Can Mood Tracking Solve Engagement Problems?
Organizations are turning to mood tracking to understand employee engagement.
Are your employees happy?
Surveys have long been the go-to for HR leaders seeking answers to that age-old question, though many acknowledge that annual, or even more frequent, requests for feedback are hindered by an inability to deliver real-time results. That’s a gap mood tracking looks to fill.
Earlier this year, meQuilibrium, which offers science- and tech-based resilience training and solutions, launched its Mood Tracker, an app-based program enabling both workers and their employers to get a handle on engagement, based on individual employee mood.
Employees can set a reminder that prompts them to check in daily, registering how they feel in one or more areas: motivation, focus and stress level. They are then able to track how their mood changes over the previous 30 days and also see how it compares to the total population that uses Mood Tracker.
Neal Bruce, senior vice president of product strategy at meQuilibrium, says understanding your own feelings is a “core practice for individual resilience.” Beyond helping employees acknowledge their own mood, the tool will also encourage them to take action based on their feelings. In December, meQuilibrium will roll out an integrated chatbot feature that will deliver custom responses based on users’ current mood and previous interactions.
“For example, if you are having a great day, it may ask you, ‘What are you grateful for?’ And when you are having a bad day, it may remind you about what you are grateful for to help bring you additional perspective,” Bruce says.
The chatbot can also connect users to additional services, such as the employee-assistance phone number.
In addition to the new chatbot, the company will next year add a reporting feature for clients with 50 or more employees using the service. Leaders will be able to explore mood/engagement levels and get suggestions based on group needs, such as stress-reduction development for teams with high levels of reported stress.
Mood tracking isn’t an entirely new concept. Aon launched its Mood Ring solution about five years ago in response to flaws in the standard annual-survey approach, says Ken Oehler, global culture and engagement practice leader.
“We started doing research and noticed that most organizations looked at [employee feedback] as something the company did to employees; there was too much focus on moving the survey score, with a lack of control for the individuals,” he says.
Like FitBit helps users see their daily physical activity, Aon’s Mood Ring app enabled users to log and track their changing mood. The company has since moved away from the app model and has fully integrated the approach into all of its modern survey platforms.
Taking the emotional temperature of employees frequently—such as after a major project or an organizational change—is a cornerstone of its solutions, Oehler says.
“Just like after you take an Uber, you get something in the app that says, ‘How did we do?’ ” he says. “You have to have much more continuous dialogue. If something just happened, you have to say, ‘Tell us about this experience.’ ”
A report released earlier this year by Aon, Evolve to Continuous Dialogue, based on a survey of 1,500 HR professionals in 46 countries, explored current and future practices for measuring and improving employee experience. Among the areas where Aon saw the biggest increases in continuous-dialogue models was employee engagement; in 2017, only 11 percent of organizations were measuring employee engagement more than once a year, a figure that grew to 21 percent by this year and which the firm predicted will jump to 41 percent by 2020.
“Someone could become engaged, disengaged throughout the day or hour to hour, depending on what’s happening,” Oeheler says. “So we wanted to help people understand why that is, when it happens, when they’re most engaged and what they can learn to have more control over their own engagement.”
To that end, Aon’s survey solutions deliver individual feedback based on users’ engagement responses. Employees can see how they compare to benchmarks and receive coaching about how to become more engaged.
Oehler says those mechanisms can push employees out of their comfort zone. For instance, he cites one user who initially was disappointed with consistently low engagement scores; however, that person eventually was motivated to consider the root of the disengagement and ultimately applied for another position within the company, finding success, Oehler says.
Managers have the ability to draw insights from employees’ engagement reports as well, though the information is anonymous. Despite that, he notes, continuous-dialogue models such as Aon’s have actually enhanced communication among employees and their supervisors.
“We’ve seen a lot of instances where an employee goes to the manager and says, ‘I got this result back that I’m not engaged, and I want to talk to you about that.’ In the last couple of decades,” Oeheler says, “there’s been a trend that these employee surveys are secretive and the data is held very closely, but [Aon’s approach] is the extreme opposite shift toward transparency.”
Enhancing communication among team members and managers is also at the heart of Team Mood, based in France.
Founder Nicolas Deverge says he was working as an agility coach when he noticed a common theme among clients that poor employee morale didn’t necessarily stem from bad relationships among employees and their managers—but rather, from poor communication.
“TeamMood is a way to improve this communication, simply by getting daily feedback from the teammates,” he says. “It started from the observation that managers who asked individuals how they were have better relationships.”
Employees are encouraged to log into the website daily and register their mood, as well as provide supporting comments, which Deverge says add a needed level of qualitative data. Managers receive all of the data blinded and can compare insights for different teams or departments or customizable groups, such as by experience level or geographic location.
After six months of use, the average participation rate, Deverge says, is about 60 percent. Most customers use the tool proactively, to head off potential issues—and it can also help team members see and celebrate successes.
“It reinforces the bonds between teammates and their managers,” he says. “By improving this, it improves the retention and then engagement—thus productivity, even if it is not the main goal.”
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at email@example.com.