By Bruce Kasanoff – Forbes
David Niu knows what it feels like to lose your passion for a job. In 2005, he and Andy Liu raised $10 million to start BuddyTV, but he says that eventually, “I began to feel burnt out. I couldn’t understand why. BuddyTV operated in a fun and dynamic space. It had a co-founder, board, and team I liked and respected.”
Long story short, says David, “I ended up buying one-way tickets to New Zealand for my wife, baby daughter, and me to travel around the world.”
They were gone six months, and David didn’t just vacation; he also interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs in many countries about leadership, culture, and managing people. You can see a summary of these interviews in Careercation, David’s excellent book you can read online. To quote his book, David’s three central observations about the entrepreneurs with whom he spoke are:
a) Their main competitive advantage was their people
b) They experienced pain around managing their people
c) Each recognized the need to maintain a positive culture
When David returned, he started a new company, TINYpulse, that offers a service that makes it easy for companies to continually (i.e. every week) survey their employees. The goal is the Holy Grail: to not only to keep employees happy, but also to keep the company and its investors happy. To do this effectively, David says, firms have to adhere to three basic principles:
Make it anonymous – To get frank feedback, you must allow employees to respond without worrying about whether their opinions can be used against them.
Share back what you are learning – Leaders must show what they are learning, and prove that they value employee feedback.
Act on feedback – Listening isn’t enough. You actually have to do something differently.
David says that no matter the industry, country or size of a company, most of the entrepreneurs to whom he spoke said they were unsettled when employees quit out of the blue. This raised questions of whether other employees were unhappy, or whether the leaders had only the vaguest sense of how their workforce perceived the company.
This sort of negative surprise comes when firms lose touch with their employees, or when their idea of employee feedback is an annual survey that takes six months to “process”, and then climaxes with senior leadership saying something like: here are the three things we took away from last year’s survey.
Sidenote: I do some work with an organization that does this, and it makes me want to grab the president by his shirt and shake him until he realizes how idiotic this is, but so far I have just waited for him to figure this out on his own.
At the 500+ firms who use TinyPulse, employee feedback is an ongoing process, not an annual event. Here are some of the questions that get asked and answered:
(On a scale of 1-10)
How happy are you at work?
How effective is your supervisor?
How would you rate the match between your personal values and the organization’s values?
Is your promotion and career path clear to you?
Do you have all the tools you need to be successful in your job?
What is your favorite memory of working here so far, and how did it make you feel?
I spent many years helping firms turn customer feedback into actionable insights, and from that experience I learned one essential rule… when you get feedback, you have to act on it. For example, I won’t answer a survey unless I’m convinced that doing so will benefit me. If you just want to calculate your Customer Satisfaction Score, I’m not interested.
Employees are no different. If you use employee feedback to create a spectacular place to work, you’ll enjoy frank and useful guidance from your team. It really is that simple.