Don’t let them wait for the exit interview

This morning, I came across a post in Silicon Alley Insider written by a former Googler titled, “Here’s What Larry Page Needs To Do To Fix Google.” Slacy, the unnamed (?) engineer listed off some 13 uber-issues as well as some tactical suggestions for how to fix the system. Although Slacy is clearly frustrated with the status quo, his tone is productive and hopeful — do “x, y, and z” and Google can once again become a bastion of innovation with a “start-up feel” that I once loved.

This past Friday, by contrast, I had drinks with some former colleagues from Monitor Group, and several shared some of the gripes I once knew so well. Although all the concerns were legitimate, the implicit tone was dejected, desolate. A broken record of complaints.

I would argue that this is quite typical – namely, that the post-facto company critique is deemed a thoughtful retrospective, while the current employee list of grievances is equated with whining (even when the list is accompanied by potential solutions). The divergent perceptions of employee v. alumni feedback, which I would love for Dan Ariely to test, can lead to lost opportunities to retain talent, improve operations, and drive growth.

Many companies and organizations have feedback systems in place, but these are typically point-specific and not systemic. Employees are asked to give feedback about a manager, a team, an initiative, a project, a failure, a success. Less likely is the overall business ops feedback that tracks satisfaction and effectiveness across organizational silos, the questions like “If I were CEO or COO for the day, I would…” or “HR should really change the way we do x because…” And even less likely is asking these questions on a regular basis, or asking for specific recommendations of how to do things differently. Instead, estranged high performers are forced to hold onto their grievances until they leave for a seemingly better-run environment.

To state the obvious, work is work. You’re unlikely to find a company with perfectly satisfied employees. But regularly asking employees across all levels whether they are happy and what they would change is a highly effective and simple way to step on the tossed cigarette before it turns into a California brush fire. And luckily, technology makes sourcing feedback far more simple than hosting monthly off-sites with organizational psychologists and harmonica lessons.

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