From the Battlefield to the Boardroom: My mission to fix Workplace Morale
For decades, we’ve imagined a future where artificial intelligence gives everyone superpowers. Now it’s finally here, it’s up to us to figure out how to use it for good.
As AI begins to flex its potential in the tech stack of every company, the way we work needs to shift too. It’s the same story with every major new technological advance that’s ever happened and, in this respect, AI is really no different - even if it *feels* different.
Seismic change - whether that’s about rapidly advancing AI or the invention of the internet or the personal computer - always leads to anxiety about the value of human labour, and the potential impact on jobs.
But I believe AI has the potential to improve our jobs and our lives.
Harnessed right, it might even make us better at being human. And let’s face it, the world of work could do with a reboot.
The Open University’s annual Business Barometer report states 86% of large enterprise companies and 68% of SMEs say they’re facing skills shortages. Companies all over the world are “restructuring”, a polite term for fewer people doing more. Industrial relations in the public sector are fractious, with the workforce and business leaders frequently at loggerheads. Managers everywhere feel under-equipped and overloaded.
No wonder 40% of employees are at any one time considering leaving their job - and burnout is the biggest factor here by far. And when someone does quit, the recruitment and training costs of replacing them is on average north of £30,000.
With this much at stake, you would imagine that businesses would put as much effort into retention as they do into recruitment. But for most companies, their investment in retention is orders of magnitude less than in their recruitment. Usually, by the time management has realised something isn't quite right, the employee has either found a new role or has sunk into an unmotivated, low-performing funk.
I have worse news for businesses because burnout is highly contagious. It spreads quickly in teams, eating away at team cohesion and performance - in other words, morale.
During my ten years in the Royal Marines, I was shot at, bombed, and was even injured in two separate explosions. High-risk environments and high-stress situations came with the job. But somehow, I never felt close to burning out.
That’s because the Marines rely on a clear mission focus, strong values and purpose, ops cycles that include rest - and here’s where the military differs from the business world - leadership that actively measures and manages team morale.
Morale is the spirit of an organisation, the collective energy that drives members to perform their best. It’s one of the cornerstones on which every elite military force in the world is built.
So when I left the Marines and began coaching CEOs, I was stunned that while they had focus, values and purpose, they had no way to measure or manage morale across their organisation in real time. And of course, what isn’t measured can’t be managed. A lot of the challenges these people were facing in their roles sounded like they were ultimately rooted in low team morale.
This was where the penny-dropped for me and my cofounder Antony Thompson.
We founded Loopin because morale is a metric that belongs on every founder, CEO, and team leader’s core KPIs. We wanted to build a platform that, for the first time, builds a team’s morale and gives businesses an easy way to measure it, moment by moment. At the core of the platform is something we built to be an equivalent to our experience of active duty, where as a unit, we would regularly and informally check in with each other to make sure everyone was holding up. The daily check in, integrated with Slack and Teams, makes teams feel closer together. They share things they wouldn’t share in a meeting, or in an email or even on a messaging platform.
Now we’re layering in AI.
Working in a company is very different to the Royal Marines. The stakes are different. But I know from my subsequent experience as a founder, it can be highly pressured and highly demanding.
With a simple daily check-in, teams can easily share how they are feeling, giving peers a chance to give each other some space, lend a hand or reach out for a chat.
Simultaneously, the real-time data that we gather helps employers and managers better understand their people. Using ChatGPT's Learnt Language Model, we can measure feelings based on language choice, which we input into our model to produce predictive data, and then provide in-person coaching for employers to help them better manage the unique needs of their teams.
Managers who understand their people can boost morale before issues even arise. Through real-time insights, they know when to motivate and give extra support. A team that is clear on where it is heading and has each other’s backs will celebrate and commiserate together, perform for each other as much as for themselves, and ultimately continue going even through difficult times.