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What’s new on Officevibe in February: 

  • 💖 This Valentine’s Day we’re spreading the love with the launch of Custom Polls – a highly flexible tool that allows managers to better understand their teams and come up with specific solutions for improvement.  
  • 🙏 Follow-up questions were completely revised and are now highly contextual, offering rich feedback that is both insightful and easy to act on.    

Ah, February! ‘Tis the season to share the good vibes with those we love. And what better way than to recall the highlights of our past year together?  

From Smart Groups to increasingly efficient user management, as well as the complete revision of our science-backed questions and the ever-insightful Question Report, we made sure to keep 2017 as meaningful as possible for our community. 

But the good vibes don’t end here.  

After gathering your feedback and ideas, we’re now introducing two game-changers to your Officevibe experience – Custom Polls, and a complete revision of our follow-up questions. 

Custom Polls

It takes the right tools for managers to take their teams to the next level, whether they’re pinpointing areas of improvement or celebrating victories.  

This is why we built Custom Polls. 

Previously, managers were limited to creating only one question per poll, which was then sent out with the weekly Survey. While this offered some degree of personalization, it had some limitations. And so, after collecting your feedback, we decided to go further.

At its most basic, the arrival of Custom Polls offers the flexibility, personalization and insight that managers require to improve their teams and to build upon existing strengths.  

More importantly, Custom Polls allow managers to determine the effectiveness of company initiatives by opening the floor to rich discussions with team members.

The result? A more holistic understanding of the situation and concrete solutions for improvement

Here’s what you can expect in the app:

So, what does this all mean?  

Simply stated, the arrival of Custom Polls means that managers may now:  

  • Send as many questions as they wish 
  • Send their Custom Polls anytime, irrespective of the weekly survey 
  • Send reminders to the team (au revoir generic and manual links!) 
  • Filter poll results by groups within the targeted audience 
  • Draft polls and save them for later  
  • Duplicate polls – both new and old, for ease and convenience 

 …And that’s not it! We’ve also tweaked access levels so that Polls can now be restricted either to managers of certain groups or company managers. If you’re interested in learning more about these access levels, check out our full documentation

Follow-Up Questions

The richness of Officevibe’s data lies not only in numbers, but also in qualitative data.  

In fact, qualitative data is primarily generated through follow-up questions, which allow for the collection of additional feedback following a Survey question.  

In the past, follow-up questions were linked to a specific metric (e.g., “Relationship with Manager”) and not to the specific question at hand. In other words, managers received feedback that wasn’t linked to specific issues or contexts. 

As of last month, all follow-up questions are now tied to specific Survey questions. As such, they’re highly contextual and pave the way to rich insights and deeper feedback. 

Curious? Take a look at the below Survey question and its corresponding follow-up question: 

Survey question: Do you and your peers collaborate well together?

Follow-up: What obstacles are preventing you from achieving good collaboration with your peers?

Do you have any comments to share about this product update? Questions? Give us a shout anytime at support@officevibe.com  

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Trying to figure out which survey questions to use in an employee satisfaction survey is tough.

You want to know everything, but you have to balance what you want to collect, while trying note to overwhelm employees or influence their answers.

But we’re here to help. We selected 29 important employee survey questions for every topic you’d like to cover.

Employee Survey Question Examples

Here are 29 questions you can use in your next survey.


Get started right away with this list of 40 additional employee surveys questions you can use today.
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Employee Survey Questions about Culture

These questions explore how employees align themselves within the organization’s vision, mission and values, as well as what they think about the organization’s commitment towards ethics & social responsibility.

  1. Are you inspired by the purpose and mission of your organization?

    If employees believe in their organization’s purpose, they’ll be much more likely to go above and beyond in their work.

  2. Are your organization’s values aligned with the values that you consider important in your life?

    To have a true “culture fit,” personal values should line up with the organization’s values.

    With that, employees will feel more true to themselves and will likely feel happy and fulfilled.

  3. On a scale from 0-10, how likely are you to recommend your organization as a good place to work?

    This question measures what’s known as the employee net promoter score.

    Enps the most powerful way of measuring employee advocacy.

    The thinking is, if you truly like an organization, you’d be willing to recommend it.

  4. Do you feel like your organization protects its employees from discrimination?

    Employees need to feel psychologically safe in their work environment to be able to thrive.

    If an employee feels like they are being discriminated against, it needs to be addressed promptly and with great care.

Employee Survey Questions about the Work Environment

These questions shed light on how employees feel about the working environment.

  1. Does your work environment allow you to work distraction-free when you need to?

    Providing distraction-free zones can have a great impact on your team’s performance and wellbeing.

  2. Are you satisfied with the level of comfort in your physical workplace?

    Wellness at work plays an important role in the level of productivity of employees. Making sure they are comfortable can only increase output.

  3. Do you have access to the material resources you need to do your work properly (equipment, supplies, etc.)?

    A great question to know if your team has everything they need to achieve their work.

  4. Do you feel like your work environment reflects your organizational culture?

    It’s important that the culture is also reflected in the environment, and Zappos is a great example of that.

    If an organization claims that it’s important for employees to have creativity, but doesn’t let them decorate their own desk, the employees may sens a disconnect between the culture and the environment.

Employee Survey Questions about Recognition

These questions address both the quality and the frequency of recognition that employees receive.

  1. Are you happy with the frequency at which you receive recognition from your manager?

    Giving recognition to your team can have a greater impact if it’s done often and promptly.

  2. Do you feel like your organization celebrates its accomplishments and learnings?

    This question clarifies the culture of recognition throughout the company. Encouraging recognition on a broad scale inspires recognition on a small scale.

  3. Do you feel like recognition is meaningful when you receive it?

    Receiving recognition that is too generic may not have the same impact as a more detailed praise.

    When giving recognition, try to make it as specific as possible.

Employee Survey Questions about Feedback

These questions represent the quality and frequency of the feedback that employees receive, and considers how of their opinions are received by the organization.

  1. Do you feel like your manager cares about your feedback?

    This question helps to measure how valued an employee feels at work. It is equally as important to implement feedback when it is received.

  2. Do you feel like you can share your honest thoughts with your manager?

    Employees should feel safe to talk openly and honestly. By removing fear, you help employees remain engage.

  3. Do you feel like your organization encourages you to give your opinion?

    Encouraging employees to share their opinion is how you can generate ideas and great discussions leading to growth.

Get started right away with a list of 40 additional employee surveys questions you can use today.
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Questions about Satisfaction

These questions explore how satisfied employees are with their compensation and benefits, their role inside the organization, and as their overall work environment.

  1. Do you have the flexibility to take time off when you need to?

    Employees should never be scared to use their flextime, and they should feel like they have enough autonomy to manage their own schedule.

  2. Do you feel that you maintain a healthy balance between work and your personal life?

    Work-life balance will be one the most important engagement issues over the next few years.

    This is an essential question to ask, and something that every organization should be keeping an eye on.

  3. Do you feel like your work contributes to the goals of your organization?

    People need to feel a sense of purpose in their work. They want to know that their work matters and they’re not just punching in and punching out.

  4. Do you think that your responsibilities are clear?

    Employees need to have a clear definition of what their responsibilities are. Otherwise, they won’t be as productive as they should be.

Employee Survey Questions About Personal Growth

These questions represent the level of autonomy employees have, and whether or not they’re improving their skills.

  1. Do you have the opportunity to grow within your organization?

    Personal growth and having a career plan is one of the keys to employee engagement.

    This question offers you some insight into whether employees are planning to stay or not.

    Managers should be having regular conversations about goals and the future with their employees.

  2. How would you rate the way your organization makes use of your strengths?

    For employees to be engaged, they need to be evolving and growing.

    This question gives you insight into how well you’re utilizing your employees to their full potential.

