“How happy are you at work?”
It’s a question typically reserved for annual performance reviews, but TinyPulse, a company based out of Seattle, challenges that traditional process. The company’s platform allows employees to give anonymous feedback to managers and leaders, and in turn, helps leaders understand the problems embedded deeply in their organizations. Their 2015 Employee Engagement & Organizational Culture Report revealed that a quarter of employees would leave their current job if offered a 10% raise from a competitor.
There’s a silver lining to this daunting statistic: employees are more likely to stay in an organization if they’re engaged. And engagement is easily manipulable if you know the factors that are affecting your employees the most.
It seems that there is an emerging market for tracking satisfaction levels. Millennials that embrace the feedback-centric technology of Yelp and Uber are extending the trend to the corporate world. Employee engagement tools like Niko Niko, 15Five, and Waggl are following in that wake. As a consequence, regular and consistent feedback isn’t only expected—it’s a necessary step toward an engaging workforce.
HR Talent Management spoke with Kevin Nakao, Head of Employee Engagement at TinyHR, to uncover the most important factors when it comes to keeping employees happy.
The Importance of Peers
“It’s really important to not look at employee engagement as this top-down activity anymore where you have the CEO or HR team running it,” says Nakao. “I think the best employee engagement should be everybody’s job.”
In 2015, millennials surpassed Generation X-ers to become the most significant portion of the American Workforce, according to Pew Research Center. And since millennials are heavily driven by their peers, the emphasis on colleagues makes perfect sense.
“The nature of work is less top-down now and more cross-functional,” adds Nakao. “If you want to get something done, you need the help of the people working with you more than the people that you work for.”
Nakao’s belief is supported by evidence uncovered in TinyPulse’s aforementioned research. According to their report, the #1 thing that employees love about their workplace is their peers and colleagues. Managers and leaders are still important, of course, but the significance of peers is increasing.
In alignment with this priority, the company prides itself on having a collaborative culture. Even recruiting is a team effort at TinyPulse, with non-recruiters and other employees weighing in during the hiring process about their possible future co-workers.
“We ended up with significantly better candidates by getting the team involved with the peer recruiting process than I did with recruiters,” says Nakao.
Regular Feedback is Key
Every month, TinyPulse managers ask employees about their happiness levels, track the answers, and hold regular company meetings to discuss the results.
“Sometimes the conversations get tough but they’re absolutely necessary to have,” Nakao says, adding that TinyPulse has enabled leaders to tie specific events—such as the firing of a particular employee—to dips or increases in their happiness scores.
For example, a TinyPulse client asked its employees about the performance of their management and received lower-than-average scores.
“That got the CEO fired up,” says Nakao. “In the next TinyPulse, he said ‘ask me anything’ like Reddit, and he got a huge response. They called a town hall-style meeting about a week later and went through every single question, even ones about compensation structure and the strategy of the firm.”
After that meeting, the company’s happiness scores spiked.
“[The CEO] didn’t spend any more money, and he wasn’t even necessarily making changes,” says Nakao. “He was just super transparent and answered questions that employees really wanted to know.”
True engagement comes from openness, a willingness to listen, and a strong understanding on company values rather than tangible compensation, according to Nakao.
“Recognition is the easiest and most effective thing that you can do to make people feel great,” says Nakao.
And although employees appreciate recognition from their managers and supervisors, they appreciate a simple thank you from a coworker even more. With companies like TinyPulse leading the way, management is no longer a burden meant to be held by a few. In fact, by spreading the load amongst employees, this burden becomes an opportunity for organizations to truly address the needs of their workers, thus boosting productivity and ultimately benefiting their business.