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HR app asks workers "how d'you feel right now?"

December 16 2013 - Obtaining an insight into employee attitudes has always fallen to the annual engagement survey. While these are effective in obtaining statistical data their value is limited by the timeliness of feedback. Here, John Telfer, managing director at IBP looks at alternative methods for obtaining employee feedback and explains why a healthy dose of gaming theory can bring surprising results.

Understanding how employees feel about their jobs, the business they work in and even their bosses is vital for measuring engagement and its impact on productivity. Yet typically, obtaining statistical data that can be measured and analysed only happens once or twice a year as part of performance reviews or as a standalone employee survey.

While these surveys, when implemented correctly, can provide a deep understanding of feelings across an organisation, their value is often undermined by the length of time required to gather responses and analyse the data. It can take a company up to three months to obtain feedback from 100 employees using standard response formats such as email or paper based surveys. This may result in issues raised by the survey being escalated in importance and creating a 'feedback gap' that makes it harder to resolve issues raised by employees because so much time has elapsed. Companies are running the risk of working with out-of-date data creating a downward spiral of employee discontent.

With only one or two opportunities each year to implement an employee survey, companies are also often tempted to throw in lots of questions. While each one may be valid in gaining insight into attitudes, employees are often put off by the amount of depth or time required to complete them. This can result in less than accurate results as attention spans wane and boxes get ticked without real thought.

Of course despite this, employee engagement surveys are useful. They are vital to providing HR with insights that can be used to develop an actionable plan. But it's important to recognise the limitations. For example, when you simply want to 'take the temperature' of employee feeling about a specific event, you can't wait for the annual survey. Maybe you've announced a new company strategy, made a senior appointment, a change to benefits or even a new menu in the staff restaurant and you want to gauge employee reaction. This is when new technologies and gaming theory techniques can be incredibly effective.

What do we mean by gaming theory? It's simply a way to engage and/or communicate with your employees in an interactive manner that lends itself more towards gaming or social media experiences than traditional email or paper communications. Don't get hung up on the definition though, gamification can mean different things to different people. In this sense we think of game theory as interacting with employees in the way that best suits them. By building encouragement into the interaction process, companies can improve engagement and commitment. Companies can allow employees to create a competitive persona, one that is rewarded the greater the interaction. Utilising the desire from the next generation of employees to interact in a game-based way can bring productivity and engagement gains.

One incredibly effective game based technique for understanding employee engagement is the use of mobile apps to gain instant feedback. A customised app can be used to push short surveys to staff as a way to tackle the 'water cooler' effect. Utilising smart phones and mobile devices that employees tend to have with them at all times provides companies with a way to obtain instant feedback from employees on burning issues concerning them most. Since employees are able to answer the questions from wherever they are, at whatever time suits them, the likelihood of a response is increased. In fact, we've found that employees are three times more likely to respond to a short survey delivered via an app than they are an email or paper-based survey.

According to Gartner game theory, gamification can dramatically increase participation in HCM processes, and HR teams should apply it to low response activities.

Acting as a barometer of employee feeling, companies will be able to get a reading of employee sentiment from an app much quicker than using more traditional survey methods. The mobile app can gather this insight in an instant. This means that it can also be used in response to potential issues arising, helping to deal with issues almost before they unfold, rather than long after.

The results drawn from the responses can be used to develop plans to help engage employees, deal with problems urgently and reduce dissatisfaction amongst the workforce quickly and effectively - overcoming the feedback gap cycle.

Not only is an app useful in understanding sentiment, it also provides HR directors with up-to-the-minute data that can be taken to the Board to support proposals or to substantiate budget requests. As technology gives companies increasing insight into company performance and with the advent of 'big data' techniques, HR is under more pressure to provide measurable proposals to the board and management team.

HR can utilise a mobile app in two ways. It can be used as a standalone method to push short questions to employees about specific events occurring internally or it can be employed as an extension to existing surveys. For example, if the results of a 360 degree review highlights a specific issue, HR can push out additional questions via the app to investigate it specifically.

Companies have had to become increasingly technology savvy with the advent of gamification in the workplace. By adopting tools that employees are comfortable using on the move, HR and internal communications departments can capture employee opinion as and when they need to. This provides an insight in an instant. The results can be used to develop plans for improvements to working practices, improving retention rates.

John Telfer

John Telfer, Managing Director, IBP

Website: IBP
Telephone: 0800 612 3098



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