  3. Do you feel like you have the opportunity to improve your skills?

    For employees to thrive, they need a healthy dose of challenge. To grow in a team, employees need to be able to develop themselves and improve their skills.

  4. Do you feel you have enough freedom to decide how you do your work?

    It’s important not to micromanage your employees and the best way to do this is to focus on the goal and not on the process. Everyone has their own way of working.

    You need to let your team decide how they’ll do the work and be there when they need support.

Survey Questions about Employees’ Relationship with their Manager

These questions dive into the trust, communication and collaboration between employees and their direct manager.

  1. How would you describe your relationship with your manager?

    It’s a very broad question, but the feedback that it gathers can engage great discussions.

  2. Do you feel like your manager is someone you can trust?

    Trust is necessary in a team’s day-to-day so that everyone feels like they are present for the rights reasons, working towards common objectives.

  3. Do you feel like your manager has a good level of transparency with you and your team?

    To build trust in a team, a manager needs to be as transparent as possible. You don’t need to say everything to your team, but they need to be aware of what is going on.

Survey Questions About The Employees’ Relationship With Their Peers

These questions explore trust, communication and collaboration among peers.

  1. Can you count on your peers when you need help?

    Employees need someone at work they can turn to for help, which is why we’ve often recommended mentorship programs or “buddy” programs at work.

    If an employee knows they have someone they can always turn to, they’ll be more relaxed and comfortable.

  2. Do you and your peers collaborate well together?

    People need to feel included, and you’ll want to look at this to measure where you stand and what you can do to improve that sense of inclusion.

  3. Do you have someone at work that you consider as a friend?

    Having friends at work can have a great impact on employees and on the organization.

    Not only does it increase employee retention, but it also improves company culture.

  4. Do you think that your peers welcome opinions that are different from their own?

    It’s one thing to encourage different opinions, but it’s another to accept them and have honest discussions about them.

    It’s essential to have peers who are open-minded and can accept different opinions. The discussion that it creates can generate great ideas.

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Which Survey Questions Do You Use?

Any useful ones to share with our audience? Let us know in the comments below!

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We ask Inc. Magazine’s top-30 leadership columnist, Marcel Schwantes: what does it really take to be a successful manager?

His short answer is to follow the tenets of Servant Leadership because when you put people first, everything else falls into place. In this post, he shares 8 game-changing tips for managers to follow and why now is the time for all companies to adopt the Servant Leadership model (a.k.a heart-based leadership).

Interview With Marcel Schwantes

Do you have the characteristics of a servant leader? Take this self-assessment to see how to shape and refine your leadership style!
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What is Servant Leadership and what are some of its key benefits for organizations?

Servant Leadership is a model of leadership founded the 1970s by Robert Greenleaf that addresses the psychological needs of people.

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types”.

It’s about achieving business results through employee empowerment. The model helps builds a sense of community and belonging in the workplace, and when employees perceive that this sense of belonging is of genuine importance, there’s a higher degree of responsibility carried out in the work they do.

In our day, you cannot possibly get your people to move in a direction you want them to, intrinsically, unless you show them that you care for their well-being.

If Servant Leadership is decades old, how does it fit in with millennials entering the workforce?

It’s actually the most appropriate model for millennials because they thrive in community-based cultures. They seek workplaces that collaborate well, and they want management that engages them, empathizes with them as people, and pushes them to be the best they can be. It’s not just about collecting a paycheck anymore, so the organizational pyramid is slowly getting turned on its head and the heart-based model fits in perfectly with the bottom-up approach.

If you were to paint us a picture of a Servant Leader, what would they look like?

According to our research at Leadership From The Core, Servant Leaders demonstrate 6 key behaviors:

Traits of a Servant Leader:
  1. They display authenticity
  2. They value their people
  3. They help to develop their people
  4. They provide direction and guidance to their people
  5. They share their power
  6. They build a community

Ultimately, a Servant Leader wants to help others thrive, and is happy to put their team’s needs before their own. They take the blame and give out the recognition. They care about employees as people all around and they understand that the best results are produced not through top-down delegation but by building people – and their skills – up.

Can traditional top-down organizations just switch to a bottom-up approach?

It’s possible, but it’s not going to be a magic pill. It’s a whole structural change. The issue is that there’s a stigma attached to servant leadership. People think it’s too “soft” for business and profitability, even though studies keep proving otherwise.

But we’re not the industrial revolution anymore. We’re in a knowledge economy now, a social economy, and people need the psychological safety and autonomy to be creative and innovative. Businesses who put their people first and bring the best out of their employees are the ones that are going to survive.

Yet, so many workplaces still follow the command and control mentality.

What advice can you give on the topic of micromanaging?

The truth is that Servant Leaders and micromanagers, however different; both want the same thing – excellence. They just go about it differently. The servant leader is going to empower, develop, coach and mentor their employees to their highest level of performance and then just let them be. A micromanager will continue to hover over people’s shoulder. That’s the Achilles heel of the micro-manager – but it won’t help anyone grow. People need to have ownership and autonomy over their work at some point.

It’s all about trust.

Micromanagers need to start letting employees know that they trust them from the start, not make them earn it. They’ve already earned it by getting selected for the job.

Where does the change need to begin?

Scenario 1: Top-down approach

It’s easiest if the directive is from the top, but not everyone is going to buy into the vision. You don’t just “become” a servant-leadership company. The people that are currently leaders need to either have the qualities of a servant leader or be coached on how to embody this sort of leadership. Not everyone will be on board, and some people will never adapt to it, but it’s ok for those people to leave because it would be a turning point for the company to

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Whether we realize it or not, we’re always giving or receiving feedback.

Sometimes it’s explicit, like in a one-on-one meeting, or it’s implicit, through our tone of voice and body language.

We might not realize the image we’re giving off, so we need to be mindful of this.

Employee feedback is at the center of both personal and professional development. It can significantly improve an employee’s performance or behaviour within a team.

But giving effective and significant feedback can be very hard. That’s why we put a list of feedback examples that can help you in your day-to-day and some tips you can use right away.

    In this post you’ll learn…
  • Employee feedback examples you can use taken from real life scenarios.
  • Effective tips that can help you give better feedback.
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Examples Of Employee Feedback Given Correctly

Here are 8 examples of employee feedback that you can start using today.

  1. If An Employee Seems Disengaged

    If an employee is disengaged, you’ll want to figure out if something is bothering them, so you’ll want to:

    • Show them you’re noticing/looking out for them
    • Tell them how it makes you feel
    • Offer help

    Here’s what you can say:

    I noticed you don’t seem as happy as you usually do, and obviously that makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong.

    Is everything okay? I think if we met once a week to make sure everything’s going okay, you’d be much happier.

  2. If An Employee Didn’t Deliver A Project On Time

    While this sucks, there’s not much you can do about it. No point in getting mad, just make sure that this doesn’t happen again. Everyone needs to be accountable for their work, so when giving feedback about this, you’ll want to:

    • Highlight why this is important
    • Motivate them for next time
    • Offer ideas to improve

    Here’s what you can say:

    The project wasn’t delivered on time, do you have any idea why?

    As you know, we’re trying to get everything organized for the new website, so if you’re late on a project, it slows down the rest of the team.

    We’ll just make sure that for next time, you have more time and resources to finish on time. The new website is going to be sick! I think for next time, what you could do is schedule blocks of time maybe one day a week to make sure that you’re not overloaded with work towards the end.

    I tried that on my last project and it made a huge difference.

  3. If An Employee Made A Mistake With A Client

    You want to do everything in your power to make sure this never happens again, the clients are too important.

    Mistakes happen, but everyone needs to have everything they need so that it doesn’t happen again. When giving feedback about this, you’ll want to go into detail explaining what happened so they’re better equipped:

    • Tell them not to worry, it can be fixed
    • Explain to them what happened so they understand for next time
    • Offer help

    Here’s what you can say:

    Not a big deal, but for next time, remember to update their billing information before you send them their access key.

