Plato Academie

CircleLytics Dialogue is widely used in education. CircleLytics is based on the science of collective intelligence and dialogue dynamics. They are not rushed by a workshop or digital session of one or more hours but can reflect on their answers, over several days, through two asynchronous online rounds. No video sessions, no survey, but actual dialogues.
Dialogues teach us to see each other’s perspectives, it creates nuances and leads to new common insights. That requires attention and time to reflect. The dialogue method enables quick group-supported decision-making, in a matters of days to a few weeks.

This blog is about the different ways that dialogue is applied in the field of education. The dialogue method has been applied at institutions such as Leiden University, University of Amsterdam, Breda University of Applied Sciences, ROC Mondriaan, InHolland University of Applied Sciences, Avans University of Applied Sciences, Kentalis (Special Education) and many primary and secondary schools. Working with groups ranging from dozens to thousands of participants.

Read more about one educational organization’s road to better performances “The dialogue feels like a true victory.”

Key reasons why the Education System applies CircleLytics Dialogue

Democratize decision-making

The reason for using CircleLytics Dialogue is usually that organizations want to shape their participatory policy, improving their democratic work processes. Sometimes this is prompted by a direct reason: students or employees who exert pressure and express their opinions, but do so in a disorganized manner, or at unforeseen moments. That type of feedback is usually not very useful. You do not want small biased groups, which may not be representative, to dictate the agenda with their behavior, whether or not through (social) media, a joint signed call for action or a letter, etc.

Innovation: moving forward

Another reason is that organizations want to innovate, look for new forms of work. This is driven by three factors in particular. Firstly, remote working and the development of online education is forcing us to look for new forms of work. This is done to stimulate collaboration, learning and listening, brainstorming, decision-making, implementation, and accountability. Secondly, existing forms of working, such as a group meeting or sending out surveys, have already been digitalized. Technology such as the online dialogue puts people and their interactions about issues at the center of the discussion, and makes it possible to scale this up to tens of thousands of participants. This is what we call co-creation. The power of collaboration plus the power ofDialoog Dialogue digital possibilities unlocks the special, collective intelligence of groups of people. If you want to consult more (scientific) backgrounds on this subject, you can do so here, or by reading the book ‘On Dialogue’, by physicist and philosopher David Bohm.

 

Policymakers, teachers, employees and students are tired of filling out surveys. This fatigue is not because they receive so many surveys, or the length of the surveys. Our records, and research by institutions like Gallup, shows that they are particularly annoyed by the closed questions. The lack of interest in the participants’ actual personal opinions and experiences has an opposite effect: it has seriously damaged the reputation of surveys as a means of reaching people. People love getting attention and being taken seriously. Through social media, they have become accustomed to the democratic process of voicing your opinion, and they don’t expect any obstacles when doing so. This means that, for participative and representative decision-making, and to create broad support for your decisions, you should not wait and see how and where small groups of people express themselves. You should be the one actually organizing this information gathering. Technology allows you to do this with large groups, even with many thousands of participants. Clients in education and other sectors are looking for new ways to conduct high-quality, more reliable but also scalable, research.

Read here also our blog over ‘Which working  method? Meeting or Dialogue?’

Leadership & the intelligence of the collective

The third factor is related to leadership, and to modern views on the engagement of employees, teachers and students. The idea is to modernize leadership styles to better address issues in which employees play a more determining role than previously thought. Subjects such as listening to the organization, deep democracy, serving leadership, but also agile leadership are playing an increasingly important role. This requires new resources; you cannot solve new challenges with old resources.

We often work for organizations that understand the concepts of deep democracy and expect us to apply it. The minority opinion is actively not oppressed by the majority. This is important to maintain a balance and keep the dialogue going. This means that people can learn from each other, and can jointly and in stages achieve something better. Check out how Sandra Bouckaert, DD expert par excellence, applies dialogue and digital implementation of deep democracy. We work for institutions with a wide range of leadership styles and cultures. As a result, the topics may be asked differently by customers. It can range from “we are planning on ABC, what obstacle could hinder its implementation and how do we remove that obstacle?” (especially top-down, bottom-up for implementation) to “we ask you to brainstorm with us about XYZ and jointly determine the most supported choices” (bottom-up policy and decision-making).

For inspiration, we share these case studies with you. These are actual examples from education practice; they demonstrate how to unlock the power of collective intelligence, the wisdom of the group, and enjoy the combined benefits:

  • people like to take part: they enjoy being allowed to give their opinion and learn from each other
  • you can gather more and reliable insights in just a couple of days, two weeks at the most
  • you prevent your organization from going into ‘resistance mode’ because you have shown openness
  • no analytical background is needed to understand and use the results immediately.

 

1 Policy-making

You can involve hundreds or even thousands of participants in formulating policies. You can appeal to the people who are the real eyes and ears of the internal organization and the external market. By doing a broad inventory, you prevent yourself from relying on the usual suspects and allowing bias and established assumptions in your new policy, without re-examining them first. You can perceive developments in the environment – such as opportunities, threats, new options, internationalizations – faster and better when you see them through the eyes of many, rather than just your own. Except, of course, if you want to let your view of things dominate for some reason. For example, you can ask about these new developments, how they see things in 5-10 years’ time, what the institution must retain and why, which spearheads they see for this and that, etc. In this phase, you probably tell participants that your explorations are just that, and that you are not yet making decisions. That could be the next phase, in which you use the dialogues to ask for support, thus organizing support for your intended policy. Sometimes participants are asked about a ‘potentially insurmountable objection’ and, if supported by others in the second round of the dialogue, this will lead to some very welcome adjustments.

