We are trying out Know Your Company at work.
Know Your Company is an online tool that was originally built by Basecamp (formerly 37signals). The idea is that through asking questions (both work-related and social) of employees and then sharing these answers everyone involved will get to know their company and the people in it better. There is a significant trust element behind this and everyone, especially the management, need to be ready to hear some truths that might be difficult to handle.
A tool like Know Your Company can be incredibly important in a dispersed team environment when opportunities to just ‘say how you feel’ or talk about what you are up to’ are minimal. I’ve talked about how we build in Watercooler moments before but this is an attempt to further facilitate those discussions.
So every week we answer three questions – the request comes via email. You can answer these questions openly or send the answer to just the management team. There is no obligation to answer. The answers given openly are shared later on in the week.
The questions cover:
- How employees feel about the business, the work, the culture, etc.
- What everyone in the company is working on.
- More about each other as people. This could be a favorite recipe or movie. The small connections can bring people a little closer together.
Know Your Company have some ground rules for managers:
- You have to want the truth. This isn’t about checking a box. This is about genuinely getting to know your people better.
- You have to ask questions. You can’t expect information to come to you. A leader’s job is to go first, and start the conversation.
- You have to be committed to taking action. The entire purpose of feedback is to do something with it. Otherwise, why ask for feedback at all?
- You have to make it a routine. You can’t ask for feedback just twice a year. Information dumps aren’t useful or timely enough to act on.
- You have to make it easy. It can’t be a burden to get to know each other better, or else no one will do it – including you.
- So far the experiment has been interesting.
I now know that I can chat to many of my colleagues about graphic novels (one of my favourite genres!) and I have a better idea of what people are up to. I’m also more aware of how different we are as individuals, issues bother others that I hadn’t given a second thought to, and I’m sure it is vise versa. I knew this before through discussions had in online meetings, but I think allowing us to express our own personal feelings through the answers to questions seems to be less confrontational and more objective. Building trust within our organization is a key priority right now and I’m glad our management team are trying out ways in which this can be done. Maybe it has given us a little space in which to reflect and has dampened people’s fuse a little. Surely a good thing!