appetite-1239056What gets measured, gets done. Too true. Unless you’re keeping an eye on something with regular measurement, it’s really easy to let things slip. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about weight management, fitness or employee wellbeing. Regular monitoring of a given situation raises our awareness and keeps us conscious of what we should be doing to improve things. But my issue with monitoring is this – you have to measure the right things, and you have to use the data in a way that is constructive. Used poorly, progress measurement can create as many disincentives to action, as positive steps forward.

The grass is always greener.

Earlier this month, I touched on the arbitrary measurement of success. Rarely do we focus on how well ‘we’ are doing without some kind of reference to other people. Too often, we look over the garden fence and default to instant feelings of smugness or dissatisfaction, because of how we are performing relative to our peers.

Nowhere has this come to light more clearly than in the energy business. Intent on helping people control energy use and save money, utility companies are rolling out smart meters. These new gadgets are a great way to keep in touch with how much energy we use, and should help to reduce cost for many.

Measurement can create unintended consequences.

The thing that struck me about smart meters was the issue of negative comparison. One energy company has obviously had to deal with concern from customers about how energy monitoring was making them feel. At least I presume so, because the company in question had gone so far as to work with an expert in positive psychology, to provide words of advice on how best to compare yourself with others.

Quite a big unintended consequence I should imagine, for smart meters to be making people feel ‘worse’ about energy use. But if as individuals, we don’t feel in control over the thing being measured, we will of course feel anxious and frustrated when monitoring makes us aware of unfavourable results.

How often I wonder, do our staff feel like that? How many issues do we forget to take in to account, that are barriers to the very results we want staff to improve on?

Anything can be measured, but how will the data be used to improve things?

National surveys abound, telling us things like ‘the happiest places to live’ or the ‘best place to go to school’. We have leader boards for everything, from the best places to eat, to the nicest companies to work for. Large-scale surveys get great PR coverage and people like numbers and rankings because they help prove a business case more easily. But when it comes to measuring wellbeing, we need to take care that the right things are being measured. Understanding whether or not wellbeing programmes are working, calls for a deeper than face value approach. Otherwise we end up with something like a hotel star rating, where outmoded features like ‘providing a trouser press’ improve a hotel’s score but do little to improve guest experience.

As I write this, we are evolving our 121Hours programme so that embedded within it, will be wellbeing measurement.   We have to be able to demonstrate the results we know to be true (based on qualitative results), that making small life goals easier to achieve helps improve wellbeing and engagement at work. As you would expect, we’re working with specialists to make sure the design of our monitoring system is actually useful.

This will tell us which 121Hours challenges have been most powerful, but it will also help us to pinpoint the impact these activities have had on productivity and engagement at work. We’re at the starting gates of this process, but I’m keen to take our time and get it right.

There won’t be any press releases for a while, but if you want to be part of this evolving story, get in touch.