I answered an AI-powered survey that revealed my innermost motivations, and immediately understood why companies pay thousands for employees to take it

Screen Shot 2019 01 16 at 5.32.36 PMAttuned

  • The Japanese startup Attuned devised a 55-question survey that can identify what motivates a company's employees.
  • The survey uses AI to gauge how much each employee is motivated by money, competition, and other values.
  • I took the survey, and immediately understood why companies are shelling out thousands of dollars to have their employees take it.

Keeping people motivated is one of the hardest things about being a manager - which is why companies are paying a Japanese startup thousands of dollars to help them do it.

The Tokyo-based startup Attuned offers companies what it calls "predictive HR analytics" that can identify the intrinsic motivations of each member of a team. By having employees take a simple 55-question survey, Attuned says it can reveal who within a company is motivated by money, who thrives on competition, who requires a flashy job title to be happy, and more.

Related: A Japanese startup created a 55-question test that uses AI to pinpoint exactly what makes employees tick, and companies are paying thousands to use it

Attuned's American-born CEO Casey Wahl said the startup spent more than two years working with a team of psychologists to write the perfect set of questions - ones that not only yielded a strong link to specific values, but also wouldn't take more than 10 or 15 minutes to complete.

Wahl invited me to take the survey, so last week I took him up on the offer. Although I was bewildered by some of the questions, I managed to make it through, and learn something about myself in the process. And I left understanding why major Japanese companies like Rakuten and Denso are shelling out so much money to have their employees do the same.

Here's what the experience was like:

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Attuned is a Japanese startup that provides companies with what it calls "predictive HR analytics" to help them understand what motivates each of their employees.

Attuned is a Japanese startup that provides companies with what it calls "predictive HR analytics" to help them understand what motivates each of their employees.

When companies sign on with Attuned, their employees take a 55-question survey meant to assess how strongly they value things like "competition," "feedback," "social relationships," and "autonomy" at work.

When companies sign on with Attuned, their employees take a 55-question survey meant to assess how strongly they value things like "competition," "feedback," "social relationships," and "autonomy" at work.

Companies are paying top dollar for the service. A basic yearly subscription to Attuned costs about $2,000 for a company of 200 employees or fewer, while a premium subscription costs $5,000 minimum.

Companies are paying top dollar for the service. A basic yearly subscription to Attuned costs about $2,000 for a company of 200 employees or fewer, while a premium subscription costs $5,000 minimum.

I recently took Attuned's 55-question survey. Each question presented me with a pair of statements and asked me to indicate which one applied to me more.

I recently took Attuned's 55-question survey. Each question presented me with a pair of statements and asked me to indicate which one applied to me more.

The statements all connected to one of the 11 values Attuned scores people on — in this case, feedback and financial needs.

The statements all connected to one of the 11 values Attuned scores people on — in this case, feedback and financial needs.

I had to decide not only which statement was more true, but how strongly I preferred it over the other statement. In this case, I went with "somewhat prefer."

I had to decide not only which statement was more true, but how strongly I preferred it over the other statement. In this case, I went with "somewhat prefer."

In some cases, my decision was easy and clear-cut.

In some cases, my decision was easy and clear-cut.

In others, the statements weren't so easy to compare. I considered both of the below statements mostly true, so I had trouble picking a side.

In others, the statements weren't so easy to compare. I considered both of the below statements mostly true, so I had trouble picking a side.

Some of the statements were pretty on the nose in terms of which values and motivators they were connected to. Both of the ones below even explicitly asked me what I was motivated by.

Some of the statements were pretty on the nose in terms of which values and motivators they were connected to. Both of the ones below even explicitly asked me what I was motivated by.

At times, evaluating each statement did require some logical hoop-jumping. For this question, I had to determine whether my willingness "to do work that I don't really enjoy" for more money outweighed my tendency to prepare for vacations in advance.

At times, evaluating each statement did require some logical hoop-jumping. For this question, I had to determine whether my willingness "to do work that I don't really enjoy" for more money outweighed my tendency to prepare for vacations in advance.

And in this case, I had to consider whether my fondness for "rational debates" was more significant than the degree to which people can "count on me." That's not a comparison I typically make on a daily basis.

And in this case, I had to consider whether my fondness for "rational debates" was more significant than the degree to which people can "count on me." That's not a comparison I typically make on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, this one just left me scratching my head.

Meanwhile, this one just left me scratching my head.

