HR professionals need technology enabling conversations, rather than performance reviews


My views on HR technologies changed dramatically after joining SurveyMonkey, a company where listening to customers is a core value and asking for feedback is central to the business. As Survey Monkey’s chief people officer, I believe in our values and mission to power the curious, and I work to integrate them into all the work we do across the people team every day.

Listening to customers in the case of HR teams means listening to employees and potential employees (i.e. candidates). They, along with our customers of course, are the people who matter most to our organizations. As a company grows it’s no longer possible to have one-to-one conversations with all employees, but their feedback and inputs are still critical to decision making, so I have to do it at scale. The real opportunity begins with “listening” (analyzing) to the feedback and leveraging those insights to develop new and improve existing HR programs.

As a result, this focus on asking for input fundamentally changed the way I operate as an HR leader and connect with our employee community. It has also changed my thinking about the technology: what HR leaders need daily is technology that enables us to have an ongoing dialogue and take action on these insights. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned so far.

Use technology to ask better questions and get better insights

The best of insights come from asking the right questions. Doing so is a real art, as I’ve learned while working with our professional research team on perfecting the questions we ask of our employees. It’s important to make sure your questions aren’t biased, and that your questions help get to the ‘why’ of an issue. There are existing technologies and tools that can help HR professionals do just these things. With the goal of getting great feedback on an ongoing basis, these technologies must be available at our fingertips as we work on new ideas and try to improve existing programs.

Treating internal feedback seriously and taking a meticulous approach to acting on that feedback, will make your whole team proud in a workplace

While scientists are still figuring out how to make AI curious and ask questions for you, you can start to elicit more impactful feedback by utilizing existing question banks and machine learning algorithms to perfect questions (be it in employee surveys, or in candidate interviews). It is also important for HR professionals to put more value on the crafting and asking of questions to internal teams and larger employee community, which leads me to the next point…

Eliminate barriers to asking all kinds of questions

From our research, we know that the proportion of C-suite leaders who say their companies encourage curiosity “a great deal” (52 percent) is over double the proportion of the individual contributors who say the same (22 percent). This gap is very significant and shows us that the larger employee community is experiencing multiple barriers preventing them from asking questions. These barriers are tied to the behavior of senior management and the lack of transparency in companies, as well as the fear of judgment. Technology can help eliminate these barriers and foster greater transparency, so HR professionals can get better insights.

Our experience shows that it’s often easier for people to pose certain questions in a survey rather than in person. For example, it was from our internal belonging and inclusion survey developed in partnership with Stanford researchers, which we discovered we needed to provide our employees with clarity on the resolution when they escalate issues or concerns, as well as offer additional tools and opportunity for career growth.

Have an ongoing conversation

As with any important relationship, you shouldn’t ask your employees just once a year about how they feel, how your company can help them feel like they belong, and how they can be more successful at your company. The employer-employee relationship is one that people leaders need to nurture on an ongoing basis by asking questions, listening and seeking to understand. By using technology to trigger these conversations on a regular basis, you can be sure to address questions from employees as change is taking place in real time.

Get employees involved in the process

In the spirit of fostering engagement, I have also found that employees want to be empowered by easy and intuitive HR tools. In fact, 73% of full-time U.S. employees said they expected their employers to provide self-service HR tools for a variety of tasks, according to a recent survey conducted by Paychex. So, it’s a no-brainer that HR teams should advocate for technology that provides employees with greater insight into high-level metrics. This transparency builds trust among employees, further aiding engagement efforts.

Additionally, involving employees in company-level decisions helps make them feel heard and valued which in turn helps drive engagement, retention and the development of effective HR programs. In our case, we saw marked success in employee engagement by asking for employee feedback on the design of our new HQ office. We also launched new programs like employee benefits for vendors and contractors prompted by a question from our full-time employees.

Finally, use technology to make data-driven decisions based on feedback and share your action plan:

Whether you need to assign action items to the team based on an employee survey, or share new insights in a company town hall, technology can help you close the loop and highlight the why behind your decisions.

Treating internal feedback seriously and taking a meticulous approach to acting on that feedback, will make your whole team proud in a workplace. At SurveyMonkey, we are now in the process of switching from annual performance reviews to quarterly check-ins with employees (technology will help power this change) as we strongly believe that regular conversations regarding growth, impact and goals will help us create a better employee experiences and deliver on our commitment to be a place where the curious can come to grow.


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