Five things you need to understand before you implement Peakon in your organisation

Peakon is an employee engagement platform. Through regular surveys and some pretty fancy number crunching, it tells you how your employees are feeling about working in your organisation and gives you a way to interact with that feedback.

It's easy to understand and easy to roll out and, I'd say, fairly priced.

But if you're thinking of implementing it in your organisation, I'd urge you to understand these points before you do so.

1. It is a safe space for the employee

Peakon has been very carefully designed to protect the anonymity of the employee. This creates a safe space for employees to tell you what's on their mind. It's important that you respect this, and resist the natural urge to ask 'who said that' when you see a bit of feedback. Likewise, you may be able to identify an employee based on what they said, or how they said it. But it really doesn't serve you (or them) to be speculating on that because it will quickly undermine their trust in you and the system. More on that below.

2. You will get feedback you don't want to hear

Because it's a safe space, your employees are going to share a lot of problems and negative comments. Be glad that they are, because at least they are engaging with the platform. How you respond to those comments is crucial. As hard as it might be, try and be grateful for each comment and curious about what has prompted it, no matter how negative or critical it appears to be. After all, the employee is telling you about something that is bothering them at the moment.

If you're defensive or dismissive - even if the comment is clearly misinformed or malicious - you're undermining the success of the platform.

3. It's a platform for dialogue, not information gathering

Building on the previous point, it's very easy to treat Peakon as a one-way information gathering tool. But the real power comes from engaging with the comments. Many employees are happy to vent. Some expect a reply. Some won't reply to your reply. But you and your managers need to engage as much as you can. At the very least, you need to acknowledge that a comment has been seen. This will take time. But it will show that you're taking it seriously. Make sure that you and your managers are putting in the effort.

You can also adopt a coaching approach if you believe that a comment relates to something that could be solved by the employee.

Earlier I said that you shouldn't try to guess who a person is. Rather, you should try and engage with them through the comment discussion. If they want to tell you who they are, they will. If they don't, then that's useful insight too.

4. You need to be transparent

Your first Peakon results might indicate that your company is performing below industry benchmarks. This is pretty normal especially if you've come from an 'Annual Survey' culture where nothing really got improved. And it's nothing to be afraid of.

The temptation is to hide this from employees in case they choose to leave as a result. The truth is, they already have a sense of how well the company is doing and how highly they are engaged, and if they want to leave they will, without waiting for a Peakon score.

If you share your score and top drivers for improvement from the outset you can demonstrate progress over the coming months. The longer you put off sharing your Peakon scores, the more difficult it will be to share later because employees will wonder what you've been hiding (and this will destroy trust).

Likewise, if something happens in your organisation and the scores go down, it might be tempting to stop sharing results or sending surveys until things improve. Employees will see right through that and it will destroy trust in your leadership. Much better to continue to find out what they think, tell them what's going on, and what you're trying to do - and want them to do - about it.

5. You need to act

After everything I've said above, this one should be obvious. You need to act on what Peakon is telling you. Some of those actions will be short term quick wins - repairing broken furniture, for example - but others (such as ensuring that everyone not only understands, but also believes in your strategy) will need a lot more thought, planning and action.

Make sure that any improvement initiatives are publicly attributed to Peakon, so that employees know they are being listened to.

To do this, your Peakon score and headline issues need to be getting board-level attention and priority and there must clear ownership and progress reporting for improvement initiatives. Be careful about using the Peakon score as a KPI as this might encourage behaviours that would attempt to game the system.

Above all, remember that if you don't act, there's no point in having Peakon.

I hope this has been useful. I'd be more than happy to help you understand what Peakon is telling you, and how you could respond. Get in touch.

How Employee Engagement platforms can help you instil a coaching culture

Employee Engagement platforms such as Peakon are a great way for your employees to tell you how they’re feeling about your organisation and their job. As well as collecting a lot of quantitative data, they can also leave comments as qualitative feedback on how they’re feeling about a given topic. Typically these comments would be reviewed by departmental, line or senior management or the HR team who will identify systemic issues, and take action. It’s important that this happens, of course, but there’s another way we can work with Peakon to bring about change in the organisation. There are many definitions, but we can simplistically define a “coaching culture” as one in which management encourage employees to think about what they’d like to happen, and to begin to make it happen, using their knowledge and resources, rather than waiting for others to make it happen for them. It’s about taking action that unlocks performance and growth.

