The role of analytics in wellbeing

12 June 2018


Back in the analogue days, annual appraisals were the main tool organisations used to find out how their employees were feeling. Appraisals could be a hit-and-miss affair for many reasons – not least that the appraisal process itself is enough to put some people in a bad mood. And if the employee is having an ‘off’ day on appraisal day, that’s it, as far as their employer is concerned they’re unhappy for a year.

Technology has brought us many benefits and I’d definitely list one of them as enhancing our ability to measure engagement and how people feel in the workplace, rather than that one off annual appraisal. The available tools are constantly evolving, giving organisations access to more and more data. But our ability to measure can sometimes interfere with getting a good result – because there’s a fine line between measurement that’s beneficial to everyone and measurement that only serves to annoy the people being measured. Collecting data means nothing unless you do something useful with it.

Data collection must have a clear purpose, and I’m most interested in how data can encourage us to change our behaviour for the better and the effect that then has. What do I mean? To give an example, I wear – as I’m sure many of you do nowadays – a Fitbit. I love it because it encourages me to do more exercise and think more about my wellbeing than I did before. I’ve set up alerts on mine that tell me if I’ve been sitting down for too long – that’s particularly helpful as the sedentary lifestyle of the typical office worker can be very damaging to our health and our wellbeing.

I find the alerts useful and helpful. But not everyone does. Some people see them as bossy and irritating, and turn them off. And that’s fair enough – we’re all different and different things work for different people.

And that’s exactly what’s so interesting about many of the new behavioural analytics apps that are available. They are designed to monitor the wellbeing and productivity of employees, generating real-time data that the business can use to refine and target HR interventions and decisions. Generally, these apps work by ‘pushing’ questions to employees at different points in the day, allowing the employer to assess how they feel at work in real-time. They also make suggestions to the users for ways to improve their wellbeing – and critically, allow them to personalise the experience and set how often they want to receive prompts, which makes sure that the app is a genuine help rather than an irritation.

We tested one of these apps with a client and it was a big success. 80% of those using it were active daily and gave very positive feedback and the app provided the company with extremely useful data. We helped the client introduce some alternative ideas and see how effective they were, such as providing ‘thank you’ notes for employees to thank colleagues who have been particularly helpful. The app allowed them to see the effect of doing this on both the person who sent the note, and the one that received it (spoiler alert: both of them felt happier). This is data analytics at its best and most useful, because it’s encouraging positive behavioural change and, as we all know, a happier workforce leads to a more productive and effective organisation.

Jo Salter | Director | +44 (0)7710 035975