 

A closely related topic:

2 Policy evaluation and adjustment

The purchase of a new bicycle shed on campus is a quite static affair. There is not much opportunity to adjust any decisions on this subject. You can retrieve online input and ideas from a group and have those influence your decision. You build it and that’s that. However, most decisions affect the context in which the decision was taken. And the context itself is likely to change. What’s more, your decisions will encourage new behavior. Either it leads to positive behavior to implement what has been decided on, or it causes negative behavior you didn’t take into account. If you involved people during the dialogues in the development stage of policy-making, you knew beforehand where you’d encounter resistance and where there would be support, and you would have taken both sides into account. This prevents opposition afterwards. But if you didn’t, you might also have to deal with potentially serious new and negative behavior.

In short: non-static issues are dynamic, to some degree, so you stay alert. How? By asking those involved about what is having a visible effect, what requires some attention or tightening, and what can be improved. This makes it easy to adjust, quickly and with support. In addition, you and the stakeholders can detect early and regularly where new risks arise and whether they have observed changes that may have an impact. This way, you will not be surprised by any development, and you will remain in control of the situation.

3 Educational programs and quality

Clients test whether educational programs are sustainable. They want to know how education connect to the business world, how quality is assessed, what can be improved, does it attract students, would researchers and teachers want to participate? Our clients in education ask their internal and external stakeholders for feedforward. They combine this with the numbers about the students’ influx and outflow, student satisfaction, teacher retention, success and drop-out rates. They gather feedback and feedforward from alumni and the business community. Both groups greatly appreciate being more engaged, feeling more involved, and sharing what they see and know. The institution can emphasize and even develop new modules and program components based on co-creation with its stakeholders. Several clients are using the platform.

4 Graduation, research, PhD

Students must do research. To this end, they use methods for testing hypotheses, etc. Accurate data is critical. They mostly use interviews, and above all they use surveys. However, people suffer from ‘survey fatigue’; the number of responses is decreasing and surveys tend to create bias. Those with the most outspoken opinions may be those who, through closed questions, experience that you do not take them seriously. In that case, you lose the most important insights, and your response comes from the remaining group. This undermines the reliability of your research. For each research or project you set up through the platform of CircleLytics, you will determine per question which scale is applicable, whether you explicitly ask for an open answer, and whether you start that unique second round. You can also use the platform to ask ‘regular’ closed questions, such as profile questions that are often required for research. CircleLytics Dialogue offers the functionalities that the most advanced survey tools also present, but on top of that, it offers something unique that the others don’t: the processing of open answers in a second dialogue round, where others assess and rate those answers on their substantive value.

The platform is also used to co-create research goals, determine focal points and set priorities with as many participants as desired. This often includes external stakeholders or foreign collaboration partners. That, too, is something you can achieve digitally, but not physically.

5 Modern leadership and human capital policy

From the perspective of leadership and modern human capital policy, you want your organization and projects to be handled differently than before. You’ll want to do away with the old ‘survey’ method, or add deeper layers to it. Employees want to be involved; they want to be taken seriously, and leadership wants to respect and take into account everyone’s diversity of thoughts. You want to invest in employee engagement and experience. Our clients have noticed that regular dialogues strengthen these important objectives and increase people’s willingness to stay with the organization. By asking questions about how they experience equal opportunities for themselves and others, how the culture can be improved, the elements they are proud of, what are surprising reasons to stay or leave, etc. The dialogue respects and embraces the diversity of thought; it is 100% inclusive. It asks everyone’s opinion anonymously. This creates a culture that motivates work and collaboration, a culture where you lead and learn the common language of the organization, the shared values, etc.

 

In line with this …

6 Research among & engaging of students

Don’t forget: surveys are no longer popular. However, asking essential open questions and some scoring questions is. This relatively straightforward step provides qualitative insights that survey platforms such as Qualtrics and SurveyMonkey cannot offer. That is one of the reasons many of our clients are using our services, in addition to or replacing these platforms. They are applying CircleLytics’ better options, not in the least because we managed to make ‘participating in research’ fun again. And if it’s fun and valuable (because of the unique and critical 2nd round), you can approach and engage students more frequently. You can ask them to provide feedback/feedforward on lectures, teachers, websites, catalogues, education, practical work, events, campus setup, etc. Focus on mainly open-ended questions, only a few at a time and learn from their qualitative insights.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

7 Don’t forget the alumni!

The alumni are underrated. They are very sympathetic to your institution, have built a strong working life, and represent a diversity of organizations. It is a great opportunity, exploring their continued learning needs and learning more about the market trends and developments. This enables you to improve your relationship with them, collect valuable content and use the information about the changes they notice in their working life. You can also discover what they consider valuable events and why, so you can improve attendance.

8 Recognition and appreciation

This is a tricky topic for institutions. Various institutions are investigating and developing policies on this topic with their staff. The second round of the online dialogue ensures that participants listen to each other’s opinions, learn from them, rate their appreciation and provide useful explanations. Any nuance in difficult debates is based on a diversity of perspectives. Don’t forget: a new policy can have significant new, unknown effects on behavior. In turn, this behavior can affect quality, culture and retention. Research can also lead to lingering discontent due to forces that are only emerging after you introduce new policies. We therefore recommend regular checks for recognition and appreciation and how these aspects are perceived. Which elements are considered consequences, and which are opportunities to adjust?

9 Let’s not forget about the primary process: education

Using CircleLytics, you can set challenges for groups of students or pupils. The challenges you set them, and the solutions they come up with, are discussed during multiple rounds. They get to apply what they have learned in practice right away. As a teacher, you get more grip on sustainability. You can ensure your students and pupils can really grasp the theory of the concepts. You also see how they approach, solve, and think about your challenge. That makes them better prepared for a future that is more digital and requires virtual collaboration with new technologies. So, it’s best to start early!

