John Ryder joined ecommerce specialist Visualsoft in December 2014 to head up its new Innovation Hub; to create and develop new software platforms that utilised the transferable skills within the company.
Within a couple of months, he hit upon the idea of creating an alternative to the much-maligned annual employee survey.
Instead, a software platform would micro-survey employees on a weekly basis and create more manageable results for HR managers and business owners to measure employee engagement and highlight areas of improvement.
Making it easily accessible through a website and charging a price per user would also open the service up to SMEs as well as large corporations.
The management team at Visualsoft immediately recognised the potential of the product and decided to create a stand-alone company, named Hive HR, with John as its managing director.
Over the past 12 months, John has sought to raise £300,000 investment for the venture through GrowthFunders, an FSA-regulated equity crowd funding and online co-investment platform, based in Newton Aycliffe.
So far, he has sourced £260,000 through the scheme.
Hive HR – which is being incubated by Visualsoft while the final funding is secured – launched a Beta version of its site in December, with a full launch planned for the first quarter of 2016.
Employee engagement is becoming increasing important for companies of all sizes who want to improve staff retention and satisfaction levels, and to lower sickness and absenteeism rates.
However, as John explains, levels of engagement among workforces remain shockingly low.
“A major survey has suggested that, in a typical company, only around 30 per cent of the workforce are fully engaged and working efficiently; 60 per cent are disengaged, so not working efficiently, while 10 per cent are actively disengaged and causing widespread negatively and damage to a company.”
Annual employee surveys (where staff are asked to complete around 50 questions once a year) are commonly used to measure engagement but this can present a number of problems, as John explains: “You create a whole spike of workload for the HR manager and then someone has to pick through all the data and decide on a number of actions.
“For employees, you’re asked to fill out a lengthy questionnaire and there can be an element of fatigue where people start to leave out the comments section in order to get it done as quickly as possible.
“Some employers even give their staff time off to do the survey and this can have an impact on productivity.”
Hive HR instead provides one question and one opportunity to comment on any issues or ideas the employees may have, on a weekly basis.
“We’ve focused on making it really easy for companies to start micro-surveying,” explains John. “It’s literally a five-minute set-up. You go onto our website, register and fill out a short form. The company gets a unique link each week that they share with their employees.”
Hive HR has worked with a number of HR experts to create around 70 questions which companies can choose from (or they can create their own). The selected question is then sent to the staff members who have agreed to be micro-surveyed, either via SMS, work email or personal email.
The anonymised results are collated in real time and fed back to a reporting suite where HR managers or company owners can access the information.
In addition, Hive HR has built Hive Fives into the platforms, which help to recognise and communicate good work and achievement within a company’s workforce.
According to John, Hive HR’s micro-surveying method not only presents practical advantages for businesses but it can actually increase employee engagement.
“It gives employees a permanent voice and an opportunity to help spark dialogue for positive change within a company or organisation on a continuous basis,” he explains.
Hive HR costs £1.75 per user per week, which makes the platform accessible for SMEs as well as larger companies; something that is an important element for John in developing the service.
“There’s the argument that the fewer employees you have in a company, the better you are at communicating among yourselves. But this is often not the case; people are focused on their own tasks and on growing the company.
“We see Hive HR as a platform that can benefit companies and organisations with as few as 20 members of staff.”
The target for Hive HR is to sign up a million employees to the site in the next five years – representing just three per cent of the total number of employees in the UK, there’s plenty of opportunity for these figures to grow.
John is also keen to develop the services of Hive HR as a performance tool focusing on how companies deliver customer appraisals.
“Right now, though, we’re really happy with the product we’ve created,” he says. “It’s something that’s going to help companies and organisations measure and understand employee engagement, and make a real impact on their businesses.”