Employee Engagement and Collective Intelligence: an effective tool of measurement?

The traditional employee survey as a means of measuring employee engagement has come under huge amounts of scrutiny in recent years. There are many views as to whether they still serve their purpose, their upsides, their downsides and everything in between. It’s not a new debate and certainly not one which will definitively be resolved.

According to AnswerThePublic.com, a brilliant platform by the team at Propellernet, some of the most highly searched terms on employee surveys are on the purpose they serve, anonymity, their effectiveness whether they serve a purpose, whether they are actually anonymous, whether they are really effective and why bother. No real surprises there.

My personal view is that for many organisations, they do have a place. This is especially for businesses who might not have the infrastructure or resources to enable alternative options to measure employee engagement

. Where surveys are in place they certainly shouldn’t be used as an isolated form of measuring engagement although unfortunately this is all too often the case.

For a while I have been looking forward to the launch of Silverman Research’s Crowdoscope tool. I have followed its progress with interest and had the pleasure of trying a test run of the system earlier this year.

Last week, Crowdoscope was unveiled in all its glory to a packed-out audience at Unilever’s London HQ. And it did not disappoint!

I thought it might be of interest to some to share what I learnt at the event to hopefully spur some thinking about other ways of gathering employee insight.

Crowdoscope: A collective intelligence tool
Crowdoscope has been built on the principals of collective intelligence. Designed in collaboration with Unilever, it was built to address four major objectives:

  1. To better embrace new technologies
  2. To expand the ways in which surveys are approached
  3. To put the solution into the hands of the people who identify the challenge
  4. To do more than just measure

What is collective intelligence (CI)?
For those of you who might not have come across the term before, collective intelligence is ‘the shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration, collective efforts, and competition of many individuals and appears in consensus decision making’.

A detailed study of ants by researchers at Stanford University in 1993 explored CI by studying ants. The researchers found that while an individual ant is not very bright, ants in a colony, operating as a collective, do remarkable things (OK, so not quite the same as humans…but interesting nonetheless….!). There’s certainly plenty of information online and a helpful report on the Crowdoscope website if you do want to find out more.

Benefits of collective Intelligence
Collective Intelligence allows for interaction between those who are inputting into the question/ issue posed. It allows people to share their own, personal views and then formulate a solution to the challenges that they identify.

Everyone has a say and the researcher is able to gather validation in the opinions shared by looking at how the rest of the group interact or respond to a particular point.

Furthermore, Collective Intelligence isn’t restricted to simply gathering employee insights. It can also be used as a means of gathering market research. If applied internally, will undoubtedly help engage people with a potential new product or service before it’s even been formally released.

Drawbacks of Collective Intelligence
As with any form of research, Collective Intelligence isn’t without its drawbacks.
From research I’ve done online, there seems to be some schools of thought which suggest that too many users can end up producing a ‘spammed’ result.

Also, it’s not the type of research in which you could pose full-scale employee survey questions. This would be extremely time consuming for the user. But, you wouldn’t want to. That’s not where the benefit of this type of research lies.

Of course, it also goes without saying that you need to get the questions right in order to gather the right type of data effectively.

So how does it work?
In the case of Crowdoscope, users access the system via a link (and we were assured that the back end is very straight forward to set up and administer!).

There are broadly four steps:

  1. A question is posed and individual users then respond to this. How you answer this question depends on which group you go into.
  2. As more people input their own responses, the system then selects the comments which most resonate with the rest of the community. The more people support a view, the bigger that circle becomes.
  3. The user is then able to go in and read other comments and respond.
  4. Lastly, participation metrics. Users can see their own stats and ratings on their own comments.

Interestingly, during the event apparently one client has even used the system for providing a leader with feedback!

My verdict
Overall, I am very enthusiastic of what I saw of Crowdoscope. It’s easy to understand, it’s intuitive, it provides a sophisticated (but not overly complicated) approach to really being able to gauge what employees are thinking or feeling about a particular concept of subject.

It also avoids researchers receiving a linear list of question responses to go through and decipher, instead grouping comments together based on the number of employees which interact with it.
Also, what I particularly liked is that it isn’t simply a tool for capturing data, it serves as a way of engaging people too. I think it’s a really good way of letting people share what they are really thinking and feeling and for the researcher to see how this lands with the rest of the community.
I wouldn’t use it as an isolated tool, but I can see the huge value that it offers.

I’m looking forward to hopefully using the tool with my clients. If you’re using it already and would like to share your experiences of using this, or on collective intelligence through some other way, I’d love to hear about how you’re using it and your experiences so please do get in touch.

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