We all know how important it is for a company to remain in a growth mindset. This means mastering the art of both giving and gathering feedback. Finding effective avenues to listen to your employees and to provide them with both positive and constructive feedback is crucial to a company’s success. As an HR Manager for a company that has grown from 25 to 65+ employees since I’ve joined - I’ve learned that the most important thing is to continuously adjust and improve processes, based on gathered feedback. What works for a smaller startup, may not work for a larger company. In this article, I’ll share some ways that FreshWorks has created a feedback-centric culture.
What is a feedback culture?
A feedback-rich culture, where employees feel comfortable asking for and receiving feedback, is a strong indicator of a great place to work. But too often, feedback only happens once a year during performance reviews. When feedback is embedded in everyday work, it has the potential to create and maintain high-performing teams. To learn more about the benefit of ongoing feedback, read our blog, The importance of a feedback culture.
As leaders, how can we best gather feedback to improve?
Soliciting feedback from employees can be daunting. As a startup, having our employees in our corner means everything. Opening the door to potential constructive feedback (that can feel like criticism) can be scary because of the uncertainty of what people will say about us, our organization, our team, our own leadership capabilities; the list goes on. Additionally, we carry the fear that we won’t have the resources to act on the presented feedback once received. That being said, understanding where your employees are experiencing pain points is truly the only way to grow and improve.
In order to lessen this potential feeling of fear that can surround feedback, we have focused on building a variety of channels in which employees can share their candid thoughts so that they can communicate in the way that they feel the most comfortable. Here are 7 methods of gathering feedback that we have found most effective, arranged from passive (ongoing and optional) to active (expected or solicited):
Open Door Policy
This is the most basic, but the most important policy to ensure that we foster an environment where all employees not only have a voice but also have a platform to share that voice. Employees are encouraged to connect with anyone at any time, including our Leadership and HR teams. Just like with our company values, we reiterate our open door policy at every opportunity, especially when introducing new initiatives, policies, or changes. At this point, it’s an integral part of our culture. The success of this is largely due to the leadership and HR team’s commitment to being accessible to the team, which in turn makes them approachable. When not in meetings, we leave our office doors open for walk-ins. We work in common areas as much as possible (the lounges or kitchen spaces) to interact with fellow team members in an informal setting. We attend social events. And most importantly, we act and follow-up on what is brought up in conversations that result from people accessing the open door policy.
HR Office Hours
In an effort to encourage open dialogue and feedback, I host weekly HR Office Hours every Thursday afternoon where employees can walk in the office as long as the door is open. This blocked time intends to give employees an opportunity to share suggestions and questions around policies, processes, and programs, discuss current practices, share ideas, engage in coaching conversations, or talk about positive or constructive experiences in their role at FreshWorks. Providing this specific time block that is initiated by me, rather than by them, makes the meeting feel less formal, alerts employees to the fact that that I am available, and that their feedback is important to me.
Since we are heavy Slack users, we signed up for the Polly Slack Integration, which provides us with a platform for gathering anonymous feedback. Our recurring surveys include a bi-weekly pulse survey and a monthly suggestion box. With the bi-weekly pulse surveys, we rotate through 13 questions (based on Polly’s provided template questions found here), which help us to see trends and changes within team engagement and morale. Starting in 2020, we will be providing the team with quarterly reports to create transparency with the results and discuss action plans for improvements. We also conduct post-event surveys.
Sip with Sam and Tea with RB
Sip with Sam is a new FreshWorks initiative to give staff the chance to have a roundtable with our CEO over afternoon coffee. It’s a time for open discussion and to reflect on the successes, challenges, and opportunities of each department and FreshWorks as a whole. In this bi-monthly event, 8-10 employees are randomly selected for each roundtable so that we can hear from a variety of perspectives. Our team found so much value in this initiative that on alternate months we decided to host Tea with RB, which is the same idea but with our COO.
Sprint retrospectives are an Agile ceremony where the entire project team sits down and reflects upon what went well, what could be improved, and what the team should continue doing/bring into the next sprint. Retros give team members a dedicated space to express how they are feeling and are crucial to a project's success.
