Any speaker at a business conference will tell you that company culture is important. These speakers will often be asked to tell the story of how they built their company, and they will explain that they did it by surrounding themselves with people who had the right attitude at work and by then keeping these employees engaged in their work through a positive company culture.
A positive culture can be difficult to maintain, particularly in a stressful startup environment, but as the speakers will tell you, getting it right through employee engagement and satisfaction is worth it.
An Australian app called 6Q is trying to make it a little easier through a simple six question employee survey. The app allows employers to choose a set of six existing questions or write their own to give to their employees each week in order to track their engagement and satisfaction levels. Instead of rating their feelings on scale from one to ten, 6Q asks respondents to pick a face emoji that best represents how they are feeling at the end of a work week.
The app was created by the team at Bam Creative, a digital agency based in Perth, during a ‘Startup in a day’ exercise thought up by founder Miles Burke. He says the idea for 6Q came from his own experiences trying to foster a positive culture in his own business.
“I have always been very mindful that environment and morale has a huge impact on employee happiness and productivity. I’ve had some pretty terrible roles in the past, and didn’t want to make the same mistake with my team. If you have crap culture, you’ll produce crap outcomes,” Burke says.
“There are many people out there who still don’t understand the need for a good culture, and that it requires effort. Those organisations who dismiss culture as some form of ‘corporate hippy behaviour’ are sadly missing the point entirely. They no doubt wonder why they have high staff turnover where their competitors don’t.”
Instead of sending them off to an external hackathon, Burke gathered his team one lunchtime and explained the idea of 6Q to them. He told them what he wanted as a minimum viable product, and then let them get to work. By 7pm, Burke says the team had gotten 70 per cent on the way there.
6Q now has a library of over 200 questions, which have been compiled from the Bam team’s own weekly meetings. The app has been tested internally for six months, while a couple of other organisations have also taken it on board. One of the main findings is that the survey respondents love the smiley faces.
“So many times we’ve seen surveys with terrible answering choices. By having a face that animates as you change your answer, we break down inhibitions, and we feel we get more truthful and knee jerk reactions and answers. These are what we are striving for, not some mathematical formula we all struggle to answer,” Burke explains.
While the internal testing has been useful in the construction and refining of the app, Burke says it has also helped the Bam team itself.
“We’ve uncovered interesting observations and ideas out of our team by asking a variety of questions. The answers determine what we do. Someone who is answering negatively may just need a quick chat about what’s bothering them, or when we are interested in a particular topic, we’ll ask about that, and gauge overall team and individual feelings on it.”
Since employee engagement and satisfaction can be hard to gauge and measure – even the most well-meaning of bosses can find that they won’t get any responses from staff if they ask if there is anything wrong – 6Q could find success thanks to its simplicity.
Having worked at a market research company while at university, I know very well that not everyone likes a survey. What’s more, the old ‘rate your feelings on this topic on a scale of 1 to ten’ and ‘would you say you’re extremely satisfied, somewhat satisfied, or just satisfied about this issue’ questions can not only get extremely annoying, but are also hard to answer. 6Q’s ease of use should be a major attraction, from the six short question model to the smiley face answering system. It’s manageable both for employers, who don’t have to deal with an overwhelming amount of data to gauge how their staff is feeling, and for employees, who only need to spend a few minutes on the app to let their boss know how they’re going.
With a release to the public through a free trial model planned in the first half of the year, the Bam team wants to build further metrics and advice-driven knowledge into the app to help employers make use of the results they get.
Burke says, “We have a range of features we have already defined that we want to start developing and rolling out. The big stumbling block at the moment is our own need for perfection instead of the ‘release early, release often’ mantra we wish we could easily embrace.”