    The way the access key number works is based on their billing info, so it’s super important. But don’t worry, we’ll just send them an apology email and do it manually right now.

    If you want to set up some time to go over how the software works, I’d be happy to show you, no problem.

  4. If An Employee Was Rude To A Coworker

    Ideally, everyone on the team works well together and collaborates smoothly, but tension between coworkers is a natural thing that occurs often. You want to put a stop to this one quickly.

    • Explain why you’re talking to them and not the coworker
    • Don’t blame, listen to their side
    • Offer advice

    Here’s what you can say:

    Stacey asked me to have a chat with you about something you said earlier, I don’t think she was comfortable saying anything so I offered to do it.

    I’m curious, can you let me know what happened? I’m assuming it was a misunderstanding, but of course I want us all to get along.

    If it was me, I’d wait until the end of the day and then apologize to her, maybe ask to go eat lunch together to talk about it.

  5. If An Employee Doesn’t Get Along With Anyone

    This situation is a bit more troubling, but again, you’ll want to focus on the behavior rather than the person.

    • Be straightforward
    • Offer ideas for a workaround

    Here’s what you can say:

    I just wanted to let you know that I’ve gotten a few complaints recently from some people on the team.

    I wanted to chat with you directly about it to see if there was anything we can do. It might be because you’re stressed, but I think when you raise your voice it sometimes rubs people the wrong way, which might be why they’re perceiving it as rude.

    I wonder if working from home one day a week might help with some of the stress that you’re feeling.

  6. If An Employee Didn’t Set Good Goals

    This is a tricky one, because you don’t want to totally demotivate them, they might be upset enough that they didn’t hit their goals. Remember to:

    • Be positive
    • Be specific about what they could have done better

    Here’s what you can say:

    Seriously, great job with your goals this quarter. It’s fine that you didn’t achieve all of them, I just thought we could go through them to see where you could have done better.

    I think your goals might be too aggressive, for next time, what I would do is set only 2 goals instead of 5. That way, you’ll be able to focus exclusively on those 2.

  7. If An Employee Doesn’t Take Initiative

    When you’re giving feedback about this one, remember to:

    • Tell them how it affects you
    • Offer help and advice

    Here’s what you can say:

    I notice that you’re not taking as much initiative as you used to be. That makes me feel like I did something wrong. Did I say or do anything recently to upset you?

  8. If An Employee Has Poor Time Management

    Time management is a tough thing to get right, and is a constant process of optimization, but if it’s becoming a problem, then you’ll need to give them some feedback. When you’re giving feedback about this one, remember to:

    • Tell them how it affects the team
    • Offer tips

    Here’s what you can say:

    I’ve been noticing that you weren’t able to manage your time for the last 3 tasks.

    Other people on the team weren’t able to get their work done and so it created some issues for other departments. We’ll figure out how to get it fixed for next time though.

    I used to have that problem too, but then I discovered a tool to help with that. Personally, I use a tool called RescueTime, it’s been a life-saver.

    I’d recommend trying it and seeing how you can optimize your time.

  9. If an Employee’s Performance Has Declined

    There are many reasons why an employee’s performance might have declined, it’s important not to come to conclusions and to approach the subject with care. Before reprimanding or offering negative feedback, first reach out to the employee and try to figure out the reason behind the drop. Offering your support and faith is extremely important.

    Here’s what you can say:

    I’ve noticed some changes in your work habits and results over the past week or so. I know how productive and results-driven you usually are, so I wanted to check in with you and see if there was anything you were having trouble with that I might be able to help you with.

    Or, if there’s anything you want to talk about, I’m always here to listen. I know we can solve this together and I have faith that you can get your performance back up.

  10. If an Employee Is Gossiping

    Unfortunately, gossip doesn’t stop in the school yard. It’s still prevalent, if not inevitable in almost all workplaces. It’s important for managers to take control when this happens because negativity and false rumours can kill company spirit and start unnecessary problems. If you are aware of an employee that is gossiping, it’s important to talk to them privately.

    Here’s what you can say:

    I was a bit surprised to find out that you have been talking about this issue with other employees. I understand where it’s coming from and I am sorry you have these feelings towards this issue, but I want you to know that you can always come and talk to me with these concerns. It would be the more effective way to deal with the situation.

    The problem is that when you talk about it with other employees it creates a negative energy in the office and it demotivates people. I want to keep all my employees happy and feeling safe, and I know you want the same – so let’s get on the same page and solve this problem together. Afterwards if you still feel that it’s a team issue, we should all chat together, but better to get it out in the open in a safe and controlled space.

Tips For More Effective Feedback

It’s amazing how much psychology and subtleties are involved in giving feedback.

While some of this might seem like overkill, it’s really not. People are more sensitive than you might think, so it’s important to be compassionate when giving your feedback.

  1. Focus On The Behavior, Not The Person

    This is probably the most important tip. The feedback shouldn’t be a personal attack, but should be helpful and meant to get them to improve a certain behavior.

    One idea that works well for this is to explain how the behavior makes you feel. By doing this, it forces you to focus on the behavior.

    For example:

    I noticed you haven’t shown up for the last two team meetings. I’m worried that you missed some important information. Can we meet to discuss what you missed?

    This is better than saying something like “You obviously don’t care about this team since you don’t show up for the meetings.”

  2. Remember The Feedback Is Simply Your Opinion

    Sometimes, what leaders will do is say something like “they feel” or “we think” or something along the lines of making it look like everyone agrees with your feedback.

    This is done to both make the message more powerful and shift the blame away from you.

    While this might seem like a smart idea in theory, you should use “I” instead. It will allow the employee to empathize with you (especially if you include how it makes you feel).

    Again, remember that feedback is simply your opinion.

  3. Don’t Do The Feedback Sandwich

    Many people will tell you that the feedback sandwich works to soften the blow of feedback and that it’s a great idea.

    Don’t do it.

    It’s really not a good idea. In a research paper called Tell Me What I Did Wrong that looked at how different people responded to feedback, they found that the feedback sandwich doesn’t work most of the time.

    From the research paper:

    The negative feedback is often buried and not very specific.

    They say that a much smarter idea is to just be straightforward. Employees will appreciate your honesty.

    The problem is that people only hear the positive part of the feedback and stop listening once you’ve gotten to the negative part.

  4. Don’t Forget The Positive

    When feedback is mostly negative, studies have shown that it discourages future effort.1

    Remember to highlight and recognize good effort to keep employees motivated. Don’t use it as part of a sandwich, but keep in mind that positive efforts need to be noticed.

  5. Follow Up

    This one might seem obvious, but remember to follow up with whoever you gave feedback to.

    The feedback is pretty pointless unless the employee improves and gets better at what they do, so make sure to follow up after a certain amount of time to see how it’s going. Offer your support to them throughout the entire process.

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Any Tips For Giving Employee Feedback?

Any tips to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!

  1. Hattie & Timperley, 2007, Dinham
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Universally speaking, money is an uncomfortable subject – be it with friends, family or in the workplace. In fact, the “pay” conversation that managers are required to have with their employees might be one of the most unanticipated talks of the year.

Managers have the very sensitive responsibility of playing middleman between HR and employees to discuss everything from raises to bonuses (or lack thereof). They have to follow strict guidelines regarding pay, but they also want to keep their teams happy and engaged. So where’s the sweet spot?

Officevibe took a trip down to Austin to attend Compference, a two-day conference put on by the industry experts at PayScale.

What we learned will help you get rid of the pay talk woes, once and for all.

Hint: The words to keep at top of mind are CONTEXT & COMMUNICATION

    In this post you’ll learn…
  • The top reasons why communicating pay context is essential.
  • 3 things managers must be trained by HR to understand about pay.
  • The truth about pay and employee engagement.

