"One of the ways that the TINYpulse has helped us grow as a business is that it helps when I have a narrative around our culture piece of the organization, we talk about TINYpulse as being a big part of it. "
I started three schools at the same time in 2012. I was principal over two of them and superintendent over all three. We opened Texas' largest charter school with 800 children in 2012, and we had 65 employees. It was a very confusing, messy time. Within a short period of time, I realized that we were going to have more severe culture issues if I didn't get a handle on them. I knew that in the school world, just like in any organization, especially starting an organization with 65 employees and a $6 million budget from year one, that was going to be an issue. I happened upon TINYpulse, and I can't even remember how it was. I must have been researching culture because you know how the internet remembers you. I must have seen something about TINYpulse. I reached out. TINYpulse was very new, maybe a year old then. We started the conversation very quickly. I said, "Hey, let's do this." We knew that we needed some culture, a neutralizing tool, and TINYpulse gave us that very quickly. Were there some strong indicators that you were going to have some cultural challenges if you didn't do anything? Oh, no question about it. Our turnover rate. Our turnover rate has been high, although it's starting to stabilize. We've just started our seventh year. But when you are a charter school in Texas, you don't get paid as much as an ISD. So, our teachers very quickly saw that they ... Well, our teachers knew that if they didn't get comfortable fast in our environment, that they could go to work somewhere else for a few thousand more, and they would. It was our job to try to limit that as much as possible. We did do surveys as far as instructional surveys to our employees, but again, we'd only been open a year or two when we started the TINYpulse. So, relying on my directors to give me information about their staff and how their staff felt was probably the biggest way that I did that. Of course, remember, I was principal of two out of three the first year and then the biggest one the second year, and so I was there. I was in the scenes. Even when I wasn't in my particular school, I was at the other school, so a lot of walking into classrooms every week and a lot of hands-on being their data, but not necessarily written from the employees. I needed data. I'm a data person. I wanted to know how happy were our employees? Judging by our turnover rate, I could sense that there was something not 100% in our organization, or we wouldn't be losing them at the rate that we were losing them. The data showed me that we needed to do something different. What I really liked about TINYpulse was not only that it gave a survey and it gave me survey information back, but that there were the other parts of it. It was a whole machine. It was the Cheers For Peers. It was the suggestions and so forth. That's what appealed to me was that it was more than the survey. Well, it was the right time to move forward with TINYpulse, because again, the turnover rate. That was our driving thing is having to retrain teachers every year when we were already doing some of the hardest instructional programs that you could bring to a school. They're good instructional programs when done correctly, but it takes a teacher a year, two, or three to really master it. So, when you lose one after a year or two and you have to start over, then you're constantly feeling like you're walking backward three steps, walking forward two, and that's just not healthy for any organization. You said, "Since we don't receive public funds ..." but in fact in Texas, charter schools are public schools, and so we do receive public funds. We just don't receive as much. The reason for that is that the ISD, independent school districts, in Texas receive a tax amount from property taxes that we don't. They are able to offer their teachers anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 more a year, which for some of our hungrier teachers, that's going to make a difference. What we experienced after getting TINYpulse was that we were able to get data that we didn't have before. Plus, we were able to encourage our administrators, and our teachers of course, and our other staff, but especially our administrators, to use the Cheers For Peers. Being able to give recognition was imperative because that's one of the suggestions that we kept receiving was that teachers didn't feel heard. They didn't feel recognized. They didn't feel like they were seen and heard by their administrators. Being able to encourage the use of the Cheers For Peers was a huge part of it. Well, we know that tiny post has been successful because we have the numbers to show that. We have more increased use of the Cheers For Peers. We have teachers who have come to finally trust the anonymity of the surveys. That's been a huge issue with us over the years. We had teachers and staff that didn't trust that the surveys were anonymous. It took us literally years to gain that from our employees. It didn't help that not all of our leadership always treated it as something good, instead of a hammer. I would hear stories sometimes about a leader going into a faculty meeting and sort of berating staff for having said something in the suggestions, because those are read by me, and HR, and so forth and, and that wasn't something