10 Employee participation

You cán and must harness the power of the people. Not only using education, leadership and HR, but also through employee participation (EP). The rules for employee engagement in education can differ from country to country. In general, such as in The Netherlands, an employee council has the right to engage all relevant employees to advice leadership regarding a variety of topics and draft-decisions. For EP to be effective, you need a periodic or ad hoc instrument to reach (a very large group of) your employees. CircleLytics has proven to be excellent for this: all the polls, surveys, and newsletters cannot compete with the rejuvenation of employee participation. CircleLytics’ impact is easy to achieve, and management teams and employees are clearly noticing it.

If you have been inspired by the way that other educational institutions make impact with dialogue & collective intelligence, now is the time to plan your introduction meeting with us.

Dialogue

Dialogue is indeed something else than a meeting, a good conversation or a pleasant gathering. Also, online is something else than sitting together in a room. Limited to a few people or a large group? Finish in an hour or time for slowing-down and reflection? What working methods do you choose? Do you combine working methods? In this blog we will tell you how we see it, bringing in our knowledge and our experience. Nobody wants a meeting culture anymore, and people are already looking for other ways of working than video conferencing as an alternative. Video is still a meeting, with the usual suspects, and that doesn’t feel good. On to a dialogue culture?

Dialogue or conversation? Is there a difference?

Yes, absolutely. A conversation is an exchange of all kinds of information. How are you doing? How is your project going? What have you learned? Shall we go through our presentation again? How shall we handle our conversation with the prospect tomorrow? You probably have these kinds of conversations and (video) meetings all day long with colleagues or a whole team. In our opinion, a good conversation or a good meeting is an effective exchange of information (preferably also an empathic one), where try to listen well and, for example, make agreements. A dialogue is something else, a very different, new way of working (even though the word dialogue is used all the time). You are in dialogue when you actively seek out how others see things, other than how you see them. You want to learn from this, and for others to do the same among themselves. Afterwards, you – or together with others – will arrive at new insights. Different insights and therefore choices than anyone could have imagined. Advancing insights and points of view; dialogue, that’s hard work! Limiting the group size is an easy trap to fall into: you might think that the more people, the more possibilities of each person interacting with others. Of course, and you’re right. That’s the beauty of diversity of thoughts and increasing the group size. Don’t back off you, dialogue requires this high intensity of interaction. And yes, you need technology for scaling up dialogue instead of falling back on old habits of “keeping the group size low to have an effective meeting”. The power of effectiveness lies in the dynamics of true dialogue and including a wide diversity of thoughts. Not a limited set-up.

So far about the dialogue.

Now something about ‘sitting in a room and seeing each other for an hour’.

Seeing is often very pleasant. It is personal. You can also talk about your holiday, work-related gossip about your boss, something fun that you experienced with a client the other day, etc. That personal touch is important for mutual relationships. You get to know each other better and can come to appreciate each other more. This is difficult online. In other words, you would like to keep that personal, that relationship side. But then those other sides, which are a bit less fun …. And they have such a strong impact on the content, on the involvement of people who are not there, on the quality and support of decision-making…

The other side …

A room is limiting

Every meeting room, including the virtual meeting room of Teams or Zoom, is limiting. You can’t just have a discussion with dozens of people, let alone a real dialogue, because then you ‘have’ to listen to each other, and above all learn from everyone, and together come to (completely) new insights and choices. The space of physical or virtual walls limits your possibilities. A group of 5-15 people is often the maximum for such a way of working. And you’re missing a lot of people; their ideas, their experience, their knowledge. This could be a choice; maybe you just don’t want everyone to be able to contribute, or you are afraid that too many people will make listening (and learning) more difficult. Or you are afraid that too large a group will lead to chaos. Valid points if you’re not familiar with new technology, but those types of working methods dó lead to limitations. The question is whether you want that and whether it can be done differently. The latter is a resounding yes. The Future of Work has long since begun, and digital transformation is already having an impact on how we work (together) and how we can better connect with each other. Whether you want it to be different, however …. is up to you. Did you know that larger groups are up to 60% more intelligent than the sum of individual intelligence? And 20% more creative if the group is more diverse?

That clock

It ticks by…. An hour passes quickly, as does a workshop. And yet you would like to be in true dialogue with the whole group. Time to listen, time to reflect, time to learn, and time to come to a supported new choice or idea: all this is quickly lost, what remains is a so-called ‘good’ conversation, a meeting. Another one. Especially the organizer is happy afterwards: we stayed within the time limit because “we don’t want a meeting culture”. The participants themselves leave frustrated but also relieved. Afterwards, they go into dialogue together, or the next day, without that clock ticking. But also without you. So you just don’t know what you’re missing. Literally. And that’s what you’re going to have to deal with along the way. Or they go into sabotage mode: all kinds of light and heavier forms of resistance manifest themselves: from responding late to e-mails, not doing exactly what is asked, whipping up sentiment etc.

Night’s sleep

Remember that everyone’s brain needs a night’s sleep and will think about the issue differently the next day(s). You cannot achieve this with a (virtual) meeting. You would prefer to phase your meeting, to keep it in steps so that everyone can come to their senses. Iterating, in other words. By slowing down you can then speed up more intelligently. Our brain has a fast and a slow thinking phase. We will come back to how the CircleLytics online solution approaches this.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Social influence

Whether you like it or not. People are sensitive to other people with positions, status, power, unpleasant manners, not listening, or who dominate a work format such as meetings. And even if you say: “now please let someone else speak” or “I would like it if we let each other finish”, the tone is set. The tone and social factors influence the result. You run the risk of thinking you have support after the meeting and making weak decisions that cause discontent now or later. Don’t forget that as a manager, you pay their mortgage and they don’t just protest, not directly, if they are not involved, or not taken seriously. When these things accumulate, they become less satisfied, they start to resist. Then they tick it off somewhere on a study by HR. Or vote with their feet when an opportunity arises. Did you know that 30-50% of employees actively seek a new job? Did you know that many ‘departure statistics’ are already well over the top? We learn another perspective on social influence from the following quote, which is about the emergence of consensus in a meeting and the decrease of diversity in the dialogue, with a vulnerable result as a consequence:

“Group discussions, thinking that if you bring a group of people together, those people will tell you their point of view in an honest way. But there’s substantial research showing that that isn’t what happens when a group comes together to discuss anything. Anyone who’s been in a meeting has seen this. Once consensus starts to form, it generates its own momentum. It’s like a snowball that turns into an avalanche of consensus. And at that point, people no longer offer up their true perspective. (Annie Duke in Strategy+Business).”

