How do we measure human performance?

It’s fair to say that measuring human performance has become my latest obsession.  I’ve been searching for metrics related to occupational health, culture, engagement and productivity, and trying to make sense of them all.  It turns out, there are some really excellent tools out there.  The big problem is that most of them measure human performance with a bias towards a particular business function.  For example, if you ask a facilities manager how they impact employee performance, they will look at air quality or access to building amenities.  If you ask a human resources professional, they are most focused on policies and behaviors that increase workforce engagement.  If you ask a wellness officer, they will be interested in smoking cessation rates or participation in exercise or mindfulness programs.  It can be difficult to prioritize which metrics are most important.

The good news is that new tools and methods are emerging that look more comprehensively at individual and organizational well-being. One of these is the Health and Human Performance Index developed by Center for Health and the Global Environment within Harvard’s School of Public Health. This tool combines elements of engagement, health, performance, culture and the physical work environment.

hapi tool

The HaPI Tool

My company, EYP, is working with Harvard and piloting their Health and Human Performance Index. Here are some initial findings from our pilot study.

  • Exercise is connected to office location. Our employee data shows a correlation between the amount of exercise employees are getting and office location. Employees assigned to an office with a shorter commute, in an urban (vs. suburban) location, access to public transportation, access to a park and views to the outdoors were more likely to exercise more.
  • Lack of sleep is connected to commute and workload. Lack of sleep was attributed to heavy workload, increased stress and longer commute time. Interestingly, the demographic of employees who sleep the least (and reported being the most stressed) are women, particularly those under 45. This falls in line with nationally reported data.
  • Stress impacts performance more than physical health issues. Overall, employees claimed mental health issues (stress and/or anxiety) were more impactful to presenteeism and absenteeism than physical health issues. This number went up for women and younger staff. There are many reasons employees might feel anxious like lack of sleep, lack of exercise, a heavy workload, or feeling a “lack of control” as to how, when, or where they get their work done.
  • Culture greatly impacts performance at work. When Harvard tested questions about culture, the work environment, amenities provided and workplace flexibility and then compared them to job performance and life satisfaction, their analysis confirmed what we suspected. Culture had a stronger impact on our health outcomes than the other factors by a long shot. Organizational factors like trust, respect, fairness, vibrant atmosphere and authenticity were connected to job productivity and life satisfaction more than anything else. Though not as highly rated as culture, there were some physical workplace elements that were more strongly connect to job and life satisfaction than others for our staff. These included: a place to lie down at the office, a place to meditate, bike storage and showers.
  • “Job control” is the most influential factor when it comes to job engagement. Factors like autonomy in decision making, learning new things, using creativity, using individual skills and abilities and “having a say in what happens with your job” impacted our engagement more than other factors.

job control hapi tool

Want to learn more?

Check out more about this tool on EYP’s website or feel free to reach out to me directly.

Photograph of Leigh StringerLeigh Stringer is a workplace strategy expert and researcher.  She works for EYP, an architecture and engineering firm and is the author of The Healthy Workplace: How to Improve the Well-Being of Your Employees—and Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line.