Before we continue…

When having difficult conversations with employees, it’s not only about what you say, but how you say it.

Learn The top 7 communication techniques used by leaders to have positive and effective conversations with employees, every time.
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The Importance Of Communicating Context Around Pay

So – why is context so important? Take a look at these numbers shared by PayScale:

The operative word in these stats is “believe”. They are assumptions, because they don’t know the context – and this is the problem.

So why is context so important?

First off – Giving context helps put things into perspective and it explains the “Why” behind the number amount that they are being given.

Secondly – no one likes being kept in the dark about things, especially when it comes to the rationale behind the way that someone values you. Imagine being assigned a number but having no understanding of its meaning.

It can be crazy-making for employees, and a waste of space in their daily thoughts.

Thirdly – Imagine how managers must feel needing to relay a number packed with significance, with no real understanding of how to explain it. It’s like asking someone who has never watched a hockey game to commentate on a match.

Pay Is A Sensitive Subject

Pay is a highly sensitive subject as it is, so relaying the wrong information, or even expressing the right information in the wrong way can contribute to your employees losing trust.

When you discuss someone’s worth and value in whatever terms it’s not so cut and dry – there are feelings involved – so managers need to be able to give a proper, thorough explanation.

Harvard Business Review strongly agrees with the need for context:

Employers today should arm managers with accurate market data reflecting talent markets to base the conversation in fact. Finally, they need to remember that how their employees feel about compensation matters just as much as what they’re actually being paid. When it comes to having a more engaged workforce, you can’t assume that an employee’s perception about pay matches reality.

What are the risks of not communicating pay?

Simply put, employees will come up with their own conclusions about the pay they’re given.

And when our minds are left to wonder, the conclusions we come up with can travel so far off base into the territory of resentment.

Payscale’s CEO, Michael Metzger, shared an interesting statistic:

A whopping 35% of people who are paid above market have no idea that this is the case! In fact, they think that they are paid below market.

This means that the problem isn’t necessarily about money itself, it’s about the way we communicate it.

There is a huge disconnect between reality and perceived reality when it comes to pay, and the consequences of this lack of transparency are that employees leave your company in search of what they think is better.

Top 3 Things Managers Need To Understand Before Communicating Pay

It’s time to get the conversation flowing to bridge the gap between what HR understands about pay, and what employees don’t.

Managers, this is where you come in, and this is what you need to know.

If you aren’t already getting the training, ask for the proper explanation behind the numbers you’re asked to share! It will make all the difference in your relationship with your team.

  1. The Company’s Compensation Philosophy

    Essentially, the compensation philosophy of your organization is tied to its core values and goals.

    Managers need to be able to answer all questions employees might have about pay in line with this strategy so that there is cohesion across the board.

    Typical Pay Questions From Employees:

    • Why this specific percentage increase?
    • Why did I get a bonus of this amount?
    • How much will my pay increase next year?

    The more context employees get surrounding these questions, the more they will act as an ambassador for your company, rather than a detractor because where there is understanding, there is appreciation.

    Pro Tip: You want to inspire your employees to continue to work hard. When you explain their raise or bonus, be sure to also explain their value to their organization and recognize them in non-monetary terms.
  2. Market Pricing Approach

    Managers need to be trained to understand how the company is positioned in the market. Being able to explain this to existing employees acts a retention tool. Remember, context trumps everything.

    Here are some important elements of pay to keep up to date on:

    • How exactly a company sets their ranges
    • How they remain competitive
    • Who they compare themselves to
    • Whether they are leading or lagging in the industry
    Pro Tip: The market is in constant motion. Keep up to date on what’s happening in the industry so you’ll be equipped to answer any compensation questions that your employees have throughout the year.
  3. Company’s Approach To Salary Adjustments

    HR needs to offer guidance for not only how to discuss pay with new candidates coming in, but internally as well. You may have attracted great talent, but now you need to keep them and one way to do this is to keep yourself and your team informed on how you compensate.

    • How to discuss salary increase with existing employees
    • Promotions
    • Demotions
    • Bonuses
    • Role changes or title changes
    • Job reclassification
    Pro Tip: Decouple conversations about pay and performance. Performance should be tied to development and personal growth, while pay to market standards. When you put them together, learning becomes extrinsically motivated, which removes authenticity from the process.
The Truth About Pay and Employee Engagement

This is really important to clarify.

We’ve come to understand through recent research that people (for the vast part millennials) don’t only care about salary when looking for a job. Money isn’t everything. They want to learn, grow, connect with their colleagues and be part of something big. They want purpose and meaning in their day-to-day.

But, this doesn’t mean that pay isn’t important, or that employees are willing to settle for less than what they deserve. It means that only once they are paid fairly and feel valued at the root, they tend to care more about growth than they do about money.

Compensation at the end of the day is the story of how much an organization values their employees, and unfair compensation, whether perceived or real, could drive employees to leave said company.

HBR puts it best:

Pay is a crucial component of engagement because it’s not just a number; it’s an emotional measure reflecting how valued an employee feels by their employer.

The Connection Between Pay and Company Culture

Just like every member of an organization – from its employees to its CEO – is responsible for embodying the company’s culture and values, every member of an organization should understand the company’s pay brand, because it is likewise part of the culture.

How do you appoach the pay conversation? Share your tips below!
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We spoke with world-renowned interviewer and New York Times best-selling author, Cal Fussman. He has a knack for asking all the right questions to really get to know someone, and shares his best tips for HR to ensure that they hire the right candidates.

Some of his most notable interview subjects have included Muhammad Ali, Mikhail Gorbachev, Al Pacino, Jimmy Carter and Richard Branson – all published in the coveted Esquire magazine.

Cal explains why (and how) companies need to ditch their canned hiring questions in favour of a storytelling-based approach.

A Bit About Cal

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Interview With Cal Fussman How can the authentic method of journalists’ questioning be translated to the hiring process?

Well, the great thing about authenticity is it’s the same in any situation, and you know it when you see it. When you hear Louis Armstrong’s voice, it can’t be anybody else but Louis Armstrong’s voice.

And when you see that authenticity, you’re immediately made comfortable even if you don’t like the person and what they stand for because, at the very least, you can trust them. The first thing between interview and their subject is to create a space of trust. It’s the thing that we most need.

And how can recruiters set the tone for this trust?

If recruiters want their candidates to be authentic, they need to also be authentic. Be human. Don’t go into a stuffy room with a stack of papers and a list of questions. Go for a coffee and get into a real conversation. Research the candidate well and prepare your questions beforehand, but don’t bring them in. That paper is a barrier between you and the truth and it stops you from fully listening.

When I conduct an interview I want to be completely in the moment, listening to everything that’s being said. And then, because I’m listening that intensely, I am able to constantly take the conversation either to a deeper place or move it along laterally to another place where I can eventually go even deeper.

I recently had a chat with someone on this line of thought about authenticity and hiring. He said to me:

I go through all these interviews and I try to make the best possible decisions, but I really never know who they are until the second day they’re on the job. They sold me a whole bill of goods during that interview, and I’ve been tricked time and again.

Why does this happen so often? What’s the flaw in the system?

The flaw is asking the wrong questions that lead to empty answers. Interviewers need to look for the stories that shape a person. The whole system is forged, there’s too much preparedness on both ends, and that’s what kills authenticity. Both the interviewer and the interviewee should at some point not know where the conversation is going. It has to be organic for it to be authentic.

Can you give us a glimpse into your personal technique?

First you have to go for the heart, then the head, then the soul. Start off personal to create that space of trust. Begin with a question that might immediately take the interview into a different place. Get them with something unexpected that they didn’t prepare for. That’s when you get the most “real” answers.

