CogGauge: From Hiring to Job Scheduling..Cognitive Performance Matters

A sick, non-energetic workforce can’t produce. Conversely, organizations with employees reporting higher energy at work have greater customer satisfaction, increased productivity, higher profit margins, lower employee turnover and fewer accidents. Are corporate wellness or lifestyle management programs the solution? A RAND study of approximately 600,000 employees across multiple employers suggests that lifestyle management programs are not having the impact one would have thought. RAND suggests that for every dollar an employer contributes to the lifestyle management program, they see an ROI of $.50. Fifty cents on the dollar!

Is it the program, or is it possible the program isn’t looking at the right data? If energy isn’t objectively being measured the program may be focused on incorrect markers. Enter the wearable. Gartner’s forecast of more than 270 million units of wearable devices to be sold in 2016 (close to $30B dollars) is partially driven by corporate wellness programs. Wearable device manufacturers such as Jawbone and Fitbit are getting in the corporate game, developing organizational level solutions that to connect enterprise level data to organizational metrics such as productivity and health costs.

Wearable apps are now going beyond steps or connect employees through workplace challenges and now include nutrition and sleep. But are we measuring energy? Is anyone tracking what is happening on the mental side of the equation? DI has been working on a wearable ecosystem, SHARPR, that promises to predict and improve mental energy. It integrates CogGauge, a neurocognitive battery shown to be sensitive to mental energy fluctuations due to a typical workday. With CogGauge, sleep, nutrition and activity, we believe we are finally objectively measuring employee energy.

What is CogGauge?

CogGauge is a gamified cognitive assessment application. A battery of games are used to evaluate attention keeping, decision making and other cognitive constructs. It is based on a series of neurocognitive tasks used by NASA and others.

How does it work?

An employee would play each game a couple times. Takes maybe 15 minute depending on how many games are relevant for their job or domain. This establishes a baseline. That baseline represents that employee’s aptitude with respect to that given cognitive construct.

CogGauge has been used for selection, correct?

That is correct. We found that a reliable baseline can be established very quickly for the cognitive constructs. We wondered however, that if we were measuring the same construct as currently available selection tests, if the tool could be used for selection.

Did you compare CogGauge to those tests and how did if fair?

Yes. We compared performance on CogGauge to performance on leading paper and pencil based tests such as those by ETS and we found moderate correlation. We basically discovered that we measured the same thing, performance was equivalent but CogGauge being game based was more interesting. We had a new test to help select employees based on cognitive aptitude.

CogGauge is interesting in that it has also been used to evaluate the impact changes to scheduling or job tasks have on employee fatigue and cognition. Can you explain?

Originally CogGauge was designed to evaluate the impact of stress on the cognitive performance of astronauts. For example, if your performance on a game is worse after 3 weeks in the space station compared to your baseline, maybe you shouldn’t perform that spacewalk.

But that is space. How is this relevant to the typical day job, for organizations here back on Earth?

We ran a ~400 person study where we compared performance prior to a shift to performance after a shift. The participants were the men and women that provide security at the checkpoints at our airports. We found that in the absence of abnormal events, performance was worse by the end of the shift. As people worked longer hours, and reported more fatigue, they performed worse on the games. So the idea of using CogGauge to evaluate changes an organization makes to schedules, job tasks etc, was born. You can get much better insight into the impact of your changes then simple subjective evaluations.

So CogGauge can be used throughout the employment lifecycle?

Certainly. If you use it to hire an employee, or early in their tenure, you could use it continually when you make changes in the workplace you think may impact their ability to make decisions, pay attention.

DI seems to have taken the next step though. You are now using as part of a wearable application. Can you explain?

We are developing a mobile application called SHARPR. It uses algorithms that incorporate nutrition, sleep patterns and CogGauge to predict when a person may be at their peak mental acuity. CogGauge is part of this application. By combining sleep, physical activity, nutrition and cognition we can get a much clearer picture of a person’s current state, and predict their future state.

Interesting. How might this SHARPR product be used?

An individual consumer may use this similar to existing fitness applications, but the inclusion of the cognitive portion and much more accurate sleep data will make it more meaningful for people.

We think the biggest value is for enterprise customers however. Particularly, those that employ multiple shifts like nursing, firefighting and for air crews. We have also seen interest in the elite sports community. Organizations will get a clear picture of the current state and predicted mental acuity of their employees. This can enhance productivity and safety.

If you are interested in learning more about CogGauge and SHARP for individual or enterprise use, please contact matthew.johnston@designinteractive.net.


Design Interactive has been optimizing human performance since 1998. We leverage cutting edge technology to understand human behavior, deliver adaptive training systems and engaging UX experiences. As a niche provider of game based cognitive aptitude assessments, DI now offers services and products that help you hire the right people, accelerate them to competency and optimize their productivity.