It can be done differently….

First, a calculation

How many changes and choices are there in your organization that you want to put your heads together for? Do you want to understand together, list the options, make decisions and get on with it? 10 times something big per month?

Let’s say you have 3,000 employees. To gain reliable insights and make decisions, you prefer to hear all their diverse opinions. Statistically speaking, you’re only doing a valid and representative job if you have involved at least 300 employees. With group sizes of 15 people, that’s at least 20 meetings. With 10 major changes/choices a month…. that is more than 200 meetings a month ….

From the perspective of employee engagement and diversity & inclusion, you would really want to involve everyone in issues that affect them. All 3,000 of them! After all, the more diverse and complete the group, the smarter the result and the more involved and inclusive it becomes. It is also enormously motivating to be able to dive into an issue. Did you know that? Is it the same for you?

This means about 3,000 employees, in groups of 15, 200 groups …. 10x a month…. a total of 2,000 meetings. So to get everyone involved in the really big things of the organization…. you would be holding meetings day and night. And how do you record, observe, combine, reflect? And how do you then learn from this? Our answer is: you don’t.

Read here also our blog “More diversity means more dialogue. Our new 2nd round”

Can we agree that it doesn’t work? Agree that nobody will do this..

That is why organizations fall back on the familiar: a few groups, some workshops, unclear composition, limited time, no reflection, and often the same people talking … But manageable and recognizable … employees are not happy and inspired by that. They prefer to co-create and to get their teeth into something. Being useful, being wanted, being recognized, being seen. That’s good, because if they want to and you want multiple perspectives and insights to make better decisions…. 1 +1 = 3, you’d think?

Now for the dialogue as a working method

Dialogue requires you to look for other perspectives and rethink the issue. Together. Preferably with as large a group as possible. Inclusive. Diverse. CircleLytics Dialogue can be used as a working method for groups of 10 to 100,000 people. For the participants it is mutually anonymous, so they can speak freely in the absence of hierarchy, and in the absence of social influence. These are preconditions. The book “Over Dialoog” (about dialogue ed.) by physicist and philosopher David Bohm is worth reading. By the way, did you know that in this book, he describes that the minimum number of people needed for a dialogue is 20? This increases the chance that you are with people who fall outside your immediate team/project group and have different opinions from you, which is necessary: only other opinions are different. Sounds logical.

The dialogue is held in two rounds and lasts a few days, so they are free to think, reflect, sleep on it. That means that today you can approach your 3,000 employees from the example with (open-ended) questions that truly matter, challenge them and involve them transparently in difficult topics. They get to work online, anonymously. The first 100s of answers and ideas roll in and the days after that it continues. A few days later, via a unique 2nd round, they reflect on each other’s anonymous answers: they rate them and enrich them with their own words. This arrives in real time bundled within days, and ready to use in order of ‘most favourite and why’ in your dashboard. Ready to walk the talk!

What are the benefits such a dialogue?

Firstly, speed. A (video) meeting, workshop or digital pressure-cooking session delivers fake speed. By slowing down via 2 rounds, as we do, and giving participants a few days’ time, people think better. Those few days of delay deliver unprecedented benefits later in your decision-making, in the knowledge that you have built a strong support base. Because that’s what you do: build support. You gain support by questioning all the people who are relevant to the issue, or vice versa: who is affected by the issue? People feel involved, they actively participate, and say what they really think. This will truly speed up the implementation of decisions, changes and plans.

Secondly, reliability. The technology helps to process all the data quickly and without error, cluster them. This is to register a change of thinking, how they reacted to each other’s opinions. Everything is in real-time. No manual work. No human errors. No subjective processing of data. You can build on the results of the online dialogue and follow up with decisions. Instantly.

Thirdly, diversity. By collecting so many perspectives from people and letting them learn from each other’s perspectives, you will maximize diversity. This demonstrably benefits your result and reduces risk by up to 30%. It is the different ways of thinking that make decisions so good. Thanks to the structured CircleLytics Dialogue in 2 rounds, there is no longer any risk of your or someone else’s prejudices creeping in and causing you to make mistakes.

diversity of thinking

Towards a culture of dialogue

By setting up these kinds of interventions with the relevant, largest possible group for different subjects, you – as an organization –  will become intelligent, self-learning and quick. You will become more successful as a network organization. Employees are not an organizational chart but a living network. Compare it to your brain to which you are constantly asking questions: from “can I cross here” to “how to react to a new situation”. Together, employees are one big brain. Don’t switch off a part, because you don’t know what you are missing. Your brain, your network of employees know whether they can contribute. They work in your organization on a voluntary basis and can find other work today: give them some credit: they know and see so much!

CircleLytics Dialogue can be used for 100s of situations and topics, such as:

– Co-creation: organizing brainstorm sessions and co-create with any group size and get the most creative results together within days to a maximum of 2 weeks.

– Conducting meetings: ask the relevant, largest group questions and then immediately ask for recommendations and the how/why.

– Continuously adjusting the execution of work/decisions: asking for feedback and feedforward on changes, projects, product launches, etc.

– Management or CEO (lunch) meetings or the Works Council: first make sure you know the concerns of the relevant group of employees, opportunities, obstacles and the questions you want to ask them.

