Not too long ago the main instrument to gather data about the mood of the employees in various parts of the organization was the annual employee engagement survey. Once a year, or once every two years, a long questionnaire was distributed to the employees.
Usually, 50-70% of employees responded.
The answers were analyzed and often months later the reports were ready. Management discussed the outcomes, and a summary was communicated to the employees. Focus groups discussed the outcomes and made some suggestions for management. And so on, and so on. Even writing the complete process down, takes too long.
Fortunately, employee mood measurement has moved on. Here are 9 trends we see.
1. From an annual survey to real-time listening
The frequency in gathering the views of employees has increased. Gallup and a couple of others started with short pulse surveys decades ago, and in the last years using pulse surveys has become a lot more common.
There are many vendors that provide technology that makes it easier to administer pulse surveys (like Culture Amp, Peakon and VibeCatch). Also, organizations that used to focus on the traditional annual survey market, now offer pulse surveys as well (like Effectory and Willis Towers Watson).
“Continuous listening” is the next phase in the evolution, but the tools that can help with continuous, real-time listening are still limited. Solutions like Keencorp and StatusToday, however, look interesting. Both use e-mail traffic (in different ways) to get an idea of the temperature and the risks in the organization.
2. From active to passive
In most employee mood measurement solutions, employees still have to answer one or more questions. In super simple solutions (like Celpax and MoodApp) there is only one question (“How was your day?” or “How are you feeling today?”), but generally, there are between 5-15 questions.
Some solutions (e.g. Peachy Mondays) offer adaptive surveys: if everything is ok, the survey is short, if some issues are sensed, more questions are being asked. The question is though, when will employees start to show survey-fatigue? Once the newness of the cool pulse app has worn off, employees might get more hesitant to answer questionnaires regularly, even if they are short.
Detecting employee mood in a passive way is more difficult. I already mentioned Keencorp and StatusToday, which do not require completed questionnaires. Instead, they use company e-mail as data input to produce insights on a department level (hence protecting the privacy of individual e-mail users). Using face analysis and personal trackers is probably the next step.
3. From one-way to an interactive two-way
Asking questions and gathering data is one thing, but taking visible action is often not that easy. Most solutions are still kind of one-way. The organization asks questions, and the employees have to hope that actions are taken on the issues they have flagged. Employees will sometimes wonder if their input is really valued and taken into account.
Some solutions are more focused on facilitating a two-way dialogue (this is probably a pleonasm, as a one-way dialogue is a monologue…). I came across CircleLytics, and they have, for example, developed intelligent software to use the wisdom of the employees to tackle important issues such as “How do we increase diversity in our organization?” or “What could we do to enter the Asian market faster?”
Many organizations also stimulate old fashioned boss-employee conversations. This is an excellent practice of course, but it is difficult to aggregate the outcomes of these conversations.
4. Combining data sources
In his excellent article “Employee Engagement 3.0: Humu launches nudge engine” Josh Bersin included an image (see below) that illustrates the trend to use data from multiple sources to sense what is going on in the organization.
With the technology of today, it has become easier to integrate, connect and analyze data from various sources, and relate people data to business data. The use of clever sensors (see for example Humanyze, and examples of smart clothing) can be added to the mix.
5. Following the employee journey
Many organizations are focusing more on improving the employee experience. The employee journey is an often-used metaphor to visualize the life cycle of an employee in an organization.
Following the way Marketing is measuring and tracking the customer journey, HR starts to use their measurement tools to capture how employees experience critical moments in their journey.
Examples of common critical moments are the first contact with the organization on the career website, the interview with HR, the first day on the job, the onboarding period and – at the end of the journey – the way the exit is handled.
6. From employee mood measurement to risk measurement
What do you want to measure? At some point, we used to talk about Employee Satisfaction. Then Satisfaction changed to Engagement, and today Happiness and Experience are fashionable. We also see Risk entering the scene.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use our instruments to detect risks related to the people in the organization?
Claro claims that with their technology you can calculate the chance that an employee is interested in a new job (the Claro J-score). The Keencorp technology (mentioned above) has been used to analyze Enron e-mails (that can be found on the internet), and it could sense the risks in the Enron organization a lot earlier than they actually emerged.
Compliance with health & safety regulations is another area where you would like to have an early detection mechanism for potential issues.
7. More focus on the benefits for employees
For many organizations, a real focus on the employees still seems far away. The use of mood measurement tools remains very much focused on the benefits for the organization. If you look at the picture of Josh Bersin under point 4, this is very clear. “Building an Enterprise Feedback Architecture” sounds very corporate and not very employee-centric.
“Employee Listening Technology” can also have a negative connotation. Employees can become skeptical if organizations are installing a sophisticated “Enterprise Feedback Architecture”. Will they use the data to better control and monitor us, or will they use the outcomes to enhance our organizational life? Yes, they are listening, but only listening is not enough!
Listening tools that are used to unleash the creativity and the collective power of employees (as the above-mentioned CircleLytics) at face value have more benefits for employees.
8. Start simple
For start-ups and scale-ups, it doesn’t make sense to build an Enterprise Feedback Architecture. You can start very simple. Many smaller organizations use Slack, for example, and within Slack, there are various simple plugins you can use to create a simple survey within minutes (like Polly, Happster Feedback and Simple Poll).
9. The HR dashboard
Recently, I spent some time in a big retail organization. Sales and Operations were more or less full-time behind their dashboards. What is selling and what not? Are the trucks on their way to the right stores? How are the new products selling? What is the level of customer complaints and how is NPS in the call center developing?
The HR team was not yet at this level.
Unfortunately, their dashboard was a quarterly dashboard, so looking at it on a daily basis made no sense. Only the recruitment team was further ahead, they at least had a good view of the number of vacancies and the candidates in the pipeline. The HR landscape is changing. The sense of urgency is increasing, and with the technology and tools of today, many HR teams will be able to use their dashboards daily and hence increase their impact on the organization.
Josh Bersin: Employee Engagement 3.0 – Humu launches nudge engine
David Green & Laura Stevens: The dos and don’ts of continuous listening
Alan Rothman: Text analysis systems mine workplace emails to measure staff sentiments
Silverman Research: Employee Listening Technology Landscape 2018
Laura Stevens: The 4 C’s of continuous listening
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