All their scripted answers are out the window, and they now have to think on their own. They have to think quickly or if they can’t think quickly, they have to authentically show that, “You know what, I’m a deep thinker. Give me a second. I’m gonna get to the bottom of this.” Or if they’re very glib, maybe they’ll come up with something in a finger snap. But now, you already have a way to assess the person. You can see strength and weakness just in that, without directly asking them what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Is there a right or wrong answer in job interviews?

For the most part no. It’s more like you’re casting a movie and you know the part you need to cast for, and you know the traits that person’s going to need to make that job work for you and for that person. And so, it really isn’t a matter of this person’s bad or this person’s good. If you treat it like a casting director in a movie, you would say that’s the perfect person for that role.

It’s a terrible thing for a company to hire the wrong person. It’s costly and inefficient. But you know something? I think it’s a terrible thing for a person to take a job that’s not a good job for them because it’s only going to put them in a place where they’re not feeling particularly comfortable and they’re going to want to leave anyway.

How can you turn the standardized questions about skills, strengths, and weaknesses into a conversation?

Those questions should be answered in the stories they tell. If you’re going to ask commonplace questions like:

What’s your biggest strength?
What’s your biggest weakness?

Then you know the person’s prepared for it. If you come in with the old questions, the canned questions – you get canned answers. What good is that?

The problem is, most companies don’t know who exactly they’re hiring. And so, there are two things at work here. One, you’ve got to make sure that the person does have the skills that they need to do the job, but you also have to understand who this person is. And I don’t think that if I was reading a story about somebody I would learn much through straight statements like, “well, this person says their weakest point is this…”

I would learn much more seeing that person move through obstacles in a story form. And the questions need to get you to the story. If the questions don’t get you the story, I really doubt you will leave the room knowing that person.

What sort of questions get you to the story? Can you give some examples.

Questions as simple as:

“What song most describes you?”
“What’s your favourite movie”?

There’s nothing in those questions that are threatening, even if you throw them of course from what was expected. There’s nothing that would make somebody feel, “Uh-oh, they’re trying to get me.” I’m just asking you to give me another way of looking at yourself. And they’re going to give me the name of the song. And then, I’m going follow up on the question with an equally as important question: Why?

And then they’re going to probably tell me a story. And in that story, I am going to get to the essence of who they are because, at least, that’s how they see themselves.

One of my favourite questions that I bring as an example involves an interview that I did with Mikhail Gorbachev where I asked him:

“What’s the best lesson your father ever taught you?”

You can learn so much from this answer, you have no idea.
I also find that questions about sports will tell you a lot about a person, like:

“What sports did you play in high school”

And then keep digging – keep it going. Always follow up with “why”, and you’re really going to see the person become multidimensional in front of your eyes as opposed to getting a one-dimensional answer to, “What’s your biggest strength? What’s your biggest weakness?”.

Just make it a conversation. Any other way is disrespectful to the interview process and counterintuitive to what you really want to get out of it.

Can HR personnel cultivate their interviewing and perception skills or is this quality innate?

Well, wouldn’t it be best if you were working in HR to make sure that the people you hire to conduct interviews already had a strong level of emotional intelligence? Someone born to be able to read into what people are saying, to be able to listen properly to a story and drive it deeper.

So often when I talk to companies l find out that the manager in-charge of hiring hates doing interviews! That won’t workout very well. You want curious people who love people and their stories. Interviewing is an art form, and you need the right person to conduct it.

How much should an interviewer speak during an interview?

I recently spoke with an “executive assessor”. Basically, when a company is about to hire a CEO, they bring in this guy at a considerable cost to spend four hours with the candidate and just dig in deep, because the company wants to make sure that they’re making the right decision.

He knew about my experience interviewing iconic people around the world, so we decided to interview each other just to see what the overlap in our experiences would be like.

It was a fascinating experiment. We realized that:

  1. When we were the interviewer, we were only speaking about 5-10% of the time
  2. This means that candidates should be speaking 90-95% of the time.
What’s the biggest mistake people make when it comes to interviews?

Answering to be right, instead of being truthful. People shouldn’t look at a job interview as, “Oh, my God. This is going define who I am. If they hire me, I’m great. And if they don’t hire me, I’m a loser.” It’s absurd. It’s no different from dating.

When people get rejected, they think, “Oh man, I got dumped. I’m not worthy.” It’s ridiculous. This is not a good fit. That’s all. And be thankful it’s not a good fit. Because why would you want to be in a relationship, or at a company that’s not a good fit?

You don’t want to bring in the wrong person. It’s that simple. And it’s not about the person being good or bad. Is this person the right fit for the company culture. They can be good on paper, but do they fit your values? Does their personality align with what the company needs? If you can figure all this out before hiring, you’re more likely to retain your candidates.

So, what’s the bottom line, Cal?

The bottom line is that it all comes down to human connection and authenticity, and that comes from creating a safe space for candidates to share their stories. Every story contains a small essence of that person – you just need to know what to look for.

Key Takeaways
  • Companies often hire the wrong person because they didn’t ask the right questions.
  • Companies need to absolutely hire HR personnel that are curious about people, perceptive and have a love for interviewing.
  • The authentic person is in their candid stories, not their prepared answers.
  • Don’t bring your questions in with you. That paper acts as a barrier.
  • To keep the story moving deeper, always follow up with “why”
    or “how” – keep pushing to get to core.
  • The biggest mistake candidates make in interviewing is answering to be “right” instead of “true”. This is why the storytelling method works best.
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What are some of the most interesting questions you’ve asked or have been asked in a job interview?
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We met with Caroline Losson, the current VP Marketing for Keurig – previously the VP Marketing for Natrel, Marketing Director for Molson Coors, and Coca Cola.

The seasoned executive sheds some light on the right time for micromanagement, the truth about work-life balance, and what it’s like being a female executive in today’s workforce. Most of all – why companies today need to put their people first.

A Bit About Caroline Losson

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Caroline Losson – VP Marketing Keurig You’re a real go-getter. So busy that I wonder – do you value work-life balance?

I believe that the balance is in your mind more than in the number of hours you spend at the office. It’s a mental state, not a cookie-cutter approach; it depends on what works for you based on your life situation, which is different for everyone.

I like to get a head start on emails and go to the gym before work, which leaves me the room at the end of the day to cook and unwind. That’s my balance. I also love to travel and visit my kids who live abroad, so waking up early to get things done allows me to take the time off I need to do that. But, the idea of work-life balance shouldn’t be misconstrued as an excuse to not push oneself.

How can workplaces help employees achieve work-life balance?

Workplaces need to offer flexibility to their teams. People have lives and families outside of the office, and sometimes need to leave early or come late, or even just take a day. I completely trust my team to do what they have to do and get their work done. Trust is essential between managers and employees.

There have been times that my position has come with tough choices and compromises. I missed my kids’ graduation ceremonies and many parent teacher interviews, but I had to work. That was a choice I made then to get to where I am today. And they understood. The reconciliation is that I set the example for them that with hard work, anything is possible.

Thanks for being so open. Would you say that vulnerability is an important trait for leaders?

I think that sharing mistakes and failures is really important amongst teams. I’ve made some big mistakes in my career, even as an executive, and the best thing to do with these mistakes is to share them, learn, and try again. It’s also important for employees to see that even bosses are fallible – we’re all human. Transparency is so important.

Whether or not I’m a leader is for other people to say. If I inspire people to think outside of their comfort zone and take risks that move them forward, then I’m a leader, but that’s for others to judge. When you read foundation books like The Social Animal and The Road To Character, they remind you to reflect on yourself every day, so you can become better. Part of being a good leader is knowing that you can always improve, just like you ask your employees to.

What is one characteristic that is indispensable to all leaders?


As much as possible, you have to show up to work the same every day, which can be difficult because you’re human. But if you’re a yo-yo then your team will be a yo-yo. When you’re off your game, it will have a trickle-down effect to the rest of the team. Know yourself, and your limits. If you need a day. Take a day. I extend this to my employees as well. This goes back to the book I am currently reading: Reality-Based Leadership, which is about removing drama from the workplace.