– Taking decisions: present dilemmas, bottlenecks and choices and quickly come to well-founded decisions together

If you want to know more about designing solid, open-ended questions, download our White Paper here, containing 18 principles for designing your own questions. It will help you in dialogues, interviews, workshops and maybe even at home…

Do you combine the online dialogue with offline?

Yes, certainly. Many organizations combine online co-creation with offline meetings for decision-making, project design, budget allocation, and many other things. The enrichment is huge. After the offline meeting, the large group can be re-engaged to organize participatory decision-making and later to monitor and adjust change processes, i.e. continuous improvement. We call such a dialogue culture an expression of distributed leadership and benefitting from hybrid intelligence. Co-creation and dialogue makes everyone – individually and collectively – co-leader of a problem, of the solution, of decision making and of successful implementation. Ready for the Future of Work!

Intrigued and curious to see how CircleLytics Dialogue works, creates value and can be launched within days? Plan your meeting instantly here.

 

Response

We now know that, as employees, we are keen to be involved in the challenges facing the organization. We want to share our thoughts and participate. It is in us, in people. Terms like co-creation, dialogue and collective intelligence are already quite normal for modern organizations that embrace the future of work.

Yet for many organizations, too often, they think that employees do not want to participate, do not know, and they throw one (pulse) survey after another at them without truly engaging them to help understand and solve matters. HR and management take the poor response, absence of the real ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the numbers, and survey fatigue for granted. We know that plenty of organizations let this happen, with genuine despondency or reasons such as ‘we stick to our survey approach’. Read more about how to deepen and continue the survey afterwards with the CircleLytics Dialogue here.

A poor or outdated employee survey leads to unnecessary loss of engagement and enthusiasm of people and therefore loss of performance of your organization. If your organization is in a constant state of change, as I’m sure it is, and people leave pretty quickly when they can, you need all your employees extra badly. Without them, nothing happens. So you want a high response rate on everything you do with them. Agree?

We are often asked about our golden tips for getting such a high response rate on our employee dialogue,s up to 84%. Besides this high quantity, we are increasingly famous for the high quality of the responses and the rich insights that management can immediately put to work. We base these golden tips on 1,000 deliberate open-ended questions asked by 300+ organizations to many 100,000s of employees. So they are actual experiences rather than tips.

Wonder which ones you recognize, apply or want to try?

First some serious tips, then a list of lighter, still useful, stuff.

Ready?

Read here also our blog “We are already conducting employee surveys. Why do we need dialogue?”

From generic, closed questions to specific, open-ended questions

Nothing is general. No culture is the same. You serve a slightly different market. With different talented employees than your competitors. You set yourself apart as much as possible. You innovate and change constantly. Just as every person is unique, so is every team and organization. As a result, you have to deal with unique, specific situations that others simply do not know. You want to improve, strengthen and change your specific situation with us, the employees. Our first experience is that you have to let go of asking only general, closed questions. You may think you are safe with closed questions, because you asked them last time and others in your industry do the same. However, specific, open-ended questions will solve your specific problems and ensure that you take employees along in making change happen, embrace change.

 

Limit the number of questions and focus on relevance

If you want people to focus on answering your questions, you better make sure your questions are relevant. This is how you keep people’s attention. And that is what we want. We don’t want to respond to dozens of topics that don’t mean that much to us. It makes us tired, confused and irritated. Don’t just focus on one or two relevant topics at the most; focus on the essence. What is Einstein quote futurethe one question that makes the difference and triggers discussions and thoughts, and that people want to answer? Focus more on questions about the present and the future, instead of the past. Read our White Paper that includes 18 guiding principles to design your own rock-solid, open-ended questions that lots of people really want to answer.

 

Plan the follow-up in advance and … stick to it.

Deliberate open-ended questions deliver deliberate open answers. A goldmine for managers. When you ask for solutions and receive them, arranged and explained, you can take action. Immediately. Finally. And we, as employees, support these solutions because we helped come up with them ourselves. Open-ended questions make it so much easier to follow up on your employee survey. Ask questions that match your management agenda, or first examine with managers which topics, changes and challenges are the most important. Turn these into rock-solid open-ended questions and send them out. The answers roll in within the first few hours. And after a few days, you can ask the group to rate and prioritize their answers and comment to that. Just like that, in your dashboard and reports, without having to do anything. So in the invitation, already tell them that you will start working on the answers. And moreover, tell them when they will hear or see something of it. Rewarding too because the actions you can take now will be visible soon. Walk their talk. This way, you build up trust and credibility. And that trust will help you in your next dialogue, when you want to understand, solve and improve things together with people again.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Use the power of dialogue: that second round, people are so curious!

Make sure that the open-ended questions you ask are followed by the built-in 2nd round of CircleLytics Dialogue. People can then indicate which ideas and answers of others they like or dislike. Each person takes on a different set of answers of 10-15. There are a number of reasons for this process; open answers are best processed by people. After all, they understand the context, the language of the workplace and they can read between the lines. No algorithm is capable of doing what a human being does: producing meaningful language and understanding what another person says and means. Another point of attention is that the second round of dialogue stimulates people to think again about your questions which leads to new thoughts. They usually score positively on answers that do not resemble their own! So you get truly unique, otherwise unobtainable, insights. 70% of the people even rate much more than 10-15! No wonder the CircleLytics Dialogue scores an 8 on a scale of 10; they simply find it a lot of fun to do! It often even attracts additional, unique participants who did not (yet) participate in round one!