As a new company, we launch a lot of new initiatives. With collaboration being one of our core values, it is important that we have input from our team, as they will be the most directly affected by these processes or policy additions. The majority of our initiatives manifest from one of our many methods of gathering feedback and are then added to our public People Ops release planning board so that employees are aware of what is coming down the pipeline. Those who express interest in specific initiatives are asked to provide feedback at each step, from brainstorming to providing feedback on the final draft.
Stay and Exit Interviews
Exit interviews have been a continuing practice at FreshWorks since the start of the company. Our People Ops team has found a ton of value in these conversations and recently decided also to start conducting 1 on 1 Stay Interviews with current employees to get feedback on themes that often come out of exit interviews.
What about giving feedback?
Giving constructive feedback is difficult for almost everyone. We fear that we may negatively impact relationships with our teammates, or that our opinions won’t make a difference. At FreshWorks, we believe that training our employees on how to give and receive helpful and candid feedback will encourage communication and strengthen relationships within and between teams. In advance of launching our first round of 360 reviews in January, we delivered a seminar on how to best give and receive feedback. Most importantly, feedback must be consistently delivered in a timely and honest manner.
Here are 2 methods of giving feedback that we incorporated in our Career Development Program:
Monthly Mentor check-ins
Monthly check-ins are an opportunity for individuals to voice any concerns or provide feedback to the Mentor regarding their experience at FreshWorks thus far. This feedback could include any challenges/obstacles they have faced in the workplace, likes and dislikes when it comes to their day-to-day work or any other positives or negatives regarding their work experience. The purpose of monthly check-ins is to discuss employee expectations, provide feedback, and understand career development needs to enhance employee performance and make sure they are on track for their 360 review. The flow of check-ins follows three core steps:
- Expectations: First, agree on what is expected in terms of deliverables, behaviour and contributions.
- Feedback: Next, the Mentor will provide frequent, two-way feedback to see how individuals are progressing against expectations and current goals. Individuals should let Mentors know if they could be doing something differently to support them better.
- Development: Then, when individuals know how they are performing, they can plan additional actionable goals around learning and development. This could include reviewing the Skills Matrix and making action plans around developing skills for promotion.
During the 360 Peek Back, Look Forward, the Mentor provides the employee with peer feedback based on the previous six months using the Humi portal. This review takes place twice annually to check-in on progress and course-correct where necessary. Through 360 reviews, we can collect feedback through relevant parties (peers, PM’s, Scrum Masters, Leadership, direct reports, and/or any other relevant parties) on an individual’s performance. The primary purpose of the 360 Peek Back, Look Forward is to encourage deeper communication about job performance between the Mentor and the individual, which is directly based on peer feedback.
Conducting helpful and productive discussions on a bi-annual basis is a fundamental way in which Mentors can support a culture of ongoing feedback and recognition. The discussion should be a dialogue between the Mentor and the employee and cover the following:
- review goals and accomplishments to ensure everything is on track
- check-in on the general status of employees and how they are doing in their roles
- learn from employees on what is/isn’t working and what support or resources they need to deliver on expectations
- provide feedback on achievements and coaching for development
- communicate and plan for any changes in the company, team, roles or objectives that will affect the second half of the year.
The feedback has been presented, now what?
In conclusion, feedback is a two-way street. By making an effort to both give and receive feedback consistently, your company is sending the message that it is open to positive change. In our experience, exhibiting a growth mindset has been crucial to our company’s success. Additionally, being transparent with the feedback we have received and communicating how we plan to respond to that feedback is just as important. While it’s not always easy to discuss how things can be better, feedback has the potential to make the workplace a more productive, pleasant and inspiring place. As a final note, it's important to always thank the person who has given you feedback. While you may or may not decide to act upon their suggestions, they should know that you have listened and appreciate their opinion.
As the HR Manager and Leader of the People Ops, Shannon's main focus is to develop the Human Resources strategy at FreshWorks. She is passionate about creating an inspiring, exciting and supportive environment that helps employees reach their career goals. Outside of work, you can find her fishing or boating on a local lake, or socializing over music bingo and jigsaw puzzles.