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E3 Solutions Uses Science to Revamp Human Resources

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Many companies across the U.S. have issues with worker morale and productivity. Clarendon-based E3 Solutions employs neuroscience to help companies solve those problems.

E3 CEO Don Rheem said he started his business six years ago to give human resources departments tools they can use through empirically validated science. While many companies have cutting-edge computers and software, few of them have HR processes that aren’t stuck in the 1990s, he said.

“Very little that’s done in the HR field is actually based on empirically validated research related to human behavior,” Rheem said.

The idea for E3 — which gets its name from the three E’s of envision, empower and engage — came when Rheem worked as a communications consultant. After 20 years in the communications industry, Rheem realized that while he was helping find better ways to communicate, the messages he conveyed remained ineffective.

He then took it upon himself to figure out ways to make workplace culture better and improve communication on a greater scale. Using science, Rheem was able to discover some of the main issues that affect workers.

Rheem learned that humans by nature are hard-wired to work as a group, creating a tribe. The workplace has evolved into a tribe, where adults spend most of their time with other adults, he said. As a result, the brain has specific requirements that lead to the optimal performance of the group.

“The brain expects to find certain conditions when it gets into the group and we now know what those conditions are,” Rheem said. “That’s what we help our clients see and understand, and then we help them to do the tactical things, the logistical things that they need to do in their company so that the brain feels those conditions that it wanted.”

For new clients, E3 begins with a 26-question online assessment that companies send out to all of their employees. After collecting the data, E3 can figure out how engaged the employees are, creating a profile that helps businesses determine what the issues are.

In the case of an electric company that had a morale issue, for example, E3 found that about a third of its employees were disengaged. After a year of working with the company, almost half of the disconnected workers became engaged.

“That’s the beauty of using science,” Rheem said. “Unlike these typical leadership approaches that are literally made up by the company or proprietor that’s doing it, we use science, and when you use science, it works every time.”

E3 also makes sure to apply what it sells to its own business.

Rheem said he chose to base his company in a MakeOffices location due to the social aspects that come with working in a shared office space. Unlike traditional workplaces with long hallways and individual offices where interaction might be limited, MakeOffices allows people to mingle with employees from other businesses, building connections and a sense of community in the workplace.

“We know we’re herd animals,” he said. “We know we’re hardwired to have safe and secure connections with others. What we’re essentially helping our clients do is creating those safe and secure connections inside the workplace. When you do that, people thrive by design. When you create those conditions, you don’t have to tell employees to become engaged, they become engaged organically.”

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