Please state in your invitation that this is nót a survey

Surveys are simply not popular anymore. You have to do something new here. Employee surveys suffer from this even more: too often, an agency has let slip who did not respond, violating privacy and damaging reputations. Moreover, surveys do not explicitly ask for participants’ own open answers but tick off questions with smileys and scores. This does not do justice to the value of people, their experiences, their knowledge and their ideas. So announce immediately, if your organization has been working with surveys, that this is not one, and that their own opinions are now central. That will immediately wake people up and get them involved, which is exactly what you want. One of our clients Royal HaskoningDHV explains how CircleLytics Dialogue increases employee engagement.

Quality over quantity?

To validate the results of your research, you need a good response rate. Statistically considered and calculated, for a group of 2,500 people for example, this is easily a response of 300 people. In CircleLytics Dialogue, you will find the calculation module (see screenshot) and you can enter your population, required reliability (representativeness for the entire group) and error margin (how deviant the entire group would react).

Validatie

In the case of difficult or very creative questions, it is possible that your response in the 1st round is lower than average, but of high quality. That is why the 2nd round is so valuable: people are delighted that others have completed the 1st round and they can contribute in the 2nd round. Reading dozens of ideas and contributions from others, reflecting on them and scoring them, selecting important words and explanations is unprecedentedly valuable. Your unique response after those two rounds (unique participants, i.e. de-doubled) will then increase considerably, often by 10-25%. Then promote the second round strongly, with a good, appealing invitation to the second round. With the tips and experiences from this blog and our White Paper for rock-solid open-ended questions, we will help you to maximize the response rate, even for difficult subjects or subjects that require creativity. In your dashboard, we keep track of your unique response across all your dialogs. It is very useful to see that over time you have reached most of your organization once or more!

 

Next to the above tips and experiences, we have compiled the attached list of all kinds of tips. We will take these and other experiences with us to make your dialogues and employee surveys smarter and richer too!

 

Extra tips:

  • Keep your language simple but don’t simplify the subject
  • Give advance notice of the upcoming dialogue through a known channel and show and tell what is to come
  • In your invitation (email/announcement), tell people that you need them and value their opinions.
  • Immediately tell them it is anonymous and repeat that word often.
  • Tell them what’s in it for them: learning from other opinions is hugely valuable, as is a measure of influence on decision-making.
  • Be transparent and show vulnerability: tell them that you do not understand something and what that is as an introduction
  • Announce the 2nd round and choose your language; ask them to prioritize? vote? choose?

Some more tips:

  • Use 1 or 2 reminders per round and make them appealing and challenging
  • Use different (trusted) communication channels, in addition to their e-mail, to reach them
  • Recruit the largest possible, relevant group of participants so that your issue resonates even more
  • In your invitation, explain what you have been able to do with the previous dialogue output: show that they have influence
  • Use images to recruit people on intra/internet
  • In the invitation of the 2nd round, repeat the reason for asking them again
  • Make sure your salutation is appropriate for the target group and the subject, so choose your tone and words well
  • Add a video in which someone explains the importance of participation and what is being done with it.

 

Quite a bit of work right?

Yes, questioning people is quite a bit of work. Designing a handful of deliberate open-ended questions can be a challenge. But after that, everything rolls in by itself! Because of the dialogue form of CircleLytics, the difficult work is done by participants, and they love it and execute that task collectively. They are taken seriously, they value, prioritize, and enrich, and – with some help of our AI / language processing and reporting – instant results are available. But you have to think about your questions cleverly and recruit as many people as possible. Remember: people love the dialogue and your open-ended questions. With that, the hardest part is behind you and most of the question ‘how do I recruit people’ is answered and you are up for a high response.

You can always ask us for help in designing and recruiting for your dialogues!

 

Contact us today to get started tomorrow.

 

 

SpaarneGasthuis health care dialogue

Spaarne Gasthuis uses regular dialogues to create a culture in which collaboration, co-creation, engagement and better decision-making go hand in hand. With the CircleLytics Dialogue online platform, managers take decisions that are broadly supported by their colleagues, and which come about in a smarter way. Colleagues feel – and above all: truly become – involved and use the brainpower of the group. Moreover, they feel heard and valued because their opinions matter and the solution that is thought up is actually used. Concrete questions, concrete solutions, concrete actions.

How did Germanic tribes do that long ago? Well, the leaders of the group would stand together and discuss plans for the future. People sat down and listened to the leaders. There would be a swelling hissing, rejecting sound, which meant that the listeners did not like the plans. The leaders heard it and knew that there was no support for their plan and that they had to change it. If the people liked the plans, they would make an approving sound, so that the leaders knew where they were at. Leaders or managers within a company or organisation need support for their policies and decisions. Whether they are nurses, doctors and managers or, like in this example, long before the turn of the century, the principle nothing about us without us, is the same. Good leadership understands that employees are the ears and eyes of the organization, and their behaviour and actions determine the organization’s performance.

Creating support through online co-creation

CircleLytics: “The principle of creating support within the group seems to have been lost several decades ago. Instead, companies and organizations are using a different, technical way of decision-making in which time clocks, individual assessment, KPIs and performance packages are central. A more individualistic, hierarchical view of people: “we determine top-down about you, measure individual performance, assess and settle individually and lead on the basis of productivity”. And with that, the connection between people within an organization has disappeared and the mutual learning capacity is lost. That is a pity, because you know more as a group than individually, even as many individuals together.”

 

Employee survey does not work

Spaarne Gasthuis: “Another important fact is that employees want to feel heard. So, filling in an employee survey with multiple choice answers, where you cannot express your opinion and never hear from again, does not work and people are fed up with it. CircleLytics is based on the insights into how we learn and want to be heard. This helps to develop the online dialogue that gives all employees the opportunity to contribute their opinion, knowledge and experience in a structured way. The platform ensures that employees can respond to each other’s opinions and learn from each other, reflect and even come to new insights and make them visible. So they hear from each other immediately and together they influence the mindset. Collaboration. Co-creation.”

Read here also what Philips says re faster manager action and how dialogue goes beyond surveys.

