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Is This a Better Way to Approach Employee Feedback?

Last fall, a colleague sent me an email introducing me to Joe Sullivan, the founder of a company called Vohtr. He thought I’d find Joe’s product interesting.  He was right.

Vohtr is one of the most innovative new approaches to employee feedback I’ve seen in a long time.

Here’s roughly how it works.

An organization installs kiosks which look like iPads on pedestals in high foot traffic areas within the company (think employee entrances, breakrooms, etc.). Each day, the screen displays a new question and possible answers. Employees can quickly answer the question by touching the screen. [There is also an app that employees can use to respond, but I believe the magic is in the kiosk.]

The screen then briefly shows the employee how others have responded to the question before resetting for the next employee’s response.

I didn’t immediately appreciate the power of this approach.  But, then Joe shared with me how the tool can be used.

The key is recognizing that this is far more than a survey tool. It’s a real-time feedback platform. It’s a communication platform. And, it’s an assumption-buster.

Each day presents a new opportunity to interact with employees.  Questions can range from serious to practical to fun. For example:

When was the last time you received positive feedback from your manager? 

  • Yesterday
  • This week
  • Last week
  • I don’t remember.

Have you completed your annual safety training? 

  • Yes.
  • No, I haven’t had time.
  • No, I didn’t know it was due.
  • No, how do I do that?

What kind of snacks would you like to be available in the breakroom?

  • Fresh fruit
  • Granola bars
  • Donuts
  • Chips
  • Other

Which social media site do you use more often?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • Other
  • I don’t use social media.

Who do you want to win the Super Bowl on Sunday?

  • Falcons
  • Patriots
  • I don’t care. I just want to see a good game.
  • I don’t care. I only watch the commercials.
  • I won’t be watching.

The possibilities are endless.

I have been thinking and talking about the Vohtr product for months. Then, I was recently approached by a European start-up company named Pulsetip who has developed a similar technology and methodology. Their system uses badge tapping instead of touch screens, but the idea is essentially the same.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. So, I decided I should write about it.

As someone who has worked with employee feedback for most of my career, here’s what I like about this approach.

  1. It’s truly anonymous. I’m on record railing against the perception that anonymity is critical to employee surveys. And, I believe that’s true. This is a different animal. This isn’t team-based, developmental feedback like an annual engagement survey. This is broad-based sampling and is as much a communication tool as a survey tool. Both of these companies have very intentionally designed their technology for true anonymity. Once employees trust that, their responses to potentially sensitive questions about management or leadership should be pretty honest. There’s no reason not to be.
  2. It’s practical. While it might be good to throw in a “How are feeling today?” or net promoter question once in a while, this platform can be a powerful tool to inform action. For example, if there are rumblings about the floors in a particular facility being too slippery, you can ask the question of the employees to confirm and take immediate action to fix it.
  3. It’s fast. How many times have you sat in a meeting where someone makes a broad statement that beings with “our employees feel that …” Often, these generalized assumptions are what management uses to inform decisions. With a system like this, you could ask a quesion the next day to validate that assumption and get real data before making a decision. Replacing assumptions with data is powerful.
  4. It provides an immediate reward to employees. The fail point with any employee feedback process is in follow up. If I provide you feedback, I want something back in return. At the very least, the system provides the immediate satisfaction of showing how my individual response compares with my peers.
  5. It’s a powerful communication tool. Want to remind employees to take the safety training course and, simultaneously, understand why they haven’t done it yet? Ask a question like the one above. Want to get employees thinking about company values? Create a series of questions. Want to know if employees are feeling good about the new marketing campaign? Go ask.

But, to make this approach work, there are a couple of requirements that I see.

  1. It needs to be a key part of someone’s job to run this tool. Ensuring it’s the right person with the right accountabilities is critical.
  2. There needs to be a detailed plan in place for how this tool will be used and what follow up with look like for questions.  Otherwise, it could quickly derail or lose relevance.
  3. Questions need to be connected to action with some regularity. The ongoing feedback needs to be rewarded with meaningful action and follow-up in order for employees to continue to embrace it.

I’m intrigued by the potential of these tools, particularly for organizations where a majority of employees don’t sit in front of computer screens all day. This isn’t a replacement for the annual employee engagement survey. Instead, it’s a powerful tool for improving engagement in real time.

What do you think?

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  1. Corinne M Ball

    This is such a clever idea. Feedback is something managers and HR crave at all times, but it’s challenging to get authentic, just in time information from multiple employees. A quick stop with one question is not overwhelming and gives people the opportunity to give a quick comment. As long as improvements are seen, I think most people would be willing to give 15 seconds to provide feedback on their workplace.

    While annual surveys are great, I think this quick question type of feedback would at least give organizations a pulse on what is happening with team members, especially very large teams. If used correctly, it can show how much a company cares about it’s employees and how dedicated it is to improving any issues. I wonder if adding an open-ended response would be helpful for those that are willing to give more on a response. Such a flexible and multi-purpose tool to get valuable information that all industries could use in many different ways.

  2. Corinne M Ball

    This is such a clever idea. Feedback is something managers and HR crave at all times, but it’s challenging to get authentic, just in time information from multiple employees. A quick stop with one question is not overwhelming and gives people the opportunity to give a quick comment. As long as improvements are seen, I think most people would be willing to give 15 seconds to provide feedback on their workplace.

    While annual surveys are great, I think this quick question type of feedback would at least give organizations a pulse on what is happening with team members, especially very large teams. If used correctly, it can show how much a company cares about it’s employees and how dedicated it is to improving any issues. I wonder if adding an open-ended response would be helpful for those that are willing to give more on a response. Such a flexible and multi-purpose tool to get valuable information that all industries could use in many different ways.

Jason Lauritsen