Feedback loops are imperative for scale and for a team to produce productive work. In a recent Supermanagers podcast episode, Bilal Aijazi, CEO of Polly, shared how Polly continuously encourages employee feedback.
With Polly being a remote company as of 2014, the entire team has never been in the same city. For a fully remote company, having solid feedback systems is a prerequisite to scaling. It is also an essential component in developing the necessary relationships to get work done productively as an early-stage startup.
Feedback can be defined as an employee giving critique or comments on a situation or a project. The most common example of feedback could be a manager or colleague sharing a critique on a project. However, feedback can be defined in a much broader way that includes an employee's comments on a given situation. Feedback systems are generally a repeated workflow or process incorporating critique or commenting on a situation.
This blog post will explain the three strategies Bilal Aijazi, Polly’s CEO, uses to encourage continuous employee feedback across the company.
Leverage Automated and Recurring Processes
Eliminating the manual aspect of a task and instead leveraging automation creates consistency in a system and eliminates errors. This can be done with feedback. Bilal recommends creating processes around feedback that are automated and incorporated into the workflow to help ensure that check-ins aren’t missed. Instead of manually sending a slack message or emails to your team, you should use an automated workflow.
An example of a workflow could be the following: after a new employee joins the team and has their first 1:1 meeting with their manager, they begin their onboarding training. At the end of the week, when the onboarding training has been completed, a Polly poll through Slack is automatically sent to check in with the new employee. Questions in the poll could include:
- How do you feel after completing the training?
- Do you have any questions upon completing the training?
- How would you improve the training for the next employees?
Bilal explained that he frequently uses automated Polly polls in Slack to check in with colleagues. He uses this strategy with his co-founders to check in on everyone’s mood and well-being. He explained this check-in and feedback on everyone’s mood is imperative for effective teamwork: entering a meeting knowing how the other person feels is very beneficial in gauging how to approach discussions during the meeting. This tactic is helpful in all relationships: whether it's between colleagues, manager-employee or even spouses.
Notice Virtual Cues
As a remote manager in a virtual setting, it is much harder to notice cues that someone feels burnt out or disengaged during a project. Bilal mentioned in the episode that “remote managers need to build signals in other ways to try and accelerate conversations with employees”. In other words, when entering an in-person staff meeting, it can be easy to notice if someone is particularly stressed or worried. In a vital setting, where everyone waits in the waiting room before starting the meeting, it can be much more challenging to pick up on body language.
To illustrate, Bilal explained that when Polly started seeing a massive usage uptake, there was increased work for the engineering teams. Everything seemed to be progressing well, and they settled into the next step of scaling. However, progression does not mean that a situation is stress-free for the team. Even if Bilal’s direct report mentioned in 1:1s that the increased workload was stressful, the improved numbers and progression seemed to mask that stress problem for the team. Later on, in a 1:1, the direct report raised that even if the numbers were reflecting a successful outcome, he was feeling the stress of maintaining the service and was feeling burnt out. This moment indicated that there should have been a Polly to gather feedback to measure stress levels.
Given the challenges of remote collaborations, gathering feedback and finding alternate ways to notice cues is imperative to the team's productivity. As an alternative to being in person and noticing cues, managers can opt for using a Polly Slack or Microsoft teams poll.
Run Company-Wide and Team-Based Surveys
Companies should strive to run two types of surveys that both gather different feedback: baseline annual employee surveys and team-based surveys.
The baseline annual employee survey is a longer top-down survey where the cycle to collect and process the feedback is 4-8 weeks. These surveys give you a sense of where the organization is at but do not give immediate actionable feedback that can be implemented quickly.
After the annual surveys, they should be augmented with team-based surveys. These should be a lighter and smaller version of the company-wide survey that can be compared against the baseline data. Bilal explains that this baseline data give you the context, then use a one-on-one meeting tool like Fellow.app to have a better 1:1 with your direct report.
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Written by Fellow.app
Fellow.app is the top-rated meeting management software. The tool helps managers and their teams build effective meeting habits through collaborative agendas, action item tracking, and a library of expert-approved meeting templates. Thousands of organizations worldwide have implemented Fellow to create a culture of productive and engaging meetings.