Asking for opinions, co-creation and resolving

Spaarne Gasthuis: “As manager of a department in Spaarne Gasthuis, why not ask the nurses in your team how they think they can spend less time looking for medical equipment? Why would you make that up yourself? The nurses are doing the work and they probably have good ideas. Working together not only gives you the brainpower and creativity of the group; it also ensures engagement, that people feel heard because their opinion matters. They see that something is actually done when you implement the solutions”.

Ask deliberate open-ended question

What does that look like in practice? Because how do you consult and include all 120 colleagues in your department? Or the more than 4,000 employees of the hospital? Managers have no time for dozens (or hundreds…) of personal discussions about a particular problem, but they do want to pay real attention to employees and their ideas so that they learn from each other, seek cooperation and work out what is best. CircleLytics: “Our platform simulates such a conversation online. You start by coming up with a good, stimulating question that challenges the target group to give their input. This could be a current problem, but also questions about why people value the organization, so that more attention can be paid to this. It is important that the manager actually does something with the input that is given and because of the short lead times of the online dialogue ánd clear-cut outcomes of the co-creation this can be done very quickly. In days even.”

Spaarne Gasthuis: “If you identify a problem but do not want to solve it, you should not ask that question. This stimulating open-ended question is given to the employees in a first round. In the second round, the employees can see each other’s answers, learn from them and enrich them by scores and explanations. This is done anonymously so that hierarchy is not an obstacle. The outcome of this second round is an overview of the contributions that are most supported by the employees. You get the sentiment from the people themselves about what others are saying.” CircleLytics: “A nice side effect is that everyone gets the chance to read other solutions or perspectives as well, making the use of dialogue an intervention in itself.”

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Marvel superheroes

CircleLytics: “Actually, online dialogue is a lot like Marvel’s superheroes. You use an attribute, in this case technology, to get more out of yourself. To learn more, to be inspired and to see more perspectives. Managers achieve more by harnessing the brainpower of their people. Scientific research shows that thinking about a problem together produces up to 60% more brainpower than thinking about it individually”. Spaarne Gasthuis: “Within a week, the platform has already produced 800 suggestions for solving a problem, with the most supported at the top and why. This is how managers find out what their people know and what they do not understand on their own”.

 

CircleLytics used for Patient safety

Spaarne Gasthuis: “In a certain department of Spaarne Gasthuis, the alarm of a monitor was missed several times within a short period of time. Fortunately, patient safety was not compromised. A measure was immediately taken to reduce this risk. A second screen was placed above the current one in order to display the data in a larger format. A number of other technical solutions turned out not to be feasible in the short term and therefore the colleagues of the department were asked to share their thoughts. What are suggestions that were not thought of before? The question asked in round 1: What is the very first action we need to take to ensure that we don’t miss an alarm on the monitor in a month’s time? And in round 2, the question was: If you agree with the suggestion then give it a positive rating, and if you disagree or do not recognize the suggestion, give it a negative rating. Please explain your answer. The outcome was that the most frequently mentioned solution from round 1 was voted down in round 2. Another solution emerged. This was put forward by a minority, but it could count on broad support among colleagues in the end. For the team leaders the first intervention to solve the problem is now clear, which is a different solution than they initially had in mind“. “By using the online dialogue, they now know which solution has the greatest chance of success”, says Saskia Haasnoot, Strategic Business Partner at Spaarne Gasthuis who uses CircleLytics in cooperation with Spaarne Labs. Together they were curious about the tool and wanted to experiment with it to learn from it. Haasnoot notices the enthusiasm of colleagues for this online dialogue: the platform offers opportunities for employees to give their input and managers have quick insight into what the colleagues support most and why. That is exactly what the Future of Work means: better cooperation, more engagement and better decisions! That’s co-creation.

More information about co-creation and dialogue

If you want to know more about using the CircleLytics online tool, please contact us or contact Spaarne Labs.

 

We are regularly asked this question. We ask HR leadership why they are curious about the CircleLytics employee dialogue. What is missing when HR limits itself to the method of an employee survey? We are quite surprised by their reactions. These are discussed in this blog. It comes down to what we wrote in a recent post: your survey is only the start, at most 10% of the EX/EE challenge. After that, you want to engage in dialogue to find out together what is hidden behind the figures, how things can be improved. In co-creation with the employees, as Ben Whitter, founder of the World Employee Experience Institute, indicates in his much-praised book “Human Experience at Work“. The question he poses is answered by our clients with the power of dialogue: “How can you co-create at a deeper level with people? “. Did you know that through our dialogue, the collective intelligence you gain, and your qualitative insight, increases by 20-60%? And do you know that people are the main reason why every change project in your organization succeeds … or fails? A survey alone will not make an impact. Engagement is a daily action (perhaps the most wonderful!) but certainly not a periodic list of closed questions. People are worth so much more.

 

Some of the things we hear…

“Employees are tired of surveys and want their opinions to be heard”
“Follow-up is so difficult if you haven’t asked real open questions”
“What’s the use if the questions are general and not specific”
“Unfortunately, benchmarking is more important in the organization than asking questions that are relevant now”
“After the survey, we struggle for months with the ‘why’ and ‘how’ and all those meetings give us a headache”.

Yet also:

“We got used to surveys and the reports render numbers we depend on”
“The respons is under pressure but with a bit of help, it’s sufficient, so we’re ok”
“We use pulse surveys so it’s very short and easy, and we try to – at least – track trends this way”
“The reporting and dashboard of our survey platform are easy to produce power points”
“Survey fatigue is really an issue, but benchmarking makes it hard to stop”.

These kinds of remarks… Recognize them? So, are surveys here to stay? Do integrations and reporting functionalities of incumbent survey platforms block your innovation in employee listening? Do you agree that listening requires deliberate open-ended questions about specific matters, other or in addition to generic, closed-end questions? How to follow up on surveys? Do we need to engage people in dialogues to understand what’s really going on and co-create improvements?