Leaders also need to have empathy. There needs to be a human connection. Every week, I have breakfast with a different employee to chat about whatever is on their mind, work or other, and we catch up one-on-one. We’re a team of 29 and we work extremely hard, so it’s important to stop and connect every now and then.

As a leader of industry, what is one thing you wish to see in the workplace of the future?

Companies need to know that they are nothing without their people, and not just think it, but act on it.

We have to start putting employees at the center of their organization. Unless you run an automated factory, at the end of the day, your employees are what make you successful and what set you apart from other companies.

And as a leader, it’s your job to make sure that each employee has what they need to thrive.

Give them the resources and feedback they need to grow and learn. That is what they want. It’s really a two-way street if you want people to give you their best every day, you need to give them your best, every day. That is commitment.

The first and simplest way to do this is to not put them in a box – let them breathe, think beyond the boundaries and share ideas.

How do you build a strong team?

You need to have a balance of different minds and skills that inspire each other, and to let your employees hone in on their strengths. Realize that not everyone can be good at or take on everything, so give your team the resources they need to become experts in their own skill.

Build a strong team by putting the team’s needs first. Leaders and managers need to impart this mindset to their employees. We aren’t only working towards our individual greatness, we are working towards the greatness of the team.

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, how do you avoid micromanaging your employees?

Micromanaging and macromanaging cannot always be seen as bad. Sometime’s it’s necessary and that’s ok.

The Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing theory is important here. You go through different stages with your teams, and each phase requires a different level of involvement from the manager. Right now at Keurig, we’re back at square one, re-establishing boundaries, roles and responsibilities, so I will be directing now more than I will be later on.

It’s idealistic to think that everyone can be autonomous all of the time, even myself.

Of course, it is important to trust your employees, inspire free thinking, and let them run with ideas, but it is also important for managers to check in, guide and give feedback.

Bottom line, it’s the way that managers offer this guidance that can make it a negative or positive experience for their employees.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about being a female executive in today’s workforce. Should we even still draw attention to this subject?

Yes, we for sure still need to emphasize it. Women were only voting as of the 1940s, and we need to remember that struggle. And companies should acknowledge that while we’re equal, we’re different, and we face different challenges, which is why at Keurig we have an executive coach dedicated specifically to the female execs.

I believe that female leaders fundamentally have it harder, just by nature of the fact that we have the kids (which, consequently, makes me feel that we have greater rewards).

Can women in powerful, demanding positions like yours really “have it all”?

Absolutely, but in my opinion, it depends on what “all” means to you as an individual. People used to say that I don’t have it all because I don’t have a partner, but back then, the meaning of “all” to me was my career and my children. Personalize the meaning, because you are not everyone else, and don’t have the same needs and desires as everyone else. Now that my children are grown up, my definition of all has shifted, and I am ready to fill other parts of my life.

But the point is, you don’t need to have absolutely everything all at once, to feel you have it all.

Key Takeaways
  • Work-life balance is a state of mind, not the number of hours you work.
  • There is a time for micromanaging and a time for autonomy.
  • Leaders need to be consistent and empathetic.
  • To build a strong team, nurture the mindset that the team comes first.
  • Companies need to offer more flexibility to their employees.
  • Putting employees at the center of your organization means giving them the tools they need to grow.

Before you go, don’t forget to sign up for our free leadership course…

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We spent four educational days in San Francisco attending Culture Summit. With a full day of culture-themed workshops, evening networking events and a final day of fascinating speakers, we are eager to implement our many learnings into our own work environment.

We listened to expert speakers from Facebook, Linkedin, Airbnb, SnackNation (and many more) share valuable insights from their own experience. We want to share the best advice we heard with you, as we all continue on this great journey of creating better workplaces and becoming “Culture Champions”.

Learning How To Map Out Culture

Workshop with Stephanie Gioia – Director of Consulting at XPLANE

Culture is often talked about as the elephant in the room because it’s difficult to discuss and define something you can’t really see. – Stephanie Gioia

Every company has a culture, whether it’s intentional or not. However, often there is a dissonance between how companies see their culture, and how they actually live it.

The goal of this workshop was to learn how to map out culture in order to make the invisible visible.

Her advice is simple:

It’s important to not rely on words alone, such as a list of values, but on images as well, because it shows behaviour rather than tells behaviour. 75% of your brain sensory neurons are for pictures, not for words. So being able to visually articulate a culture helps companies ensure that we are all seeing, not just thinking, the same thing. – Stephanie Gioia

Examples of Great Visual Culture Representation

Valve Handbook– This memorable handbook for new employees is illustrated and written in a cheeky, irreverent, fun tone that is unique to Valve.

Atlassian– They created a video of their core values, one of which being “Don’t F*** The Customer”. Having employees speak in the video and share their understanding of the culture makes it even more powerful.

New Seasons Market – This grocery store embeds culture into new employees via activity in a long onboarding process. Over 6 months of storytelling, games, unpacking and enjoying a “culture picnic basket” and decorating nametags, there’s an ongoing tempo of conversations surrounding culture.

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When is culture mapping helpful?

Use the culture map if you want to…

  1. Scale culture, replace it or grow it! This is helpful when you currently like your culture but you are in a growth situation.
  2. Fix it, change it! This is key when you want to pivot and change your culture.
How To Use The Culture Map
  • Find someone to work with.
  • Choose a company value.
  • Use these questions as a base, but feel free to steer off course as you dig into your culture. The point is to find out where your intended values are not made tangible.
  • Repeat process for all of your company values.

The point is to start a dialogue on the topic and pinpoint the areas where you don’t necessarily put action to intention.

A Neurobiological Approach to Inclusion

Workshop with Rajkumari Neogy – Founder of iRestart

Exclusion registers in the brain as injury. – Rajkumari Neogy

Rajkumari explains that it literally hurts to be excluded, which is why she left a top position at a top tech company, despite loving her job.

The workshop looked at workplace inclusion/exclusion from a very interesting scientific vantage point, however the message was clear and simple: We need to focus on relationships and human connection in tandem with our focus on measuring and evaluating success.

But first, what is diversity?

Diversity, explains Neogy, is a mixture of belonging and inclusivity. They might sound the same, but the difference is that belonging refers to the ability to create a safe space for yourself, whereas inclusivity refers to the ability to create a safe space for others. Both are equally important.

The Brain and the Workplace
  1. The left side of the brain registers things like measurement, comparison and evaluation.
  2. The right side of the brain registers things like paradigms, meaning, connectivity and relationships.
The Problem

Because our left hemisphere is more prevalent in our day to day, the right hemisphere diminishes, putting things like empathy, emotional intelligence, and human connection on the backburner. We are so result-focused that we forget the importance of people.

The Solution

Bring the right hemisphere to the forefront. When we focus so much on the left, the right fades and then inclusion, which is emotion-based, becomes impossible.

If you want to bring greater levels of inclusion to an organization then there has to be some kind of messaging that talks about what is happening in the team or organization that does not feel great. There has to be accountability, transparency, constant communication and difficult conversations. There has to be someone to speak up, and people need to feel safe enough to be vulnerable.”You can’t do anything brave if you’re wearing the straightjacket of what other people will think” (a quote by Brene Brown) – Rajkumari Neogy

Self-Awareness and Leadership Buy-in

Claude Silver – Chief Heart Officer – Vaynermedia

Silver is a strong promoter of putting employees first, but what happens when you are a big, growing, remote company and you don’t have enough arms to meet with every employee, and check-in constantly?

Claude introduces the wonderful term “culture carriers”. Instead of one department being in charge of keeping a strong company culture, you have every employee embodying culture at all times.

