Making sure all employees are happy should be a key concern in all startups, Bigcommerce co-founder Mitchell Harper says.
That’s the reasoning behind the 2014 BRW Young Rich List entrepreneur’s latest startup which launched this week.
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PeopleSpark is an online platform that allows managers to better monitor their workers’ job satisfaction.
Harper points to the likes of Atlassian and Uber as startups that have fostered a positive office culture from the outset, and are now reaping the rewards, and wants the PeopleSpark tool to help other startups achieve this.
The platform asks employees to give weekly feedback about their job from a computer or mobile phone. Harper says it’ll provide companies with a more accurate measure of their employees’ wellbeing.
Satisfying staff is good for business
Harper says employee welfare was always a consideration when founding Bigcommerce.
“Whether you are a tech startup in Sydney or whether you’re running a BnB in the Hunter Valley, you want to make sure you’ve got happy and healthy people,” he says.
“The most important thing about the trajectory of Bigcommerce was who we hired and how we empowered them. We gave the receptionist just as much chance to voice their view as the VP of marketing.”
Harper says he wishes there was a tool like PeopleSpark available when he was starting Bigcommerce, saying it would’ve helped create a stronger bond between managers and their team.
“We had issues with managers who were cancerous,” he says.
“We lost some good people as a result of not finding out about problems until it was too late.”
PeopleSpark’s weekly surveys mean employee concerns can be detected and addressed quicker than the more traditional annual and quarterly staff surveys.
Comparing his product to Instagram and Facebook Messenger, Harper says if people can use instant messaging and photo sharing apps to deliver information instantaneously, then staff surveys can also be distributed and completed this way.
Already sparking interest
Real estate agent website OpenAgent has been using PeopleSpark for around two months.
Co-CEO Marta Higuera says the tool offered the company an easy solution to what is otherwise a labour-intensive task.
“We’d been talking about doing this for over a year, but we couldn’t be bothered. It went in the too-hard basket,” Higuera says
But she says PeopleSpark is an “incredible” tool that has immediately given her insight into how OpenAgent’s personnel feel about their workplace.
“It’s a conversation starter,” she says.
“It puts the right things on the radar.”
Harper says bosses can’t address all their employees’ concerns but should instead look for trends across their team, something PeopleSpark’s analytics function allows.
“If one out of 10 says ‘I don’t like the way we do x’, it’s probably not a priority, but if 7/10 say they don’t like ‘x’, then you can address it,” he says.
“But just by using the product, you do what 95% of company’s don’t: give them a voice.”
However, Higuera says its management’s response to staff concerns that really counts. If employees don’t feel their voice is being heard, they’ll walk away.
Just how honest should you be?
Harper has a similar outlook. He encourages employees to be brutally honest when they have to be, but prefers constructive feedback.
Higuera says her company is a straight-shooting one, valuing those that “tell it like it is” without being nasty and the surveys haven’t been a burden on her staff.
“It’s truly user-friendly. People have compared it to Facebook because it has a really nice look and feel,” she says.
Harper says the product is fitted with emoji and gif support to have the feel of Instagram or Twitter.
If Harper gets his way, there’ll soon be a lot more people sharing what they think with their bosses. He’s aiming to transform the workplace experience of 1 million employees with PeopleSpark, as well as improving leadership inside their companies.
“I plan on making good managers great leaders,” he says.