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Lessons from a global team: How to survey (but not over-survey) staff

WeMaintain's Jade Francine manages a team of more than 120 people on two continents. She shares her tips on keeping track of how they're doing

By Amy Lewin

Jade Francine

Jade Francine is cofounder and COO of Paris-based lift maintenance startup WeMaintain. She’s always been super keen on gathering feedback from her team, and now that it’s 120 people strong across Paris, London and Singapore, she thinks it’s more important than ever to keep a pulse check. She told the Startup Life newsletter how he does that.

Be clear about what you want to achieve from a survey

We like to get feedback — but we don’t put surveys everywhere. There needs to be a very specific reason to survey the team; we need to make sure we can take proper action [off the back of it] and set aside time to go through the survey.

For example, last summer we did an engagement survey; the team had grown so much that we wanted to make sure, especially because of Covid, that people were still aligned. We asked them over 60 questions: how they felt about the company values, whether they were still attached to them, what their relationship was like with the management team and whether the company was doing enough in terms of impact. When Covid lockdowns first began, we did a survey about what people wanted from our remote work policy. We use Google Forms or Typeform.

Give people plenty of time to answer surveys

We push surveys over at least a month — and we give people a lot of reminders; some people might be off, others might be busy. They need to have time to think about it; it’s not something you want to rush. We explain the point of the survey before we launch it, remind them of it once or twice a week, let them know how many people have completed it already, and say that if they have any questions they can come and talk to us. We get a completion rate of 98% on our surveys.

Follow up a survey with an action plan

The idea is not to have tonnes of actions that you’ll never take, but precise actions. People should feel like it’s genuine; that you’re not asking just to get some numbers. From our last survey, we learnt that some people believed that their remuneration was quite low compared to the market, so we used a tool called Figures to benchmark salaries.

“People should feel like it’s genuine; that you’re not asking just to get some numbers”

Every French startup seems to be becoming a unicorn so tech salaries are crazy at the moment. Now we’re making sure that they’re in line with the market — or if they’re not in line, we are at least aware and can explain why.

Share the results

We told the team in advance that we would share the results; not individual responses, but the overall results for each question. We did a presentation to explain the results we got, the action we were taking, and then gave access to the answers. We’re very transparent; if we hadn’t communicated on that it would’ve been an issue.

Encourage people to give constructive feedback

Giving people feedback on Slack just doesn’t happen. You need to have a dedicated time and place to give constructive feedback when something is not okay — like a survey or a 360 review. Those answers aren’t anonymous; when people give feedback, they should own it — it’s easy to give negative feedback.

Check in regularly too — in a lightweight way

We use a tool called 15Five to check in on people on a weekly basis. It asks them how they feel on a scale of 1-5, if they have any challenges, or want to high five someone on the team. We also add a question, once per month, asking what level of pressure people are feeling. We don’t want to lose people or have them put so much pressure on themselves. If they say 8/10 then we know there’s an issue. If people are feeling bad, then I message them. People need to know that we care about those answers.

On the subject of team engagement

Spend time designing your survey. Good survey design is key to getting useful results… yet many HR teams are still using boring processes from 50 years ago.

🙋 Encourage more honest feedback. Here are five tips to get you going.

📗 Are team surveys a waste of company resources? The general consensus is that engaged employees perform better, but does the data actually back that up?

👪 Engagement does not mean adopting your team as family. Instead, encourage boundaries.

🙏 Co-create new work policies with your team to retain talent — if your people are forced to return to the office and resume “business as usual”, you’ll face mass resignations.

Amy Lewin is Sifted’s editor. She tweets from @amyrlewin

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