How one firm does feedback loops right

by Miklos Bolza17 Aug 2016
Global management consulting firm, Bain & Company, has created a company-wide feedback culture which has brought a range of HR rewards in a tough corporate environment.
Through a systematic approach that gathers monthly and weekly employee feedback, the firm keeps up-to-date about staff perceptions on projects and collects data to improve the working lives of staff, chief talent officer Russ Hagey told the Australian Financial Review.
These regular staff quizzes cover a range of topics with staff offering opinions on their workload, career path, client goals, and whether or not they are having fun.
“Each individual project team [provides] feedback on how that team is working with one another. It’s very much feedback from our staff to the leadership of the firms, because we are trying to create a very active, engaging, dynamic culture and the energy that comes from that,” Hagey said.
Client-facing teams are regularly asked a set of straightforward questions to measure how each team is performing, he added.
"Do you feel like you are adding value to a client project? Do you feel that you have a professional development or learning plan in place for you as an individual? Do you feel like the work is sustainable? [Do] we have the right level of work-life balance? Are you having fun with what you are doing?"
The firm asks these questions on a monthly basis. This not only allows the company to improve but it also creates a dialogue with each project team, Hagey said.

In a separate article in Gallup, Annamarie Mann and Jim Harter wrote on how pulse surveys could effectively help firms compile additional staff feedback.

“Use pulse surveys as complementary tools. When administering a pulse survey, it's important to understand that it is a feedback mechanism,” they wrote.
“Pulse surveys can provide additional perspectives on existing organisational problems or strategic initiatives, but they can't solve problems or improve performance on their own.”
Bain & Company's strategy has brought excellent rewards with anonymous Glassdoor reviewers offering very high approval ratings for the firm’s worldwide managing director Bob Bechek.
Staff have “high expectations of the impact they will have, the learning they’ll get, their ability to do the job in a sustainable way,” David Zehner, Bain & Company’s managing director in Australia told AFR.
He recounted an example where an employee expressed concerns that two client members had different expectations of a project’s outcomes. Thanks to the weekly feedback, Zehner was able to quickly call a meeting and rectify the issue.
"A Bain team is like an express train and I want to make sure that we [are] on the right track,” he said.
“So had we not had this kind of very frequent dialogue internally about what’s not working, what are we concerned about, we may well have missed it or missed it by a couple of weeks. The dialogue this creates helps us to do our jobs better.”

However, 'survey fatigue' was something HR should be aware of, warned Mann and Harter in their Gallup article.

“When companies conduct pulse surveys often, leaders should carefully consider the types of questions to ask and avoid repeatedly asking similar questions," they wrote.
Related stories:
Goldman Sachs to scrap numerical performance ratings
How to master the art of world class feedback
Three alternatives to scrapping annual reviews


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