In my experience, the comments given in relation to low satisfaction scores are often problem statements — “pay isn’t competitive” or “my laptop is too slow”. As managers, we often assume that we know what the person wants (more pay, a faster laptop) and then take on the problem and solve it on behalf of the employee.

The problem with this is twofold. Firstly, how do we know what the person wants to happen? For the person who says that pay isn’t competitive, maybe they do want more money. But maybe they want to work reduced hours. Or get other benefits. Or apply for promotion, transition to a new role or even leave the organisation. We simply don’t know.

Secondly, whilst Peakon is a great way to collect detailed feedback across an organisation, it’s quite difficult to ensure that everything raised in comments is acted on, given the level of feedback.

Of course, a lot of comments raised in Peakon are just employees venting in a safe space, but I’m surprised just how many seemingly important things are raised — for the first time — in Peakon.

This might be because the employee doesn’t feel able to talk to their manager about it, or doesn’t believe that anything will get done about it. Or maybe they didn’t think it was worth raising in the first place.

Regardless, where there’s a desire (or, at least, a problem) but no sense of action it can stick around in the employee’s mind and eventually begin to erode their engagement.

What would happen if we used a coaching approach within Peakon?

At its simplest, coaching is about helping the other person take action in their current situation, based on what (and who) they know. This contrasts with a mentoring approach where we might tell them what action they should take, or how to take it, or a helper approach where we take on the problem to solve it on the other person’s behalf.

The first thing we can do when presented with a problem is to find out what the employee wants to happen — an outcome. Simply asking “what would you like to have happen?” in the comments chat can be enough to get the employee thinking.

The second thing we can do is to find out what needs to happen for that to happen, and who can do it. Often, those actions can be performed by the employee. Simply asking “what needs to happen for X?” or “who can help you X?” and perhaps “can you do that/ask them?” can be enough to get the employee taking action instead of dropping the problem in Peakon and expecting someone else to sort it out.

For example, in my capacity as an internal coach (not a manager) I responded to a Peakon comment about the office environment:

“The office is untidy and we have lots of broken furniture lying around.”

Note that there was no sense of what needed to happen (though we could have guessed, perhaps incorrectly) and definitely no sense of the employee feeling able or motivated to take action.

At this point, I could have chosen to take on the problem, and forwarded it to someone else to sort out, which they might have done, eventually.

Instead, I asked them “what would you like to have happen?” and they responded along the lines of

“The broken furniture needs to be taken away”

Note again, that there’s no sense of involvement by the employee. But at least there is now a sense of an outcome (something they want to happen).

So I asked “What needs to happen for the broken furniture to be taken away?”

“We need to find someone who can take it away”

Aha! Now there’s a sense of the employee perhaps being able to do something about it instead of just raising it as a problem for someone else deal with.

I then asked “and who could do that?”

To which they replied “well I can find some local companies and ask for approval for the best quote”.

And a few days later I heard that they had made this happen, the furniture had been removed and, as a bonus, a few colleagues had joined together, tidied things up and also ordered some new cupboards to keep things tidy.

By responding to the comment in a coaching style it turned out that the employee could make it happen and in doing so they had a much better sense of empowerment, built a mini team around it, and it had a knock-on effect with a tidier office and new furniture.

Of course, it might have been appropriate for me to forward the problem on to another team. But in this case I knew that the employee was more than able to sort it out, if they were empowered and motivated to do so.

The point is that everyone in that office had seen the broken furniture and done nothing about it, for a long time. Peakon gave them the opportunity to report it anonymously and safely. And a coaching style helped them solve their own problem and grow as a result.

It seems to me that encouraging and empowering employees in this way can only help improve engagement, whilst not burdening central functions with a never-ending to do list that’s been dumped on them by others.

And if coaching is about taking action, then a culture where people take action instead of complaining or passing on problems is surely a coaching culture? Employee Engagement platforms such as Peakon give us a new way to achieve this, for organisations of any scale.