Learn to Listen: How — and Why — to Gather Employee Opinions at an Impact Company

January 30, 2020

Using Surveys to Engage Teams and Guide Action

For impact companies that intend to provide value to all stakeholders — including employees — gathering honest feedback and opinions from workers is a key step in building the best company culture. (Photo by Jopwell)
For impact companies that intend to provide value to all stakeholders — including employees — gathering honest feedback and opinions from workers is a key step in building the best company culture. (Photo by Jopwell)

“Companies with a greater purpose must realize that, while purpose certainly is a draw, purpose doesn’t mean businesses can neglect other components of employee engagement, such as how the work itself gets done or the potential for career progression,” says Josh Berman, culture enablement lead at Culture Amp.

Berman knows a thing or two about effectively engaging employees at an impact company — Culture Amp helps businesses build involved, high-achieving teams by tapping into the powerful connection between engagement and performance, using tools like surveys and its unique online platform to help companies set goals and take effective action. And, as a Certified B Corporation, Culture Amp demonstrates how employee engagement ties into success at an impact company, as a daily reality lived by its employees and leadership.

“A sense of purpose is certainly a driver of engagement, so in some ways, engagement efforts will be focused toward helping connect employees to that sense of purpose through their work and through their experiences,” Berman says. “Finding opportunities to embed purpose into everything from onboarding to physical workspaces to rituals and artifacts can help remind people why they’re there.”

Why Should an Impact Company Care About Employee Culture?

Learning how to listen to what employees have to say can be mission critical for any company.

Strong company culture can help businesses stand out in the highly competitive talent market, and cultivating an engaging environment can increase employee retention. Plus, involved and motivated employees are more likely to perform at their best. “If employees are unmotivated, burnt out, or constantly thinking about their next job, that will begin to be reflected through the work, which ultimately does have a tangible impact on the bottom line,” Berman says.

For an impact company where employees are considered key stakeholders the business is responsible for, the value of engagement and a positive work culture has deeper meaning.

“We care about our people first, and I hope that other employers feel the same,” Berman says. “We want to make sure that our work environment is one that helps people feel core aspects of what it is to be human: sense of purpose, being valued, a sense of belonging. At least for us, that’s a reason alone to care about employee engagement.”

Employees at B Corp Culture Amp demonstrate daily the powerful connection between workplace engagement and performance. (Photo courtesy Culture Amp)
Employees at B Corp Culture Amp demonstrate daily the powerful connection between workplace engagement and performance. (Photo courtesy Culture Amp)

For an impact company, the flip side to attracting employees with a passion for purpose-driven work is that they can be at higher risk for burnout. Take, for example, a company that has addressing climate change as part of its mission. An employee that truly embodies that mission is taking on a huge weight to contribute to a critical global issue. “Speaking as someone who loves my job and feels a deep sense of purpose, my own well-being is sometimes at risk because I care so much. Creating a culture that allows people to not feel the pressure of a greater, heavy purpose 24/7 is necessary to avoid burnout,” Berman says.

Culture Amp’s Diversity & Inclusion Survey is now available for free for all B Corps. This survey is a strong launching pad for companies looking to embark on their diversity and inclusion journeys.

How Can an Impact Company Effectively Improve Employee Engagement?

First, let’s clarify what employee engagement includes — it goes beyond ping-pong tables and happy hours. One of Culture Amp’s white papers, titled “20 employee engagement survey questions every company should ask,” provides this definition:

“Employee engagement represents the levels of enthusiasm and connection employees have with their organization. It’s a measure of how motivated people are to put in extra effort for their organization, and a sign of how committed they are to staying there. Importantly, employee engagement is an outcome that depends on the actions of an organization, particularly the actions driven by leadership, managers, and people teams.”

Before getting started on any data collection or programming, Berman recommends companies have a sense of the culture they hope to create. That way, when they start to collect and measure data from employees, companies have an idea of how to take action to see the desired results. Also, company leadership needs to buy in from the get-go. For example, if a business chooses to do a company-wide survey, leaders must be on board from the start to take meaningful action based on the survey results.

When a company has a clear idea of its culture goals and leadership is ready to take action, it’s time for the first outreach. Culture Amp’s software platform relies heavily on surveys, which allow companies to get anonymous feedback from employees about a range of topics, including ones that are potentially sensitive or that an employee may not feel comfortable addressing in a conversation.

B Lab, the nonprofit that certifies B Corporations, recently started working with Culture Amp’s software platform to measure, evaluate, and strengthen employee engagement. “We worked closely with one of Culture Amp’s Success Coaches in late 2019 to develop our survey strategy, and we will continue to work with their team to create, launch, and evaluate surveys and iterate on that strategy going forward,” says Cassy Krueger, who works in employee engagement and internal communications at B Lab.

“I’m in a unique position both as an employee of B Lab and as the employee tasked with managing our employee engagement initiatives. From my vantage point, I feel more optimistic about our ability to be adaptive, responsive to employee feedback, and to focus on the initiatives that have the highest impact potential. I think it will help us bring our staff’s feedback into practice, which is not always as simple as it may seem,” Krueger says.

Surveying can be tricky, which is part of the reason why Culture Amp supports the platform with strategy guidance. For companies looking to get started, Berman offers a few pieces of advice: “When companies perform surveys, they often don’t do anything with the results. The data, ultimately, is only as good as what you are able to do with it. At the same time, companies can get bogged down in trying to do too much at once in reaction to the survey results. Performing focused and specific surveys can help create quick wins and a sense of progress, Berman says.

“Remember — you don’t want your company culture to be solely reactive to data. The survey data should be a tool to help measure your culture so you know where to make tweaks.”

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