At Brooks Bell, we partner with our clients to build insight-driven organizations. We know that understanding customers and making decisions with their best interest at hand makes organizations stronger, more successful, and more resilient. We take a similar approach internally, working to ensure that our business operations are relevant to the needs of our team and that we are creating an environment with healthy feedback loops so information is frequently being surfaced and considered.
Just as businesses work to improve customer experience (CX) to acquire and retain customers, they should work to improve the employee experience (EX) to acquire and retain talent. With labor costs likely your biggest line item, it is too important to take a “set it and forget it” approach. You need to safeguard and cultivate your teams just as you do your CX. In this article, I will walk you through 5 examples of our quest to improve our EX.
Some advice before we embark: it’s a journey. Sometimes, you’ll get it right, sometimes wrong, and what you think you know will change. The key is having systems in place to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t so that change is quick when it’s needed.
Employee Performance Reviews
Employee performance reviews are designed to be a point of alignment to ensure the work is fulfilling to both the employee and the company. Adjustments can be made to help resolve misalignment, and the frequency ensures no unmet needs linger too long. These can be tricky to get right for a number of reasons: format, scope, frequency, depth, etc, not to mention the emotional capital that may be needed..
Whether or not the process stays consistent year after year, it’s paramount that there is a feedback loop in place to validate that the process is truly serving its purpose for the team. Over time, our review process has undergone quite an evolution. Five years ago, we had annual reviews using a standard format. We felt like there was nuance missing, and in 2020, we changed to annual 360 reviews in pursuit of diversifying feedback for our managers. However, with time, we found them to be incredibly admin-heavy and time-consuming. They were missing the mark. This year, we changed our review process to quarterly, with a less formal peer feedback component. With the change was also the mindset shift from an annual review of performance to a quarterly review of progress. Performance is still a focus, but the root is in coaching, which promotes co-collaboration rather than a one-sided evaluation. Will this be the right fit for us? We feel like it is the best one yet, and we’ll continue to solicit feedback to help us determine the next evolution.
We are proud to have a team comprised of the best of the best, with diverse and extensive expertise. And we want continued opportunities for learning after someone comes on board. As a result, professional development is an important focus.
Learning and development has multiple avenues within Brooks Bell. Over the years, we have partnered with Bell Leadership Institute for individual leadership training. We’ve partnered with Dr. Margaret Brunson of Illumined Leadership Solutions for individual and group leadership coaching. And even our CEO, Greg Ng, works with executive coach, Melissa Rose, because he, too, understands there is always more to learn. In these examples, gaining feedback and insight from someone outside of the organization can offer a unique perspective on solving challenges and creating solutions. But what happens if an opportunity arises outside of the cycle of the more formalized training calendar? To answer that, we created a form that anyone can fill out when requesting specific training, conference attendance, certifications, etc. Most recently, we have piloted an internal mentorship program, creating opportunities for individuals to hone their coaching skills and foster relationships with team members they may not work with on a regular basis. In each of these scenarios, the goal is to provide a wide variety of opportunities based on where an individual is in their career. We might not have every scenario covered yet, but the team knows that we’re committed to supporting their professional development and that they have the ability to influence what’s next.
Fostering relationships is the most important part of my role as CoS, and as remote work became the norm in varying degrees over the past few years, it has become more challenging to keep a pulse on the rhythm of the team. In Q2 of this year, I piloted what I call a listening tour. I met with everyone in the company over the course of the quarter and asked two questions: What is one thing that would make your job better? And what are you loving about your job right now? Aside from these questions, the agenda is open and informal. The feedback was positive, and I’m repeating it again right now in Q4. Ultimately, the value here is creating yet another feedback loop across each team member that can inform business and culture decisions. This is a newer tool in the toolbox, so I will be evaluating feedback and keeping an eye out for the next iteration.
All-Company In-Person Events
We believe there is value in bringing our entire team under one roof from time to time, and we carve out the time to do so. We call these events All Team Week and started having them quarterly in 2021. We fly in our remote employees and spend the week in person, working, collaborating, and connecting. The structure has changed over the years, but there is always a mix of company-wide workshops, team events, dinners/drinks, and a good amount of walking meetings. We have experimented with the frequency, agenda, and locations with each All Team Week. The first one was too much in-person connection (on the heels of the pandemic), the next was perhaps not enough connection, the third was the best of both worlds but was missing a certain something, and you get the picture. We’ve made adjustments based on feedback following each event, and they’re better each time. We are committed to facilitating this opportunity to be together and will continue to ensure the team gets as much value from it as possible.
Remote Work Policy
Prior to the pandemic, Brooks Bell primarily operated from our headquarters in Raleigh, NC. With the exception of a handful of remote employees, you’d find our office parking lot packed each workday. Our remote work policy underwent a massive overhaul in response to the pandemic and has remained unchanged since we rolled out that update in 2020. The team has the flexibility to choose where they would like to work week to week and day to day. When we reopened our office, the message was the same. More recently, we found an office space to better suit our hybrid approach, and still, the message is the same. In each of these transitions, we solicited feedback from the team on what they needed to do their best work in their ideal environment and used it to form our decisions and policies.
In summary, consider your EX in the same way you consider CX. Be open to feedback, iterations, experimentation, and a culture of curiosity. Like your customers, your team will know when you’re genuinely invested in them and are working to make your time together a good experience.