How? Companies need to create a space of belonging and purpose.
  • Create a psychologically safe space where people can bring their whole selves to work without the fear of failure.
  • Create a space of diversity – Everyone should feel they belong.
  • Give constant acknowledgment and recognition – we all need it.
  • Connection + trust + empathy = Loyalty, longevity and tenureship of the employee, as well as resilience to change.
  • Town Halls are important for large companies because everyone is hearing the same message so they can understand and implement it quicker.
  • Pay close attention to patterns that surface in feedback sessions and make changes accordingly.
Creating Authenticity, Human Connection and Growth At Work

Sean Kelly – CEO SnackNation

Kelly starts by posting a simple question: How do you create a company where people are encouraged to become the best versions of themselves?

The answer:


Authenticity is the foundation. We see fakeness everywhere around us, so give employees the space at work to be their true selves. Authenticity is not about what we have to do or are expected to do, it is about what we are created to do, and how you show up to do it. – Sean Kelly


Kelly explains that Millennials attribute growth to purpose, and our purpose is constantly shifting.

Tip: To help them grow, ask employees how and where they see themselves growing, then help them create individual development plans and check in on them during monthly one-on-ones to track progress.


Human connection is at the fundamental core of our evolution. It always was and it always will be.

When we connect, share, and bond with one another, work becomes about more than just tasks, it becomes about the human experience, and this is when teams feel empowered to grow.

Tips to increase connection

  • Empathy – Hiring based on emotional intelligence and empathy is critical, but how do you test for it while in candidates? Ask them to tell you about their proudest moment. If their answer is not about the team then they are not a good fit.
  • Recognition and gratitude – At SnackNation, on Friday at 4 pm everyone comes together and we have volunteers that “crush” on each other (a form of peer-peer recognition) and then they say the things they are the most grateful for.
Making the Business Case For Culture Initiatives

Marta Riggins, Global Marketing Director at LinkedIn Talent Solutions

Without investing in culture you will not attract top talent. – Marta Riggins.

She continues to suggest that millennials are “consumers” of workplaces, looking for the perfect space for them to belong, and often the perfect space is the one that fits their cultural needs.

Why does having an authentic culture matter?
  • Culture and employee experience is a differentiator. It helps form your brand, and it will help you be an employer of choice.
  • Happy and engaged employees drive strong business results.
  • Millennials (40% of the workforce) are the most diverse generation in the US workforce which is one reason why diversity in your company culture is so important (Gallup).
  • Millennials are the most likely to want to know their colleagues as WHOLE people, not just what they do at work (Gallup). This is a big generational shift towards meaningful workplace connections.
  • 57% of millennials say that they are more likely to stay at their company if they are able to talk about non-work-related things with their managers (Gallup).
Building culture in dispersed, remote and global companies

Monica Adractas – Director at “Workplace” by Facebook

Monica looks at Facebook as an example of a massive global company that needs to scale its culture. She then looks at the trends driving the future of work, and why company culture is tantamount to success.


  • 20,000 people
  • 50 offices
  • Remote teams

How can you create a cohesive culture across so many offices and people?

As we discussed earlier as a takeaway in the first workshop, the values that make up culture work best when there is a tangible element to it. For example, all Facebook offices have open, incomplete ceilings. What does this mean?

It’s a metaphor for we are never done. We always tell ourselves that we are only 1% done. We have had success but we don’t want to rest on that success. The ceiling is a reminder. – Monica Adractas

You can therefore imagine the impact that culture and values have on innovation.

Trends Driving The Future Of Work
  • Company complexity: Companies are getting more and more complex and moving faster than ever. We’re expecting them to produce more and faster.
  • Technology: Technology is changing at a mind-boggling rate. Americans touch their phone 8 billion times a day collectively. Because of this we have the attention span of 8 seconds.

What this tells us is that we need to reinvent the way we work because we’re evolving away from a traditional way of working that was once siloed and command and control toward a new, mobile, democratic way of working that provides access to all.

There’s a lot of room to do things differently, but one thing that must remain steadfast is values.

Values are critical because when everything is changing around you, they guide you on how to behave. At Facebook we believe that good values should force you to make a tradeoff and question what are we willing to give for what we get? – Monica Adractas

Creating Inclusive Cultures in Our workplaces and Communities

This was a panel featuring the following participants:

David Julius King – Director of Diversity and belonging at Airbnb
Lisa Lee – Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Pandora
Nicole Sanchez – CEO and Founder at Vaya Consulting

This panel discussion on the topic of inclusivity and diversity in the workplace was enlightening. We were pushed to ask ourselves:

What does it really mean to be truly diverse?

Simply hiring people of different races and nationalities does not necessarily qualify as diversity. And, there is a responsibility that comes with being a diverse organization that goes beyond just recruiting a diverse team.

The next question on the panel was a nod to the state of today’s world.

How do you address and make employees feel like they belong internally when there is a massive lack of inclusion occurring externally?

  • Pause: Leaders need to pause when things are going on outside of work. Slow down. These things effect people – we need to pay attention to that and understand how outside culture affects the culture within an organization.
  • See the whole person: Companies have to understand that the term “employee” does not simply refer to a singular transaction between two people. Nothing goes further than knowing that your employer is standing behind you when you are shaken. Managers should be trained to know how to support their employees during hard times.

  • Reconsider the role: The role of diversity and inclusion advocate has really changed over the past few years. Coming to work and talking about recruiting is trivial in these times. At the end of the day, we can only control what happens inside the organization. We, therefore, need to create a place where all of our employees are treated equally and have the setting for advancement.
  • Leadership In this political climate, we have to start looking at work communities as full communities, knowing that they have a very real effect on individuals. Leadership needs to be held accountable to send a clear message about what beliefs and discussions are acceptable at work.
    Key Takeaways
    • Our overarching takeaway from Culture Summit is that culture is indispensable to company success.
    • Culture needs to be well-defined and communicated to everyone (preferably visually) in order to build a cohesive, successful brand.
    • What is clear more than anything is that people and community are the bottom line of every culture.
    • Human connection, trust, vulnerability, empathy and transparency should be at the top of your company’s lexicon.
    • Companies need to be responsible and hire leaders that are not only skillful but sensitive to others, and these leaders need to build teams that are driven by respectful relationships and connecting.

    It was a wonderful experience to surround ourselves with all those at Culture Summit who traveled from far and wide to expand their knowledge on how to improve company culture. It is by constantly informing ourselves – and of course, connecting – that we will be able to grow.

    Until the next conference – keep up the great work :)

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Despite the annual review occurring only once a year, its looming presence has lasting, residual effects on employees’ day-to-day mentality. More often than not, it infects the culture of an organization.

It generates a mindset in employees that dictates the way they work, focused on external rather than internal motivators. It’s a mindset founded on the premise of fear, and where fear exists, innovation and growth become stunted.

We sat down with Kahina Ouerdane and Joanna Awogni, the visionaries at the helm of GSOFT’s Culture & Organization team.

They explain in an interview why our organization has decided to go against the grade and cut out the annual review from our feedback cycles, for good.

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Where Change Needs To Begin

The issues of the workplace today are very much intertwined with the school system, and I think the first step is to revolutionize education. When you’re young you are interested in learning for the sake of learning, and then at some point in your life you become interested in learning for the sake of getting an A.” – Kahina Ouerdane

Kahina explains that there’s a movement from the intrinsic motivation for doing things, to extrinsic motivation, and it is during this shift that purpose and meaning become lost. There’s a pleasure that’s extracted from the process when you know you’re being evaluated, so you do it for the wrong reason.

Tying any sort of learning (in the classroom or the workplace) to grades and rewards removes authenticity from the act. This lack of authenticity stunts creative thinking and innovation, which are crucial aspects of company growth, differentiation, and success.