The very last question presented me with a tough choice between two statements I didn't think applied to me at all.

The very last question presented me with a tough choice between two statements I didn't think applied to me at all.

However, since I disagreed much more with the statement about elite neighborhoods, I ended up moving the slider all the way to the right. Maybe I was overthinking it, but I wanted to make sure I was following the rules given.

However, since I disagreed much more with the statement about elite neighborhoods, I ended up moving the slider all the way to the right. Maybe I was overthinking it, but I wanted to make sure I was following the rules given.

After I finished the test, I was shown my "motivational profile" — the full breakdown of how much I'm motivated by each of the 11 values. Attuned sorts each category into things that I "need to have" at work, things that are "nice to have," and things that I'm "neutral" toward.

After I finished the test, I was shown my "motivational profile" — the full breakdown of how much I'm motivated by each of the 11 values. Attuned sorts each category into things that I "need to have" at work, things that are "nice to have," and things that I'm "neutral" toward.

Apparently, my two biggest motivators are competition and financial needs. That surprised me — although I love competition outside of work, I never thought of it as being integral to my work experience. And even though I want to have my financial needs met, I probably wouldn't have gone into journalism if it were that important.

Apparently, my two biggest motivators are competition and financial needs. That surprised me — although I love competition outside of work, I never thought of it as being integral to my work experience. And even though I want to have my financial needs met, I probably wouldn't have gone into journalism if it were that important.

"Rationality" and "social relationships" were two things it said I considered "nice to have" at work, but not essential.

"Rationality" and "social relationships" were two things it said I considered "nice to have" at work, but not essential.

I didn't have any complaints about my "altruism" and "progress" scores — the bullet points seemed mostly accurate, as far as I could tell.

I didn't have any complaints about my "altruism" and "progress" scores — the bullet points seemed mostly accurate, as far as I could tell.

But I was surprised to see "feedback" so low on the list, because I thought I had indicated several times throughout the test that I valued constructive criticism.

But I was surprised to see "feedback" so low on the list, because I thought I had indicated several times throughout the test that I valued constructive criticism.

The last section of my motivational profile provided examples of work environments I would be a "good fit" or "not a good fit" in.

The last section of my motivational profile provided examples of work environments I would be a "good fit" or "not a good fit" in.

I could see how these extrapolations could be helpful to managers and supervisors looking to find the right roles for their employees.

I could see how these extrapolations could be helpful to managers and supervisors looking to find the right roles for their employees.

When every member of a team takes the survey, managers can see where each of their employees falls on the motivational spectrum. Each blue dot represents how a different employee scored on each value.

When every member of a team takes the survey, managers can see where each of their employees falls on the motivational spectrum. Each blue dot represents how a different employee scored on each value.

CEO Casey Wahl shared his team's 'cultural dashboard' with me — he's the purple dot on each line — and you can see how his values sometimes differ from his employees'. He's less motivated by feedback, for example. Now that he knows that, he tries harder to encourage his employees, even though he said "it's not my natural style."

CEO Casey Wahl shared his team's 'cultural dashboard' with me — he's the purple dot on each line — and you can see how his values sometimes differ from his employees'. He's less motivated by feedback, for example. Now that he knows that, he tries harder to encourage his employees, even though he said "it's not my natural style."

The Attuned survey is not a one-time thing. Subscriptions also include "pulse surveys" — short, 30-second follow-up quizzes that employees take every two weeks to see how their motivators change over time. Attuned uses AI to tailor the surveys to the individual based on answers they've previously given.

The Attuned survey is not a one-time thing. Subscriptions also include "pulse surveys" — short, 30-second follow-up quizzes that employees take every two weeks to see how their motivators change over time. Attuned uses AI to tailor the surveys to the individual based on answers they've previously given.

According to Wahl, the pulse surveys can predict when employees are on the verge of quitting.

According to Wahl, the pulse surveys can predict when employees are on the verge of quitting.

Even though I didn't think my profile was a picture-perfect assessment, I realized the tool could be a huge time saver for team leaders. The ability to know what makes each of your employees tick could lead to increased productivity and lower turnover rates. That alone probably makes it worth the investment, and I can see why companies are shelling out so much money to try it.

Even though I didn't think my profile was a picture-perfect assessment, I realized the tool could be a huge time saver for team leaders. The ability to know what makes each of your employees tick could lead to increased productivity and lower turnover rates. That alone probably makes it worth the investment, and I can see why companies are shelling out so much money to try it.
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