Hope is Not a Strategy: Embracing a True Feedback Culture
This week, I went to a breakfast, hosted by Sequoia Capital and Neuehouse (a really cool space in NYC for gathering). The topic: Through the Looking Glass(door). Attendees included CHROs and Heads of Talent of local NYC companies, most of which are experiencing massive growth. Peter Phelan, Founder and CEO of ValuesCulture, who helped several of his companies achieve top Glassdoor ratings, was the speaker. The conversation was robust and insightful. Here is what I learned:
Hope is not a strategy when it comes to public (mis)perceptions about your organization’s culture. Both current employees and potential employees are looking at platforms like Glassdoor, and making judgements based upon the data (or lack thereof). I know this personally – one of my current CEO candidates made sure to look at Glassdoor before interviewing with the CHRO, and was able to ask pointed questions based upon the reviews. Hoping that these platforms will either go away, or that employees or recruits won’t consult them, puts you at risk of letting others define your public image.
The advice: Own your culture publicly and manage it; you can do this without a lot of investment of time or dollars.
Many CEOs and Board members are fearful of transparent and public feedback, to the point of complete inaction. We heard stories of CEOs/Boards wanting to ignore the “problem” or arguing that it’s just a few bad eggs who are creating a negative perception. We also heard that many organizations are reluctant to address complaints that are factually inaccurate. At the same time, there are instances when the reaction by the company appeared overly defensive, playing into the belief that the C-suite “just doesn’t get it.” The HR community has the burden of influencing CEOs, Boards and executive teams to engage in a measured and balanced way.
The advice: Talk to your fellow practitioners to understand how they have engaged on social media, and what data they’ve used to make the case for action … and recognize it might take time and a lot of cajoling to get your colleagues and bosses to take the appropriate action.
Engagement surveys and pulse checks are a great tool to gather feedback. And you might actually learn something from your employees as well.
There are different views on how robustly and often to survey your employees – every six months is the norm. Some companies are now using Tinypulse – which does weekly surveys focused on a single question – and one user noted that implementation of a tool like has an emotional impact … i.e. the management team may take the feedback personally and it’s a lot of data to absorb quickly and frequently. But the outcome was that the Net Promoter Score/Happiness index has gone up significantly since implementing Tinypulse based upon (a) employees feeling like they are heard and (b) action taken on some simple things the company could do to increase employee satisfaction.
The advice: You are far better off taking the time to proactively solicit employee feedback and acting quickly to address their concerns, rather than finding out on public forums after the damage is done. You can also make significant impact on the company’s culture by simply knowing what’s important to employees and focusing on their needs.
Companies are still really bad at developing a feedback culture. Let’s face it … the mission of platforms like Glassdoor is transparency. Are we holding ourselves and our executives accountable for truly creating a feedback culture, where people’s ideas are welcome and where they feel safe to tell it like it is? At Egon Zehnder, we assess against these attributes with our own search consultant candidates and in our leadership assessment work for clients. For example, we test the competency of “Team Leadership”, which at its most sophisticated will actively encourage teams to provide feedback and new ideas and through this, create emotional commitment to the team, leading to high performance. We also look at potential, and in particular “Curiosity” – this includes curiosity about the business, but equally important is curiosity about their own leadership style.
The advice: Ask yourself (and your colleagues) this question … when is the last time an employee came to you with an idea that you championed? Or with a “hard truth” that you embraced and actively addressed? The answers may impress or disappoint you; regardless, it will give you a sense of how in tune you are with the organization and how real your feedback culture is.
This post was authored by Alyse Forcellina, Consultant at Egon Zehnder.