that they necessarily cared to hear. That helped me understand what kind of leaders I had also, in that how open were they to hearing what sometimes could sound critical? It did take time, but it also helped training our administrators to model the openness and the transparency that we were looking for by using it in faculty meetings, not as a hammer, but as a "Thanks for letting me know. What can we do together to solve this?", and so forth. Making sure our administrators used TINYpulse correctly went a long way towards helping our staff feel like their responses were not only anonymous but also sought after, needed by their leadership. That'd be a little hard, as far as tying some of our success metrics to TINYpulse, but certainly one can say that TINYpulse has been one of the major tools that we've used to ensure that the employees felt heard, that they have felt recognized, that they have felt cheered in a lot of ways, not only by their leadership but by others outside of leadership. For example, our central staff. We have divided TINYpulse into three different locations. We have the Mesquite location, the Plano location, and then the central staff location. Our central staff can send cheers to anyone, not only the central staff but to others in the other two buildings. Being able to help employees feel cheered, recognized, heard is something that I have placed on the shoulders of all of our central staff and our campus leadership. More opportunity for praise. One of the ways that the TINYpulse has helped us grow as a business is that it helps when I have a narrative around our culture piece of the organization, we talk about TINYpulse as being a big part of it. When we want to market our organization to potential staff, we want to be able to clearly state how it is that we know that our culture is successful, because we can talk to the tools that we have to offer to anybody who works for us. Being able to very clearly say that we have something like TINYpulse with its cheer and suggestions opportunities, the wall of wins, it's a way of making future employees feel like we care about them. TINYpulse has made my job easier as superintendent CFO because I am able to look at the data every week because we do our questions weekly. Let me mention, I know some companies do it biweekly or once a month, and I can't even imagine. I can't imagine waiting that long for the data. Maybe their organizations aren't as fragile as ours. We've had lots of changes. We're now at ... I believe I mentioned that we started at 800. We're now at 1,450 students, and we're at from 65 employees to 160 employees. So, we remain in a fragile state, not only from still higher than I'd like turnover, but also adding new people, just because of our growth. I understand, as CEO, that I need to make sure that there's a vehicle in a place that our administrators can use to make sure we have a constant pulse of the organization within each location and the district as a whole. Certainly, I would recommend it to any organization where people can, at least in the beginning, feel like their answers are anonymous. It'd be hard in an organization of three, but any organization, as I said, that is is large enough where people feel comfortable and safe because, in today's world, I've got to tell you, adults don't really feel comfortable talking to other adults about conflict. So, being able to give them a vehicle through which they can maybe resolve some of that conflict or at least bring it to the attention of somebody who can help resolve it in an anonymous way, until they do feel safe to do it in a face to face, it's a great vehicle to have. I'll take that in two ways. First of all, we have an onboarding that we do in bringing new employees on. We put them through a half-day on-boarding, and that includes being able to introduce them to our culture tools, like TINYpulse, and making sure that they, again, feel comfortable knowing that we have a tool in place ready weekly to hear them, and to cheer them, and to hear their voice. But I know that TINYpulse also has an onboarding for our new employees. I know that it has made some of our new employees feel comfortable faster. What I haven't done, because we just recently started using the TINYpulse on-boarding, is have that longitudinal data from sort of three-month employees. That's something, especially at this conference, that I learned more about that made me want to go back and say, "You know what, HR manager? Let's start looking at the new employees and their onboarding information that's coming through TINYpulse in a more strategic way.". Well, actually, it's been great. TINYpulse is very good at communicating. I have seen it develop different tools and different methodologies. I don't, I don't think it still does it, but I know I took part in some webinars a year or two ago and learned some new strategies there. I not only read the articles that TINYpulse sends every week, but I send them on to our leadership and oftentimes asking them to specifically look at certain articles that I know they need or that the district needs to get better at. Being able to have a source of information about how to better make our employees feel comfortable and safer benefits the whole organization. We have always spent time making sure that our employees know that TINYpulse is available to them. What I'll say is now that we're in four years, we're much better at it right now than we were because we've had to