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How to identify underlying issues and improve culture to retain top talents

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"I think from a simple dollars-and-cents point of view, it's just less expensive to take care of good people than it is to try and find new ones."
Cindy Lopez-Larson, Director of People and Operations
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Employee Feedback at Your Fingertips

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Transcript

I think the biggest way that TINYpulse has been successful for us has been a... It's allowed us to be an avenue to collect that employee feedback in a way that, A, there's a record of it, particularly when we start to see patterns, and it's been an opportunity to deal with either individual unique situations. Even though it's anonymous, we can say, "Hey, it looks like on this team there might be this situation. I'm going to talk to that practice lead, have them talk to their managers." We can usually source out what the problem might be. Then, also, what's been beneficial for me as a director of people, and as our company grows, we can actually see potential systemic issues or needs that we have as we scale as an organization. We didn't need this at 20 people, but suddenly at 40 people this is now an area of concern, and we need to figure out how to grow. TINYpulse gives us the data to indicate in which direction we should focus our energies. Aaron is the CEO of our organization. He and I meet together on a weekly basis, on Tuesdays. We'll get together, we'll plan out the next month's worth of questions, and so each week we're taking a look, making sure, yeah, that question still makes sense for this coming week. Because TINYpulse questions come out every Wednesday, at least for our organization, we post weekly, and in that timing, besides looking at scheduling, we're also looking at people's responses and taking a look at, "Ooh, that one might be concerning," "Hey, this person didn't leave an explanation, but they gave us a score of four, so let's dig into that. Let's ask for a little bit more information, a little bit more context," and hopefully they respond, and if they do, then that's also an opportunity for more conversation. We do that for roughly 30 minutes every Tuesday, and then throughout the week, I'm checking in on responses. Oh, we've got a bunch of people who didn't leave context, going to respond to those folks and hopefully get those responses and allow me to have a conversation with people that makes them feel heard and hopefully get to the root of whatever problem they're experiencing. One of the things I've loved about working with Aaron as our CEO is, for him, culture is the top thing at Wheelhouse. We absolutely are a business, we have to make money, we have to serve our clients, but really our people are what do that. Having a great culture is incredibly important to Aaron. So having a tool like TINYpulse that allows us to take a broad lens and look at how our culture is doing and how our people are doing, that is something he values quite a bit. That's helpful. But there are still situations where some feedback comes in and says some people are struggling, feeling like the organization is not being transparent. Because that's such a deeply felt thing for Aaron, to be transparent, he might say, "Wait, I think they're assuming the wrong intention." My role there is to say, "Okay, well if your intention was to be more transparent, and this is how they're feeling the impact, then perhaps we need to do a better job of communicating what system or change in approach do we need to make so that they're feeling the impact of your intent," and not having them in conflict. Fairly recently, back in I want to say March or April, we were taking a look at our quarterly review process, and it was starting, to me, to feel heavy. It felt like a big lift for myself. It felt like a big lift for our managers. We had been doing these reviews on a quarterly basis, and they took probably two or few weeks for each manager to get through every single one of their employees. Each review was probably an hour and a half long, so starting to feel this lift, wondering, "Is it worth it? Is it right?". So we actually created several custom questions around review processes, performance management, one-on-one, things like that, to get an understanding of how do people feel about them, to what value do they ascribe to them, and what ideas do they have for making the process better. One, what was great is I didn't have to create a whole other survey for people to do that and then hope that 10% of people got back to me, because people are already used to regularly posting; this just was a part of their natural response rate. On top of that, we got a lot of great data that allowed us to decide, okay, as a leadership team, we redesigned the review format. We decided we're going to go away from quarterly and go by annual. And the feedback we collected after reviews were done, is "This is so much easier," much better lift, and the whole process felt better for everybody. I would say everybody, but also with the caveat of you have to be committed to doing it right. TINYpulse is a tool that... I think everybody should be using TINYpulse, if you're willing to commit the time to use it correctly and use it well, that you have somebody dedicated to looking at responses, that you have somebody dedicated to responding, if they're not the same people, you have somebody who's looking at the overall data and either communicating that to leadership if leadership is not the one doing that, and also if it's one tool in your arsenal of communicating and connecting with your people. I don't think TINYpulse is something that can operate in isolation. It's not a Band-Aid that will solve any issue. It needs to be used in conjunction with a plan for connecting with people. I think if I was talking to somebody who is in some sort of people management, whether they're HR or whether maybe they're just a manager, they manage people, and they're trying to make the case, "Here's why you should put budget around this," one, I think we have heard this from many people, that people are your most important asset. Whether you're an agency like we are, or whether you make some sort of product, or even if you work in a factory, there are people involved in every facet of the business, and when it comes to... I'm also a recruiter. That's part of my role. Recruiting people is expensive. It's much easier to keep people, and keep people happy and engaged in the work that they do than it is to cycle through them and have to find more of them. I think from a simple dollars-and-cents point of view, it's just less expensive to take care of good people than it is to try and find new ones. I would also say that when people are feeling engaged in the work that they're doing, they're going to produce higher-quality work. When people feel like you as a business care about them, and I think TINYpulse enables that, then they care about the business, they're going to look out for the business, and they're going to be thinking about ways to improve. Again, I'm going to bring it down to a manufacturing level. You've got your line manager thinking about, "Oh, I'm seeing an area of inefficiency," and so they're actually going to take the time. Maybe they're thinking about it on their way home from work. They're not even at work thinking about it. They're thinking, "I see a way to make this more efficient. I've come up with a solution." That happens because they're engaged; they felt connected to that organization. I think part of how we have maintained enthusiasm for TINYpulse is the fact that I'm constantly responding to people in it. There aren't responses that go unheard or unacknowledged. Then, also, our COO puts out a weekly newsletter that states, "Okay, here was the question this week. Here are the stats in terms of which team has responded. We can see, oh, the digital strategy had a 45% response rate, but don't worry, we still have two days left to respond. And technical services, they're kicking butt. They're doing 70%," which makes the other teams want to compete and make sure they respond better. We will sometimes put in actual responses that we've received and said, hey, we've heard this, and we're going to use this information to better some process, make a quick change, do something as simple as adding a smaller trashcan in the bathrooms for different things. I think something that wouldn't have come to the forefront as easily, something that TINYpulse helped us bring to the forefront that we would not have heard of I think just from a maybe comfort place, that people were maybe not as comfortable talking about directly, is parental leave. We're in the process of rolling out a more comprehensive parental leave program, and what TINYpulse allowed us to do... It came through a suggestion. Somebody said, "Hey, what's our plan here?" Then somebody else said, "Hey, I've heard this at other organizations. I'm curious what we would consider about adding something like this to our leave program." We had a couple of people who brought those suggestions in, and then because of TINYpulse's feature of being able to upvote, we had lots of people say, "Yeah, this is of interest to us. This is of interest." Then I could take that and say, "Hey, this is clearly an area where people are passionate about. For whatever reason, they weren't necessarily going to bring it up to us in person, but now that it's sort of out there, people are rallying around it." And from there, I was able to take that, start working on it, start doing some research, and we're about to roll out a much more comprehensive program.