“The most important part of employee feedback is to act upon it”

An interview with nexxworks Partner, Kickstart Innovation Bootcamp speaker and employee experience expert Nancy Rademaker

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September 16, 2020
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Nexxworks partner and Kickstart Innovation Bootcamp speaker Nancy Rademaker has over 20 years of experience in technology, training, and coaching, amongst which five years working for Microsoft in the Netherlands and Europe. When we interviewed her for the nexxworks Innovation Talks podcast, we discussed her main passion: people and how technology influences their behaviour, how it helps them to share knowledge and how it enables them to create and innovate.

What follows below are some of the highlights of our conversation, but don’t miss out and listen to the entire interview on our podcast show too:

Everything starts on an employee level

During her career Nancy has been a privileged witness to the fast-evolving take on customer and employee experience. “These have always been my areas of focus,” she says, “whereas most of the companies I know base their sales policy on the customer’s needs and experience, we must not forget that everything starts on an employee level. In the end services are delivered by employees; companies tend to focus on pampering their customer but forget about the employee, even if the two go hand in glove.”

On top of that, big companies used to be black boxes that no one knew anything about. Today, they have become completely transparent and people see what is happening inside, because both employees and customers share their experiences on social media or platforms like Glassdoor. “Today we all know what happens behind closed doors and this too has led to a shift in employee-treatment.”

A shift towards purposeful experiences

What we see, though, is that companies are sometime too set in their own ways. Young employees do not necessarily wish for the same perks as the older generations. “I see a shift towards purposeful experiences, especially with the new generations. Whereas older employees regarded big bonuses or a fancy car as the pinnacle of their career, younger people tend to choose for meaningful experiences, throughout their careers. Take Zappos.com, for example, which provides online learning time for their employees. It thinks very highly of personal growth. Employees can only ask for a salary raise when they took courses for personal growth. That is a different, but rewarding approach, both for the employee and the company. Employees become better humans, learn skills and use those in their customer-handling.”

“It is key that companies design the basics of employee experience every step of the way. Employee experience is not just about recruitment and onboarding of performance management. It should be about employee sustainability. Content and context of work should be aligned. The employee’s abilities versus the company’s values and work philosophy all make the employee experience. I once attended a workshop on how companies could invest in better employee experiences. The outcome was: we will solve it with a fancy coffee machine. Well, no. That is not how it works.”

OKRs instead of KPIs

Companies get it wrong. But how? “As a company you start from customer centricity. But when it comes to employees, companies turn to KPIs and, more often than not, these are not about the customer, at all. As a company you can define KPIs, of course, but KPIs do not make employees tick. A purposeful job does. I think that measuring people in order to ‘punish’ them, is fundamentally wrong. It is far more important to coach employees.”

When it comes to creating a positive and stimulating work environment, I believe that OKRs - objectives and key results - are far more efficient. They enable you to set objectives together with the employee obviously making sure that they are related to the companies’ strategies. Evaluations with employees are then related to these objectives. In this way employees will feel a lot more engaged compared to the KPI-approach, which tends to be pretty demotivating.”

Continuous ways of gathering feedback

One important question is how companies can gather the right employee feedback. What do employees really think? According to Nancy it all comes to this: “It should not be about the yearly employee survey. A lot of companies don’t do anything with these results anyway. Companies need to invest in a continuous way of gathering feedback. There is great deal of technology that help, such as apps that ask employees one question once a week, or algorithms empowered by AI to measure sentiments inside your organisation. “From the algorithm perspective you could for instance turn to Vibe, that uses your Slack-account to look for emoji’s, keywords, etc., aggregate the results and reflect upon the temperature of the organisation or the teams. What I like about these kinds of apps is that it gives people a sense of what is happening with the morale in the company so they can quickly act upon is. This is not always the case in large organisations, because it often takes a long time before bad morale is noticed.”

But the most important part of feedback gathering is to act upon it. Most companies don’t do that. You should tell your employees beforehand what you will be doing with the feedback, and if you don’t you should explain them why. It’s about building a relationship of trust with them, so they’ll feel safe to open up about real issues, even the delicate ones, and so that they’ll know you take their feedback seriously.

Nancy is one of the speakers on our Kickstart Innovation Program. Check the program here.

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September 16, 2020
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