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How The Granite Group navigated COVID-19 with empathy and grace

The Granite Group.jpg

The Granite Group used our talent optimization platform to guide its people through uncertainty.

The Granite Group is a distributor of plumbing, heating, cooling, water, and propane supplies. With more than 60 branches across New England, including both wholesale and retail locations, the company prides itself on providing quality products and services.

When COVID-19 hit, it forced many businesses and employees to work from home. But The Granite Group is an essential business; it provides supplies that keep households and other businesses running.

Providing support of such scale is no easy feat, even under normal conditions. Yet as Chief People Officer Tracie Sponenberg explained, COVID-19 added another layer of complexity to the business: uncertainty.

“In the beginning there was so much uncertainty, because we didn’t know what the pandemic meant for us as a business,” she said. “Would our customers come in at all? Would we make any money at all?”

But Sponenberg and the other executives had a plan to address these concerns and guide the business forward. This plan involved strong communication, PI data, and talent optimization.

We didn’t know how bad this would be, and how our business would operate.

Tracie Sponenberg

Fostering healthy communication

One of the first things senior leadership did following COVID-19 was form a crisis response team. As Sponenberg explained, “Back in early March, we really had to look at how we were structured, how we were operating, how we were doing business.” In addition to Sponenberg, the group included the CEO, COO, CFO, and chairman of the organization.

As PI CEO Mike Zani outlined in the guide to Surviving an Economic Downturn with Talent Optimization, a response team is the first step toward forming a concrete action plan. “You really have to attempt to predict the future, analyze scenarios—better, worse, way worse. What could happen? What could go wrong?”

A crisis team must weigh these different scenarios. At the same time, it must move quickly to ensure the safety of the business. In times like these, the PI platform provided a way for The Granite Group’s response team to communicate clearly and effectively.

“If you look at my behavioral profile, it will tell you that I need a lot of information to make decisions,” Sponenberg shared. “The rest of the virus team—our CEO, CFO, COO—can make decisions like this [snaps]. So I’ve really been conscious of that.”

By developing awareness of one another’s behavioral styles, The Granite Group’s crisis team was able to make decisions quicker and with greater alignment. In a time where it’d be easy to succumb to stress and emotion, the team navigated with confidence and poise.

They’re more ‘ready, fire, aim,’ and I’m ‘ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, fire.

Tracie Sponenberg

Catering to employee needs

With the executive team realigned on its business strategy, the organization could turn its focus to execution. And this meant ensuring employees felt comfortable working in a pandemic, no matter their specific circumstances.

“If you have a loved one who’s immunocompromised, we want you at home,” Sponenberg explained. “We had people with childcare issues that couldn’t work, because they were essential. We tried to meet people where they were at, and that was different for everyone.”

Not only did this mean accommodating people’s personal lives. It also meant catering to their behavioral profiles while remote. “One of the ways that we’ve used PI during the downturn is to make sure we’re checking in on people—people who are remote and loving it, or people who are remote and hating it.”

Sponenberg used the example of a member on her team. This person had a low extraversion drive, meaning she enjoyed thinking things through rather than talking them out.

“I tended to just walk up and go, ‘Hey, can you do this?’ And she can’t really receive information this way. During the period of remote work, that’s actually been good for that. It’s been a great chance to really think about each other’s styles and communication methods.”

I feel like I didn’t understand myself until I read my behavioral profile.

Tracie Sponenberg

Employing talent optimization

For Sponenberg and her team, understanding behavioral and communication needs is part of a larger mindset: one of talent optimization.

“When I think of talent optimization, I think of aligning your people strategy with your business strategy.”

In times of turbulence, priorities shift and roles change. But talent optimization helps make the most of evolving circumstances. By keeping its people goals in lockstep with its business goals, The Granite Group was able to stay resilient—just as its name would suggest.

“In the past, we tended to use PI more from a hiring perspective. Now, we’re really focusing on the whole organization, the whole person, the whole strategy—and making sure that we have the right person in the right place at the right time.”

We’re getting started on a larger journey with PI where we’re injecting it into every part of our culture.

Tracie Sponenberg


Explore talent optimization.

Companies that struggle to build high-performing teams are often missing critical people data. With The Predictive Index and talent optimization, you can stop guessing at how to get the most from your people— and better align your people to deliver on the results you’re after.

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