learn to develop implementation strategies around TINYpulse. One of the things that we do is we include it in our weekly bulletin. We have a weekly bulletin with the dates of the week out, and every Wednesday we have TINYpulse on there so that they remember that they're going to get a TINYpulse question. Then we've started including the participation by location on it. There's a little bit of a competitive now edge to the participation rate, and in a fun way. We have our campuses that are competing against each other as far as their participation rate. One of the directors offers a food truck anytime it hits 100%. They've really upped the stakes, as far as not only encouraging employees to participate but also then I've encouraged the leadership to make sure that they are very strategic in when they are able to fulfill a TINYpulse suggestion, we will put a sign that says brought to you by tiny polls. That's one of the things I learned in one of the webinars I think. You say how much time do we spend? I can't tell you by hours, but I can tell you that every week the HR manager pulls the results, and we'll print them, get them to me, get them to the other two locations, and we discuss something that ... any concerns and so forth, so that it's just a weekly constant. I can't tell you by the minute, but I can tell you that it's a weekly task that we make sure that we do. Anonymity. Oh my gosh. And a director or two using it as a hammer. There's a lack of understanding on the administrators' part about how that would play out. You use that as a hammer for those that are strong enough employees, they'll say that in the TINYpulse. You can't be a hammer and hide it when you create a TINYpulse environment. They doubted anonymity, less now, four or five years later, now that we're in, but certainly, yes. It was something that we constantly, constantly had to battle. What helped was one of the directors actually showed the staff at a faculty meeting the dashboard and what she saw, so that they would see that the suggestions all came in with no names on them. It was very important for her to get that information, and she wasn't getting what she needed, until she showed how ... she was transparent, and they needed that transparency. I would encourage anybody who's having that problem to just put the dashboard up every week for a while, until they believe you. We've gotten better at the motivations around participation rates. We have, like I mentioned previously, to improve our participation rates we have had directors offer food trucks. We have the competition between the locations. I've started a campaign. I noticed that that was one of the tools recently, so I started a central office campaign, because I was used to central office always winning. We dipped, and I went, "Oh my gosh." Then I saw that I had the campaign mechanism within the dashboard, and so I did a campaign a couple of weeks ago, and we did win the next week. So, just making it fun too. We included it in our bulletin and in our artifacts and communication pieces that we send out. The HR manager myself, we were certified last year. Now, we just did the 202. The two directors did the 101. Now, they get to put the little seal on their email. What I've learned about marketing, because I've had to over the last seven years, with trying to get kids to come to my school, is branding. Right? We use the tools that TINYpulse has to help brand us in that way. Little things like having our certification on our email signatures is just one of the pieces that we use to keep TINYpulse in front of our staff. We've been able to keep up with all the feedback, because it's divided out. Even though we have three locations, the two campuses have directors that manage their pieces. My HR manager would print out all of it, and look it over, and bring me sometimes areas of concern. I'm not the only one looking at the data. Matter of fact, I'm not the first one to look at the data. I have my other leadership to do that. Then when there's something big that pops up, then I'm included in the conversation, because our job that we have to do, which is educating kids, is too big of a job to let a concern area be a concern for too long. We do use the wall of wins. Our employees make it pretty easy, because they're getting rather good at telling us what they want us to do differently and better or to give them. So, we're able to, when we fulfill something, we're able to put it up on our wall of wins, and we're happy to do that. It's as silly as getting a Keurig to central office. We did that recently, and it's amazing how happy ... even if they have to buy their own coffee, at least we offer the machine. It's there. We were able to easily fulfill that and put it up on our wall of wins. We're pretty good at using the tools. I guess I would have to say it was fun watching one of the campuses offer the food truck. That was a novelty that I would've never thought of, and it did work. I saw the participation rate at that campus go up into the 80s and 90s, which was unheard of for any of us until that time. Now, here we are almost a year later, and the participation rate is still pretty steady between 60 and 90%. So, we've gone literally from participation in the first two or three year from 12 in the 20s and 30s, to now it being more 60s, 70s, 80s, a lot of it having to do with finding the right thing to motivate our staff. In this case, at that location that food truck was a great motivator.