Looking toward 2020: 5 Predictions for Behavioral Analytics in the New Decade

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Where has the year gone? It seems like just yesterday we were gearing up for 2019, and now here we are, getting ready to ring in 2020 and a new decade.

This past year, many of our discussions have been around planning for “the future of work” and how technology will transform the way businesses operate, the way leaders steer the ship, and the capabilities employees and aspiring leaders need to support their brands and build their careers. All this talk of disruption can certainly be anxiety inducing, but when companies get ahead of it, leveraging innovations in technology and performance science to prepare for the next iterations of business, they can establish serious advantages that propel significant growth in 2020 and beyond.

Here are some of the ways we predict leadership—and leadership development—will evolve in the coming year, buoyed by the power of innovations in behavioral analytics research, AI, and technology.

1.   Executive Coaching Will Become a Tech-Supported (and Augmented) Practice

In recent years, technology has made executive-style coaching available to larger groups of employees, and innovations in analytics have begun answering lingering questions about its effectiveness and ROI, encouraging businesses to continue (or start) investing.

But what we haven’t seen yet, and what we expect to begin seeing in 2020, is individual executive coaches—those who work with the highest-level leaders—using technology to improve the way they work with their clients. We’ll see them using tech to monitor and track progress, reinforce target behaviors, and, perhaps most excitingly, develop VR-based scenarios that will allow coaches’ clients to “practice” their newfound strategies in difficult or unfamiliar scenarios. This could mean stepping into a VR version of TED’s red circle to get comfortable in the space before a TED Talk, but it could also mean stepping directly into employees’ (or customers’ or investors’) shoes to understand how your leadership style is impacting them—and what you could inspire the team to accomplish with a little extra work.

A recent article from DDI shares the results of a VR experiment designed to show leaders what exclusion feels like for employees:

“It created a powerful reaction for many leaders. For some, it was their first time ever experiencing exclusion at work, leaving them feeling angry and profoundly moved. We heard things like, ‘I’ve always been on the other side of the situation. Have I been making people feel this way all along?’ […] For those who had experienced exclusion before, particularly women and minorities, the experiences tended to produce relief, as in, ‘Yes, that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to explain about what it’s like.’”

For some, the gut reaction when we talk about technology-enhanced coaching is defensiveness. But far from taking away elite executive coaches’ jobs, these innovations, combined with their own personal approach and expertise, are apt to make them much more effective.

2.   Personality Tests Will Give Way to More Effective Prediction Models

If you know you’re an INTJ or a Blue-Yellow or a Type 7, then you’re familiar with personality tests, and there’s a good chance you’ve been asked to take one as part of a job interview or team-building process. According to HBR, personality testing is a $500 billion industry, but many consider it a hollow “shortcut” to company culture, a murky-at-best predictor of performance or group cohesiveness, and a quick way to form high-school-style cliques in an office full of adults. Dr. Darshana Narayanan, a neuroscientist who left the psychometric test industry, is quoted in a recent New York Times article expressing her skepticism.

“My impression of these kinds of tests is that they don’t work. Human behavior is multifaceted and complex and dependent on your environment and biological state, whether you’re depressive, manic, caffeinated. I’m skeptical of what you can learn from answering ten questions or observing someone’s behavior for just 30 minutes.”

 Instead of traditional personality testing, which is becoming known as “the astrology of the office,” we predict businesses will seek more effective prediction models that provide objective insights based on more reliable input than the self-reporting most personality tests entail. These models may be based on 360 feedback, but it’s more likely they’ll be based on characteristic and skills indicators that come through in actual, measurable behavior—communication traits, work output, etc. Rather than pigeonholing employees and candidates based on self-reported personality test results, employers will adopt new models that provide true insights into their talent’s aptitude, personalities, and collaborative potential.

3.   Training Will No Longer Be Focused on Technical Skills but Broader Capabilities

As innovations in fields like machine learning and AI automate some of the more manual tasks involved in our day-to-day work, employee development will no longer be focused on technical skills but on the “softer,” human skills that aren’t likely to be automated. These are the skills like team management, adaptability, and communication, and these are the skills that will drive business success in the future.

Traditionally, these are skills that have been considered innate, or at least too subjective to teach effectively. But today, AI-driven learning platforms can objectively and accurately measure people’s abilities in a wide variety of soft skills. And what’s more, they can do it in a way that’s tailored to each user’s unique skills and goals, with individualized training that fits their schedules (in the flow of work), supports their immediate needs, and drives lasting, measurable results.

We predict that, in 2020, as HR leaders realize they can now offer world-class capability training to all of their employees—and “futureproof” their businesses in the process—the demand for broad-based learning experience platforms will skyrocket.

4.   Leadership Positioning Will Be Less About Speaking Events and More About Online Presence

Leadership positioning—getting executives “out there” to build their reputations and their brands—has traditionally been about keynotes, panel discussions, interviews, and other live speaking events. But increasingly, as consumers have demanded to interact with their favorite brands and their leaders across multiple channels, leadership positioning has begun to shift online. And beginning in 2020, we expect to see the scales tip.

Leadership positioning will no longer be about speaking on coveted conference stages but about crafting the perfect LinkedIn profile, publishing highly engaging thought leadership articles and—more importantly—videos, and meeting customers virtually, where they are, when they’re there.

5.   As Skills Take Precedence over Degrees, the Next Generation of Leaders Will Start Building Credentials Instead of Resumes

We’re starting to see education programs focused not on traditional transcripts but on capabilities, both technical and non-technical. LinkedIn started down this path with “Skills and Endorsements,” which allow users to list their own “hard” and “soft” skills and vouch for one another’s.

As standards get created to measure a wider range of capabilities, these will become much more powerful hiring and promotion signals than the self-reported lists on traditional resumes and profiles. Today, this list of standards is short—including the Pluralsight index for tech schools, “badges” from various platforms that indicate proficiency in a range of skills (such as Hubspot’s marketing badges), the QC score, and others. But we expect the list will grow as more and more companies begin to leverage these new measurement capabilities and invest in developing employees’ broader leadership skills.

In a recent Fortune newsletter, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty expressed a similar prediction:

“When it comes to innovation, we see business leaders moving to the next chapter of using data as their most powerful source of competitive advantage. This includes scaling A.I. everywhere…And, to enable it all, it means expanding the pathways through which students and professionals can build their skills—in what I’ve coined as ‘new collar’ jobs, where skills matter more than degrees.”

It may be a while yet before the traditional resume is completely replaced by a list of objective, third-party skills measurements, but we anticipate 2020 is the year we’ll start to see that shift.

Here at Quantified, we’re excited to see how these rapid-fire innovations in technology, machine learning, and more will transform the world of behavior analytics, improving the way humans live, play, and work.