Mood Rings, Magic 8-Balls & Employee Engagement

I’m a product of the 70s. I had bell bottoms, platform sandals and wore my hair in braids.

I also had a mood ring that was a piece of crap.  It was always black or dark blue.  I suppose it could have meant I was perpetually intense or lovestruck, but let’s go with crap for the sake of my parents.

Then there was the coveted Magic 8-Ball.  I didn’t have one, but my cool friends did.  You’d ask it “yes or no” questions and then turn to see the answer in the little window.

“Will Corey kiss me?”  Outlook good.

“Will I win the Spelling Bee?”  Reply hazy try again.

“Can I stay up to watch The Tonight Show?”  My sources say no.

Of the two, I could ask the Magic 8-Ball questions all day and never doubt the answers. My mood ring…not so much.

Well, it turns out we now have a Mood Ring app that can survey employees about how they’re feeling and aggregate the data back to managers. This is an Aon Hewitt tool and can be used for quick check-ins or to gather feedback after all-employee meetings.

There are other app-based tools to do similar things:  RoundPegg, Culture Amp and Niko Niko.

However, like my mood ring, these just-in-time feedback apps are crap if no one acts on the info.

According to a Bersin & Associates report, $720 million dollars a year is spent by companies trying to measure and increase employee morale. Yet a Gallup survey released in January 2015 indicated that fewer than one-third of U.S. workers were “engaged” in their jobs.

So, are organizations spending a ton of money gathering employee feedback and then not doing anything with the results? The data would tend to lead you to believe “signs point to yes.

Engagement is a funny thing to me. It seems to be the responsibility of the organization (read: HR), yet it is sort of ultimately controlled by each individual employee.

Here’s why:

  • “I don’t feel valued.” OK. Either I tell my manager the reasons why and hope he/she can alter my feelings or I find another job.
  • ” I don’t like the work I’m doing.” So, I can craft my own job by volunteering for projects or I can find another job.
  • ” I think I should be paid more.” I can make the case to my manager and then see what happens when I resign for a better paying job.

Do we really need an app to tell us about engagement? Is it too tough to build a relationship with our employees so they feel comfortable coming to us when their work starts to suck? Are you willing and able to enact a change if you agree with the concern?

Look, I know it’s tough, especially when you have a dispersed and global organization to get a pulse on. I do wonder, however,  if asking employees to swipe their smartphones on a daily basis to indicate their mood or to answer a question is helping or hindering engagement…

I’d suggest starting with building relationships with your team. Teach managers how to lead. Act when you ask for feedback and get trending replies.

And if all else fails, break out a Magic 8-Ball and let the questions and answers fly!

FOT Background Check

Kathy Rapp
Kathy Rapp is the President of hrQ, where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent or HR Consultants to drive business results.  Prior to joining hrQ, Kathy booked more than 15 years of human resources leadership experience working for such companies as Morgan Stanley and First Data Corporation.  A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent issues can be addressed via the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen  (David Lee/Sammy and sadly, Gary Cherone).

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