The unprecedented disruption that COVID-19 has wrought over the past 15 months or so may be receding in the United States, but many employers still face daunting challenges as 2021 passes the midway point.
For example, many employees continue to work from home, while some essential workers never had that luxury. In both cases, people often labored under stressful conditions, issues like having to manage child care and work during the day as schools remain closed, or longer hours working from home, for instance.
With that context, is boosting employee well-being and resilience more important now than it’s ever been? In many respects, the answer seems to be yes. While the final determination of what form of workplace design the “new normal” will bring — many are predicting a hybrid approach of, say, three days in the office, two at home — the pandemic has left a trail of stressed-out employees across every business sector.
For this latest edition of Tech Drive, we checked out a quartet of platforms/apps that exist to boost workforce well-being and resilience, and, subsequently, performance. As HR technology analyst Josh Bersin wrote in a recent blog post, it’s about time a well-being focus becomes part of every employer’s employee engagement arsenal. “Let’s move well-being out of the ‘benefits department’ and make it part of the corporate culture,” Bersin wrote. If any of the following platforms look to represent a step in that direction for your organization, be sure to sample the options via demo.
BetterUP Inc., San Francisco
Founded in 2013, BetterUp operates on the premise that employees at all levels of organizations deserve access to professional coaching. At its most basic, BetterUp is a mobile-based “leadership development platform” designed to offer a holistic, science-backed methodology. Through on-demand, virtual coaching sessions, users practice and reinforce new behaviors and skills. Individual growth is measured and tracked.
The BetterUp interface is a mix of online live video within a mobile-based platform that, once a coaching match is successfully completed, offers personalized one-on-one support and is easily tapped by any end user. In fact, usability is fairly cut and dried, and that’s a good thing in today’s move toward consumerization of digital business tools.
Moving through the BetterUp demo, the cornerstone of BetterUp’s coaching method is the Whole Person assessment. Its goal is to boost awareness of areas of strength and highlight opportunities for growth. It makes sense as a starting point; the self-assessment serves as the foundation of data collection, updated over time, and is used to analyze the impact that BetterUp has on both the individual and on the organization.
It’s easy to see how the BetterUp user experience is grounded in personal goals. Some people might work on communication or prioritization skills. Others can focus on building resilience or self-compassion. And specific situations can be addressed and added. For instance, during the COVID months, BetterUp launched a coaching option for working parents.
BetterUp’s AI-driven technology suggests three coach options that match assessment-based goals and needs. Employees can then check out each coach’s background and qualifications. They also can review a coach’s availability (time zone for scheduling). When it’s time for a coaching session, employees simply open the app and launch the video connection.
While employees meet one-on-one with their coach for several months, those who need in-the-moment support can answer a few questions and immediately be matched with a coach for an on-demand session that same day. There are also live group sessions led by a coach, as groups meet weekly to build skills and jump-start behavior change with support from their peers.
After spending time experiencing the BetterUp platform, you get a good sense of how the strategy is clearly designed and built to help employees rebound from stressors and build skills in a positive, potentially life-changing way.
Bloom Healing Arts Academy, Milwaukee
Product: Bloom Healing Arts
Bloom Healing Arts Academy offers real-time online instructors to give employees sustainable, ongoing methods of self-healing, self-discovery and overall “mind, body and spirit alignment.” It’s not coaching, per se; it’s more like an eclectic menu of in-the-moment self-improvement courses open to employees looking for ways to grow and change. For corporate clients, the firm also offers consulting, executive coaching, on-site master classes and retreats (though about midway through the pandemic, its streamed classes quickly morphed into the main outreach platform). The concept here is simple: Employer clients offer Bloom Healing Arts Academy classes via their benefits menu and receive corporate discounts to cover the per-class costs.
As far as the tech platform goes, Bloom Healing Arts Academy’s live-streamed interactive classes typically run from 30 minutes to an hour; instructors are global. Here, employers can provide employees with access to a portal populated with an array of options, allowing them to learn on their own time and at their own pace from their favorite instructors. From an end-user perspective, it’s as easy as a Zoom chat.
The key concept at work here is that the workplace has a serious influence on well-being both inside and outside of the office. With that, the main idea for Bloom Academy of Healing Arts is to create a healthy “ripple effect” in not just the work- place, but in the home environment as well.
Taking a look around at the variety of offerings and the delivery modality, it looks to be an easy, focused way to discover what spiritual wellness might mean to individual employees. The critical idea during the demo is that any positivity that comes from the online live classes will “resonate and percolate” across the enterprise. Cruising the site, you can see that Bloom Academy’s online wellness universe offers a wide range of subject matters, including the “art of being present,” breathwork, meditation basics, the power of forgive- ness, hypnotherapy, sound baths and even feng shui.
