Start Me Up puts the spotlight on emerging companies in the digital sector, and what could be more topical than artificial intelligence and people management?

At Web Summit 2017, I visited the Beaconforce stand and spoke to Director of Strategic Partnerships, Anthony Morra. Here’s what Morra had to say about Beaconforce’s AI-powered people management platform…

What is your product/service?

Beaconforce is a people-management software that leverages business acumen, behavioural science and artificial intelligence to reduce the guesswork in managing people and can be used to unleash the true potential of your team.

What problem does it solve?

Think of Beaconforce as a central nervous system within your company. Our product connects to all employees and gives a clear reading of team engagement and satisfaction. It asks two questions each day, discovers why people are not motivated, then shares the insights with managers in real-time, continuously. This information fuels our recommendation engine, which automatically provides managers with the best actions to motivate their teams and get them to perform at their peak.  Lastly, our algorithm closes the loop by measuring the results of the actions taken by management.  

Our mission is to put Beaconforce into the hands of every CEO, manager and employee. This will lead to a revolution in the way people are managed, making work more enjoyable for everyone and in turn, companies more competitive and profitable!

beaconforce graphic

How do employees use the service? 

To start, it’s important for employees to understand the purpose of Beaconforce and why they are being asked two questions a day. The questions and answers in Beaconforce are based on behavioural psychology and are designed to reveal employees’ perceptions about their work by measuring seven pillars of intrinsic motivation, their level of trust, and proximity to the ‘flow zone’ of perceived challenges and skills.

The second important piece is how we ask the questions. Participation is voluntary, answers are anonymous, and it only takes a few seconds to answer each question. This lowers any barriers for employees that are worried about answering honestly.  Also, by asking two questions every day we eliminate the “response bias” that is present in any survey administered at a single point in time.  We understand that employees’ feelings are constantly changing, and therefore we designed Beaconforce to create an on-going movie instead of a snapshot at one moment in time.

What information does this give managers and what actions can they take?

The seven pillars of intrinsic motivation are relevant across all jobs and industry. They are: clear goals, continuous feedback, social interaction, balanced challenges, sense of improvement, attitude towards risk, and sense of control.

We measure employees’ trust in their manager, team and company.  We use all of this data to display employees on a “Flow” diagram – which illustrates the intersection of perceived challenges and skills.  Given these insights managers can identify potential issues with specific employees, teams, or entire divisions. This might be an employee feeling stressed or stretched by a project which if left without any support could impact their well-being and the overall success of the project. Managers can be proactive and take action and provide help.

Managers don’t have to analyse the dashboard to find potential issues. The recommendation engine produces information, alerts, and recommended actions when managers need it. The automated alerts are sent when their involvement is needed and they receive valuable insights before major issues arise. When managers take an action, Beaconforce measures its effectiveness on the pillars of motivation, trust and flow. If the action doesn’t have the desired effect, adjustments can be made and they can try something different. 

The Beaconforce dashboard

Participation and honesty from employees is key to making this work. How does your solution encourage this? 

Our philosophy is very simple. Management isn’t anonymous. No employee can expect to have a positive experience if actions taken by management are not applicable to them specifically. While specific answers to questions are anonymous, insights and recommendations are not. This allows the employee to answer honestly while at the same time sharing their perceptions with their managers without explicitly stating them.

We have built complete transparency into our platform. Employees have access to their own dashboards, creating an opportunity to approach their manager if they wish.  It bridges the gap between employees and managers and allows them to have important conversations without waiting for a major, negative event to take place.

How does your solution differ from the Happiness-Index?

This is a common issue we have with so many existing tools that are trying to measure employees in the workplace. They all have the same fundamental issues which we have solved with our solution.

For example, most of these types of survey solutions are heavy in the front-end and light in the back-end. This means that there is a lot of work to set up, choose questions, receive and analyse data, discover insights, come up with actions based on insights, and then take action.

Even if you can somehow save time in creating bias-free questionnaires, you then have to get people to answer them. People typically don’t like answering surveys and this is proven by participation rates dropping.

We can guarantee two things have happened after this lengthy process. First, months have gone by. Second, there is no way to measure how effective any management action was until we conduct another survey, which may be done months from now and will still take months to gain insights. So what exactly are you measuring at this point?

We asking questions that are behavioural science based, where the specific answer to the question is not important; it’s what the answer means about how the person feels at work.

We give managers specific recommended actions based on insights we interpret from data provided, and we can tell managers how effective their action was because our tool is always plugged in and constantly measuring motivation.

The result of this: Enhancing positive behaviours of both employees and managers to create a culture driven by motivation.

You can buy people’s competencies and time, but you can’t buy engagement and trust. These, you have to conquer.

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