Pergo’s Card-Carrying Communicators

Take some truisms about IT workers’ lack of interpersonal skills, mix in the multicultural realities of the modern workplace, and you’ve got a recipe for a communications breakdown. But Stan Kurpiel, global CIO at Pergo AB, the $390 million flooring company, thought he could do better. He wanted to help staffers understand their own personality types, and those of their coworkers, by giving everyone tools to help deal with the differences.

Pergo, headquartered in Sweden, runs its North American operations from Raleigh, N.C., where Kurpiel is based. “We have a very diverse IT organization and we are growing fast, so we needed to work on team-building and unity,” says Kurpiel of a shop that has included workers from Sri Lanka, Chile, Ireland and Mississippi. “There were subtle issues, the way different people behaved in the same room. There are different dialects, acronyms and jargon, and lots of room for misunderstanding.”

Kurpiel enlisted Loyalty Factor, a Portsmouth, N.H.-based training and consulting firm, to improve performance in Pergo’s call center and customer-care operations, which Kurpiel also manages. The idea at first was to help service reps interact better with customers, but Kurpiel quickly realized that his 20-person IT staff could use the same training in dealing with each other.

Loyalty Factor facilitators led the IT group through a half-dozen sessions. The goal was to classify each person as a Thinker, Sensor, Feeler or Intuitor, and explain how best to interact with each personality type under different circumstances. Initial reactions were mixed. “Technicians have an appetite for training, so that helped, but at first some people were uncomfortable about sharing,” says Kurpiel. “Only a few were really touchy feely, but the facilitator pulled that out of people.”

To drive the exercise home, staffers literally posted labels on their doors that explained their personality types. “My label says I’m a Sensor under normal conditions,” says Kurpiel, “but under stress, I’m a Thinker.” Trainers distributed laminated cards to remind workers that Sensors get to the bottom line with bullet points and summaries, while Intuitors like to be heard as they work through a situation. “We took tests, added up numbers and put ourselves into a quadrant,” Kurpeil says. “There was some resistance. People said, ‘I’m certainly not this or that,’ but after some discussion they agreed, ‘Yes, I do act this way.'”

The company says there were quantifiable benefits in the call center—cutting down average call times by 30 seconds—and less-tangible but genuine improvements in IT. Pergo executives liked the results well enough to put the rest of its North American staff through the personality-type training.

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