You like making decisions for your company based on real science and facts, right? Yeah, thought so. Well, pack some snacks, because digital coaching platform BetterUp is about to take you on a fantastic journey to understand human performance.

One lab, one huge objective

This month, BetterUp announced the launch of a new behavioral research facility, BetterUp Labs. Their goal in layman's terms? Do as many cross-discipline studies as possible about how we can transform ourselves and work better. The lab, which brings together business, academia and science, will take a scientific approach to getting answers to questions about best practices, motivation, mental health, creativity and more. Those answers ultimately could reshape foundational mindsets and operations on both a personal and professional level across all industries.

A natural progression of vision

BetterUp's Chief Innovation Officer, Harvard-trained physician and behavioral science researcher Dr. Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, says that CEO Alexi Robichaux always had envisioned a research arm for the company, and that BetterUp would need to invest in its own research to get data necessary for the business' work. Kellerman also asserts that artificial barriers that divide fields are a huge hindrance to progress in the behavioral sciences. Subsequently, the company wants to create a space, such as the lab, that will foster interdisciplinary collaboration.

Hitting the ground running

Kellerman says the lab is already set to explore a range of topics, such as remote work and coaching.

"We currently have about two dozen research projects underway both internally and in partnership with academic leaders at top institutions around the country," Kellerman says. "One of our biggest investments has been in developing our own longitudinal data base of more than 5000 American employees across industries whose demographic, psychographic, employment/performance, and wellbeing details we are tracking and measuring against different interdisciplinary topics of interest like inclusion, loneliness, innovation, or meaning."

Some of the studies slated at or envisioned for BetterUp Labs admittedly are more theoretical than others--that is, it's not really clear yet how the results might translate into practice. But as we learn more with each study, the specifics about how to translate the data will get better. And Kellerman asserts that the lab--and BetterUp in general--is fully equipped to identify and pivot to accommodate new findings.

"This is part of why we have so many different scientists on staff--there's a lot to keep track of across all the varied, relevant scientific domains! Even our whole person assessment model is designed as a living, breathing approach that we are constantly reinventing. We don't believe that any leadership or competency model should be set in stone, because the science behind it sure isn't."

"At the same time, we want that pace of scientific innovation to be even faster than it is, because there's still so much to learn. Our lab aims to speed knowledge creation in key areas and then to implement that knowledge immediately where applicable to our business."

Kellerman adds that published findings designed to help inform operational decisions will have recommendations that are as specific as the lab can get. But she also recognizes that you might have to interpret the findings to suit the specific needs of your group--not everything is easy to apply in a blanket way, especially considering cultural nuances. And since most behavioral research findings function on a population level, you have to recognize the need to treat people as individuals, too. Coaches can help you apply the findings effectively to specific employees.

Big funding, bigger benefits for your business

BetterUp currently is set to invest $15-20 million in its lab over the next five years. But as Kellerman reminds us, people are a company's biggest investment. And if the lab can provide the evidence-based practices that can help your team flourish, the return might be mind-boggling.

"The potential upside here is astronomical," concludes Kellerman. "To give you a sense for it: We recently quantified the potential for solving just one specific issue of interest, the lack of meaning that American workers experience in their jobs. We estimate that for every 10,000 workers, making their experience of work highly meaningful would result in $82M in productivity gains, and $55M in reduced turnover for managers alone. Another example: for our core coaching product, we conservatively estimate a 3.5x-5x ROI based on the behavioral outcomes we see for that intervention. That's all money currently being left on the table in the form of suboptimized talent. These are not numbers management can afford to ignore."

Published on: Aug 27, 2018