbank’s Assessment

Jerry Martens, president of Avonbank Ag Solutions in Granton, Ontario says he looked into the Kolbe A Index after his accountant recommended that it might help his business. “We are making some changes within our management and ownership, so we thought it would be a worthwhile exercise,” he says. “We hoped it would help us understand the traits that our current staff and the new people all had, and to figure out where they would fit in with the new roles.”

Avonbank turned to Mike Bossy, president and founding partner of the Bossy Nagy Group, an accounting and business consulting firm in southwestern Ontario, to coordinate the test and review the employees’ Index results. 

Bossy has been using the Index for the past five years as part of his business consulting services, and his approach tends to be the same, regardless of the type of industry involved.

Before administering the assessment, he starts with a look at the current challenges and goals for the organization. “I go in and I ask some broad-based management type questions about what’s waking the management team up in the middle of the night,” he says.

The process of assessing a team takes place in a designated space, which Bossy says fosters a sense of sharing. “Usually, we put everyone in a room for a full day. At first, some people will share their Kolbe Indexes willingly and others will not, but by the end of the day, everyone is sharing them.”

Telling Results

According to Bossy, the Index is not so much of a test as it is an assessment, since there are no wrong answers or bad scores. All results are valid, and a strong team will have a balance of each of the Index’s strength areas:

  • Fact Finders, who gather information and facts;
  • Follow-Throughs, who work best with systems, procedures, and patterning;
  • Quick-Starts, who are most willing to take risks;
  • and Implementers, who work best in hands-on situations.

Martens says Avonbank had tried other assessments before, but they didn’t break employees out into different groups as well as the Kolbe A Index did.

“It certainly opened our eyes to how different people are and how they react differently to situations,” he says. “One of the gentlemen here – who is a partner in the business – he and I always thought we think alike, but in a lot of ways we approach problems from different angles. What the Index really pointed out was why we approach problems from different angles." 

“He was more of a ‘pros and cons list’ kind of guy and I’m more of a ‘gut feeling’ guy. We seem to reach the same conclusions or the same answers to questions within our company, but we go about it a completely different way to get there. That really opened our eyes to the fact that there’s not a right or wrong way to approach a situation, it’s what the results are in the end.”

According to Martens, the biggest benefit of using the Index for management purposes is pinpointing employees’ strengths when it comes to getting things done.

“If you know the traits of the people that are working around you, it helps you to designate who should deal with a certain problem or opportunity within your organization,” he says.

“What the Kolbe A Index does is help to define who might be the best person to approach something, whether they’re strong in research and coming up with questions and answers to problems or opportunities, or whether they’re someone like me just going with their gut. In that sense, it helps you to surround yourself with people that might be the best ones to help with specific decisions and strategies.”

A Tool for Improvement

Bossy sees similar benefits for all of his clients. He notes that the Kolbe A Index can be a useful tool when it comes to hiring new employees, as well as moving current employees into new or existing roles. Someone may be performing well in one role, but that does not mean that they will perform as well in a different role within the same company.

“One of the mistakes that I see businesses do all the time is that they take their best salesperson and make them a manager. And a manager has a different Index than somebody who is your best salesperson,” he says.

“In a retail business, when you’re hiring, think about your best performer. Why is he your best performer? Well, he’s probably got cognitive ability, he probably has the effective notion that he’s bought on to where the company’s going, but his instinct is the thing that makes it all work.”

Avonbank has started making some changes to management using the information they gained from the Kolbe A Index. Martens says he can see the company using the Index with more of their team in the future. He also says he would recommend the Index to other agri-retailers who are interested in improving their businesses.

“I think any time you can have an opportunity to learn more about the people you’re working with, and can use that information to help your customers down the road, that’s something you don’t want to miss out on.”

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