Ways We Innovate: Lobby Watch

Here is an interesting exercise in judging your companies employee engagement.

It requires a few days of effort and keen observation. First, block out your calendar for weekday mornings and afternoons, preferably a half hour before your typical workday starts, and until a half-hour after your workday ends. Sure, this might mean long days throughout this study, but trust me, it will be worth it.

If you are a familiar figure within your company, stake out a position somewhere in or near the lobby where you can see your employees coming in in the morning, and you can see them leaving in the evening, but you cannot be seen. If you are well known or a senior leader within the organization, find a place to hide so that you are not seen but can see.

If not, then either hire a temporary contractor (or us) or place a new hire no one may know in the lobby. Give them a computer and have them look like they are working intently on something when they are merely observing your employees as they come in. Have this person observe the bulk of your employees coming in on each day of the week, and observe them on the way out each day of the week.

Look especially for facial expressions and gait. Do your people come in Monday morning eager to get to work, or do they sluggishly drag themselves through the door with a grim expression. Have your observer make notes on your employee attitude. Are they happy when they are out of the door? Do they look more joyful after Wednesday? Are they positively giddy by Friday afternoon?

Note all of this, along with the time of day, expressions, gait, whatever you can capture. Don’t use cameras; it’s doubtful that you will be able to determine any of this without a keen human observer on the floor or nearby. At the end of the week, tally the results.

How many fo your employees exhibited positive expressions and body language as they came in every day? What were the differences in the morning and in the afternoon? By day? If you are like most companies, you’ll see unhappy grimness in the morning, elation in the afternoon, and a general increase in happiness overall starting on – you guessed it – Wednesday afternoon (hump day is real). You say, so what, every company is the same. Untrue. There are plenty of companies out there with the opposite – the majority of their employees come in happy and energized, ready to tackle their days and invent the future and dawdle on their way home.

Your goal is not to erase everyone’s grimness, but to at least get the majority of your employees to enjoy coming in every day. When you roll out new employee engagement initiatives, test their effectiveness with a fresh lobby watch, not a survey. As Dan Ariely has proven, people will lie on surveys to get through them.

Use your observational skill on your employees, and you will truly get a better picture of how they feel about you.

Startup idea: AI, which can score employee engagement by generating sentiment analysis based on a computer vision rendering employee sentiment based on their facial expressions and gait as they walk in and out of the office.