No, this is not your traditional employee benefit. However, this might be just what employers need to help their employees regain some equilibrium in today’s evolving workplace. Clearly, the Bloom Academy virtual platform extends the reach of the team of global instructors. The objective, according to its founder Tawn Williams (who also led the demo), is to touch more people’s lives with a goal to make it easy for employers everywhere to incorporate unique, new wellness options they can offer their employees; pretty much what I experienced during the demo.
Speaking of equilibrium, meQuilibrium is a digital solution designed for building employee resilience. To do that, it “harnesses the science of resilience, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, biometrics and neuroscience” to help employers build workforce well-being and boost their personal potential.
Beyond resilience training, the meQuilibrium Suite delivers active collaboration between work colleagues and managers through three key components: mentoring, values alignment and team courses. At the team and organizational level, the enhanced meQ Suite offers strategic, comprehensive and validated insights into workforce efficacy, well-being and mindset — information that is unavailable through common HR sources and touch points.
According to the demo, these business intelligence tools, available in app format to team leaders and managers, can help them make the connection between team success and skill-building, measuring and improving the ability to deliver on the organization’s goals, mission and values.
Any app/solution designed to boost resiliency would naturally need to have a clean, easy-to-use interface, and meQuilibrium meets that bar and then some.
Based on the results of an initial assessment, each employee is assigned a customized journey through a sequence of skill-building content modules and activities. Using an AI-driven algorithm, the meQuilibrium demo showed how it can sequence the employee journey in a way that meets a member’s areas of greatest need as the top priority.
Judging by the demo, this solution also offers training, activities and coaching tools for managers, leaders and teams to help build organizational agility and create a culture of high performance. There also are tools to help managers learn frameworks that foster more effective decision making, problem solving and focus.
One thing that impressed during the demo was seeing how meQuilibrium provides visibility over population well-being trends at scale. That means that while a tool such as an employee experience survey only identifies business units that may be of concern, meQuilibrium’s detailed data can help both identify and address the root causes of any issues. In addition, meQuilibrium can help surface trends about the overall well-being of an organization’s employees across key health and risk factors such as stress, burnout and depression.
The meQuilibrium Suite demo also showed how it can aggregate and anonymize data via a dashboard view that gives executives and managers real-time insights into what is happening within employee groups, including sources of stress, and 18 resilience factors, corporate values alignment and an ROI calculator to quantify the savings resilience brings to an organization. The software delivers a major way to build a proactive position to manage risks before they become costly problems. meQuilibrium is the most complex of the four solutions profiled here. That does not mean it’s difficult to use, but it requires a demo to get the full scope of what it can do.
Sprout Wellness Solutions Inc., Toronto/Vancouver
Product: Sprout At Work
Sprout Wellness Solutions offers a global solution for workplace well-being fueled by a “flexible, holistic” rewards-based strategy. The goal is to empower organizations to embrace well-being by identifying and then rewarding healthy behaviors. Not novel, but if it works, very effective. You can see from the demo that it’s a centralized approach, with a flexible plat- form designed to meet employer and employee needs.
Taking a spin around, Sprout at Work’s well-being app is plenty engaging. The GUI can be accessed by computer or mobile device. The portal clearly centralizes an employer’s health offerings; it also allows employees to track their well-being goals. For HR administrators or other power users, the portal offers access to additional employee-related data. Sprout at Work also integrates with activity devices and apps (Fitbit, Garmin, Apple Health) to capture data while employees focus on their well-being, not figuring out how to use Sprout.
By using the Sprout at Work interface and gamification technology, goals are broken down into three prime focus categories: “move, eat and feel.” It’s simple for a user to see where they stand in the moment and what areas they need to focus on and improve.
Sprout at Work’s well-being score is determined by employees completing a real-time health risk assessment. Also, by connecting to wearable devices, employees gain access to a well-being score based on data science (which, the company says, is backed by 25 years of academic research).
Employees can monitor their progress as their score improves over time. And they get quantitative proof that their healthy choices will lead to feeling their best via activity tracking. In addition to manual activity, tracking users can also connect their wearable device or PC/Mac for a seamless tracking experience, allowing them to automatically upload their lifestyle activity, collect points, gain badges and earn rewards.
At the heart of the Sprout at Work concept is the idea that the integrated social stream builds valuable connections among employees and increases the virtual community through photo sharing, interest groups and stream posts. Employees using Sprout at Work also engage in a bit of “friendly” competition, another way to drive ongoing engagement and lasting behavioral change. The demo detailed how Sprout’s integrated reward program is flexible; it’s designed and built to recognize behaviors most important to each organization.
Based on program participation and achievements, Sprout at Work’s rewards for employees include gifts from well-known brands, with health-care insurance premium reductions or charitable giving options also available. Users can view library content covering, among a multitude of other topics, strength, training, mental health and nutrition. Employees also can save content for later or share it with colleagues and family members.
Finally, power users within HR can upload custom content based on what’s meaningful to their specific workforce. All in all, Sprout at Work looks like a great chance to drive engagement, employee well-being and, employers no doubt hope, bottom-line success.