Why We’re Moving Beyond The Grade

“When you stigmatize people with a number, it’s like stigmatizing people with titles. This is another element of the workplace that we will need to one day – boldly – reconsider.” – Kahina Ouerdane

Kahina and Joanna explain that annual reviews are no longer a responsible way to evaluate. There is too much recency bias, it’s inefficient and overly ambitious to think that managers can collect accurate, year-long notes, and moreover it’s demotivating for employees to feel that they “are” the number that’s assigned to them.

When you assign a number value to someone, they become boxed into that number. The way that managers – and then by extension colleagues – interact with them after a grade is given, is a direct result of their perception of what that number means.

“There’s such a strong bias attached to the grade. You won’t get the best out of people when you tell them they’re a three on five. People tend to take on the meaning of the label you give them.” – Joanna Awogni

This is why we need to move away from numbers and focus on something perhaps less numerically tangible but more meaningful, and less confining.

Why Can’t Annual Reviews Work In Tandem With Other Feedback Cycles?

We asked Joanna and Kahina what they thought about companies keeping the annual review in place when it worked in tandem with other feedback cycles, like monthly one-on-ones and frequent check-ins:

“If you have all those other feedback cycles and continuous communication, why is the annual review relevant any longer? Why do we need a final review, when learning and growth is continuous? Organizations need to focus less on specific events and failures that accumulate during the course of a year leading up to one big review, and focus more continuously on an employee’s development, as well as their embodiment of the company values.” – Kahina Ouerdane

Much like the process of human evolution, this is the evolution of the workplace. Things become obsolete as we begin to understand what works best, and what doesn’t work at all. The focus now is on putting employees at the center. Committing to the perpetuation of the fear-inducing annual review seems to go against the grain of humanizing the workforce.

The Future Of Management Without Annual Reviews

Ultimately, we’re moving from 2.0 to 3.0 management, meaning away from a command and control environment towards self-organized teams and shared leadership.

“Removing the annual review is consistent with removing control and moving towards more self-sufficient teams. Removing fear will create more empowered and purpose-driven employees.” – Kahina Ouerdane

This allows people to focus on their purpose, rather than on impressing other people for the sake of this final, looming grade. It lets employees see and experience work life beyond the fear factor of this final review. There is much more room for growth, innovation, and creativity when one considers the purpose and the “why” of what they do, rather than the consequences of it.

“The presence of fear derived from these evaluations inhibits people from being their true selves, their creative selves. It goes hand in hand with fear and that’s what doesn’t work about the annual review. They embody control and hierarchy. It’s about ‘power over’ rather than ‘power with’.” – Kahina Ouerdane

The future of work is less oriented on counting failures, and more focused on encouraging risks and embracing mistakes whose genesis was from an intellectual curiosity to test and explore.

Why Companies Still Hold On To The Annual Review

The movement away from this feedback process, which has been embedded in many organizations for decades, requires a lot of reflection. It’s tough to break free from habits – especially since there’s something clean and simple about being able to tie up the whole year in a bow with a final review. Even if companies understand that the process is broken, the process of change is too heavy for many organizations to implement without clear directions for replacement.

“Alternatives exist, but companies haven’t been curious enough to go and look for them. It requires a lot of thinking, reorganizing, and reconceptualizing of values. It’s not an easy task but it’s the direction of the future, and it will pay off in the long run.” – Joanna Awogni

Change is scary, but sometimes the pangs of an initial discomfort are worth it, if not necessary. It doesn’t matter if you are a small start-up or a 50-year-old enterprise. If you want to survive as an organization and meet the needs of top candidates and the most forward-thinking talent available, it’s time to start thinking about putting the wheels of change into motion.

What Employees Really Want

“What always comes up is the topic of feedback. Employees want constant communication, more one-on-ones. They want to learn and develop, constantly. How can this drive be reduced to one conversation and a final number at the end of the year?” – Joanna Awogni

It’s inherently counter-intuitive as the direction of growth is forward, and the annual review is tied heavily to the past (or whatever version of it is at top of mind come the time of the annual review).

Getting rid of the “grade” is necessary for any successful learning environment, and what employees care about more than pay, or benefits is the opportunity learn and grow.

The first step to accomplish this is constant communication, and the opportunity for year-long feedback, not once a year feedback. It’s too late by then.

There is no end to learning so “ending” the year with an annual review follows a start-stop movement, instead of a continuous, circular one.

The “Evaluation” Language We Need To Stop Using, Right Now

With the change of processes, we also need to change the language we use surrounding these processes. Words are full of meaning, connotation, and power, so organizations must consider the ones they use carefully – it will shape the culture of your company, as well as the energy and tone, and therefore how employees perform within it.

“When we change our way of thinking about something, we need to change the way we speak about it too. We need to stop thinking about ‘evaluating’ one’s performance, and instead, start ‘appreciating’ one’s performance. At GSOFT, our understanding of performance is completely tied to our core values.” – Kahina Ouerdane

Kahina and Joanna explain that words of ‘winning over’ and ‘power over’ rather than ‘winning with’ and ‘power with’ are detrimental to teams.

“It’s not by “winning” that we are going to create a whole better than the sum of its parts. It’s about abundance. In Law school, our grades were dependant on the grades of others, so people would hide books in the ceilings of the library to prevent others from learning the right answer, in order to increase our own grades. But how does that serve anyone?” – Kahina Ouerdane

How To Change Your Language

Challenge-Discussion: Instead of “I want to challenge you on this,” which is not only confrontational, but it divides people, try using more approachable and inclusive language like “Let’s discuss this a bit more”

Collaboration-Co-Creation: When you really dissect the meaning of the word collaboration, it doesn’t necessarily promote togetherness. Collaborating on a project can mean that I sit in my corner and write a book while you sit in your corner and illustrate it – then we merge them together. Co-creation implies really working together on something

Evaluation-Appreciation:The word evaluation is probably one of the most loathed words in the English language, so let’s change the way we approach performance. Replace evaluation with appreciation, a more positive, yet still powerful word.

The Solution: Tie Performance To Values, Not Numbers

The first step is to define your company’s core values. Know them. Mean them. Live them and breathe them. Share them with your teams often.

“Our values are core to everything that we do, and it’s visible in our day-to-day, the products that we develop, the events we organize and the way that we recruit. They are also at the center of each employee’s development.” – Kahina Ourderane

Individual grades and your own performance are not what is most pertinent in the workplace. What matters most is the team, and a collective movement toward common and shared goals based on a value system.

Implementing Our Solution

Values will be broken down into different criteria on what we call a “Heat Map,” which is what will be used every 3 months in between the regular monthly one-on-ones to check in on employees’ development. The subsequent one-on-ones will follow up on the progress.

For example…

Criteria of the “Family” value:
  1. Co-creation
  2. Vulnerability
  3. Community
  4. Care for others
Use Colours Instead Of Numbers:
  1. Green- Strength to keep up!
  2. Yellow-Element to start working on over the term
  3. Blue- Element to work on now, as it is not yet a strength

No one is stuck with a number. Instead, colours are used to represent an employee’s state of development with regards to the value set.

“The goal of this is to focus on potential beyond “what did you do in the past?” to “what can you do in the future?” – Joanna Awongi

This new method will inspire employees to continuously look at the greater purpose and the WHY they do what they do. It will focus on constant development, which lets employees know that there is always room for growth.

What’s Next?

Once we test out our new method, we will share our insights, feedback and templates with you in a follow-up post. Stay tuned!

Key Takeaways
  • Assigning grades to learning kills creativity by making motivators external, not internal.
  • The fear that the annual review brings to the workplace inhibits innovation.
  • Feedback needs to occur all year-long, not only once a year.
  • Employees need constant communication in order to learn and grow.
  • We need to be more mindful of our words and avoid using confrontational language.
  • Matching employee’s performance to a number keeps affects the way they are perceived *by themselves and their managers), and therefore treated.
  • Performance should be tied to values, to keep everyone moving collectively towards a common goal.

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