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How to gauge employee satisfaction, one question at a time

Sharon Florentine | April 24, 2014
There's nothing quite like that gut-wrenching feeling when an employee gives notice. It's especially tough when the employee was one of the good ones, and when you didn't see it coming, says David Niu, founder of TinyPulse.

There's nothing quite like that gut-wrenching feeling when an employee gives notice. It's especially tough when the employee was one of the good ones, and when you didn't see it coming, says David Niu, founder of TinyPulse.

"Regardless of geography, company size, industry, that sinking feeling when an employee gives notice is universal," Niu says. "You're losing a member of your team, there are morale issues to consider, not to mention the hard and soft costs of a talent search, recruiting, interviewing and hiring a replacement — it's haunting," Niu says.

Niu's company, TinyPulse, was formed to directly address many of the problems companies face when trying to improve employee engagement, satisfaction and retention, he says.

By anonymously polling employees frequently using one question at a time, Niu says the solution can help address small problems within the company before they become major issues.

Keeping Your Finger on the Business's Pulse

"I came up with the idea that businesses should constantly have their finger on the pulse — hence the name — of their employees," Niu says. "Most companies do [performance] reviews once a year, but businesses change more than once a year. You don't check your finances once a year. You don't evaluate your business strategy just once a year, so why do we put culture and people and their engagement and satisfaction last?" he says.

The answer to that question is simple: Because it's so hard to do and it's very inefficient, Niu says, at least if businesses take the "traditional" route of asking for and then evaluating employee surveys.

First, Niu says, not only do you have to develop questions, but you have to set aside time to read the responses, categorize them, prioritize them, and then develop a plan to address them. Even in small organizations, the task can seem Herculean, and many companies just don't want to deal with the hassle, he says.

TinyPulse attempts to turn this process on its head by asking one, highly specific question at intervals that are customizable to fit each business.

"We wanted to make sure that these questions were open-ended enough that employees would easily be able to answer them and provide additional feedback, but also be targeted enough that HR and management could hone in on trouble spots and actually fix them," Niu says.

Some examples of TinyPulse questions used by clients:

Name one process that, were it eliminated, would make you more productive.

How transparent is management?

Please rate the quality of the snacks in the kitchen.

That last question, Niu says, was one he asked of TinyPulse employees, and it generated a surprising response — hatred. "We're a very small office, so I'd been bringing in a bag of pretzels here and there, and it turned out no one liked that particular brand." he says. "In and of itself, that's not a huge issue — but if you're in management, and you don't know these things, big or little, how can you fix them?" he says.

 

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