 

Case. Government organization.

This organization uses a traditional employee survey because of a government-wide procurement procedure. Management indicates that employees do not feel like taking ‘another survey’. For this reason, management does not want to pose general questions, but specific questions for specific subjects that are topical at the moment. They select 4 questions from the survey and add to each question: “what is your main reason for this score”. They design 3 additional open questions. They use these 7 with the CircleLytics Dialog, because of the unique 2nd round. In this round, employees give a kind of sentimental score and enrich the (many) answers of others. This provides a wealth of additional insights and management immediately learns what is most important, what is not, and especially why. Employees greatly appreciated the dialogue and felt involved and taken seriously.

The difference between the survey question using CircleLytics Dialogue is:

-> survey: How has the working relationship with colleagues in the last year affected your happiness at work? (1=negative, 10=positive; with text field if necessary)

-> dialogue: First round: How does the working relationship with colleagues currently influence your happiness at work (1=negative, 10=positive) and what is your main reason for this? And the second round, the dialogue round: How do you value the reasons of others and what is your explanation? What does that mean for your final score on the question about happiness at work?

Can you imagine the difference? Looking back a year is rather long while feedback is only useful and reliable when it takes place close to the moment (our reading tip: the book Job Feedback by Manuel London). The focused explanation in response to the open-ended question section is unprecedentedly rich. And did you know that in the dialogue variant with open answers and a 2nd round, more than 70% of the employees go through more than 20 answers from others and appreciate them? They understand the context, semantics, use of language, tone and read between the lines. Their scores are more meaningful than algorithms. Their sentiments are more reliable than an algorithm that adds up negative or positive words. Language is human work.

Back to our story.

Why only 10%?

HR and leadership are realizing that listening to employees has little to do with asking closed, general (scoring) questions. Often from the ‘established order’ such as CultureAmp, QuestBack, Qualtrics, Effectory, Integron, SurveySparrow and 100s of other providers. In 2019, Josh Bersin already mentioned the trend that employee engagement has moved up from doing surveys to action-driven feedback that actually comes up with recommendations for managers on ‘what to do next’. Gallup has been researching and demonstrating for years that employees are more motivated and productive when their opinions visibly matter. After all, that’s also how you listen to your partner, family and friends: closed-end questions do not ignite people’s thinking nor dialogue. However, deliberate open-ended questions, focused mostly on feeding forward, understanding and improving matters, are not included in standard employee surveys, with the exception of a few open text fields. HR and leadership are therefore wrestling with a number of challenges:

  • employees are no longer fans of surveys; it affects reliability
  • a report based on open text fields is not reliable (read our blog “Survey or dialogue“)
  • it takes weeks or months before results and actions are clear and make an impact
  • confidence decreases and the risk that your (pulse) survey will score lower increases.

The tricky thing is that surveys expose issues with weak scores and/or declining trends, but not the why behind them, nor ‘how to improve’. The good news is that HR and employees and leadership share the dissatisfaction with surveys. Together they are looking for depth to make employee listening a reality. To realize co-creation and to take significant steps regarding involvement, enthusiasm and trust. The survey reveals figures, but no direction for decisions, no actions. The 90% only starts now.

 

So why do we still do surveys?

HR mentions a number of reasons that may be valid from the point of view of ‘not wanting to change too much’. They also want to talk to us about the complex work after the survey. The reasons they mention for doing surveys are:

  • they want to benchmark (compare) figures with the industry; we therefore use generic questions and closed scales
  • figures from surveys are used in all kinds of management reports and everyone is used to them
  • assessment and remuneration (of e.g. management/MTs) are also based on figures from surveys
  • the HR team is used to this, and does not want any change themselves
  • employees suffer from survey fatigue and we don’t dare to introduce something new
  • we are waiting for instructions from management/CEO.

We also often hear: we have a contract for our employee survey for several years so we will just have to wait it out first. To the latter argument, we usually respond with the question of what you do when you bought tight shoes, but they are not worn out yet. Do you keep wearing them with pain, blisters and discomfort? We’ve noticed this in terms of benchmarking brands. If you score 7.4 on a certain subject and the industry scores 7.2, what do you do? What do you know? You’re comparing apples with oranges. Are you going for that 10, for continuous improvement, for excellence for employees and their experience? You have asked employees for feedback, but you let this point rest because management is already satisfied with ‘we score better than others’?

Survey fatigue is quite an issue. Why do something for years that is not satisfying, and employees reject as a method? Fatigue, not completing the survey, not having confidence in the follow-up are all things that HR should not want. If the methodology doesn’t motivate employees, how can the results? New technology to question groups takes some getting used to and requires vision, ambition and backbone. Modern leadership requires organizations and HR to see and embrace the power of open questions. MIT has even set up a complete course on ‘open questioning’ by Hal Gregersen, as “Breakthrough Approach to Creative Problem Solving, Innovation, and Change”.

Does your organization, your team, and do you have the innovative drive to listen to employee dissatisfaction, and to co-create improvement by means of asking deliberate open-ended questions?  To harness the power embrace collective intelligence (also see video by Stanford PhD Lorenzo Barberis) and learn from as many perspectives as possible?

We realize that the above reasons for HR to stick to surveys, can seriously undermine the urgency to step up their listening capabilities and co-creation skills. At the same time, there are many organizations that do not conduct any employee survey right now, or are very dissatisfied, or have an expiring contract and switch completely and exclusively to the employee dialogue. This way, in one go, they capture quantitative data, and qualitative insights. Others are put on the track of employee dialogue, crowd sourcing and collective intelligence based on vision and leadership and a managers’ requirement to offer tools that move people and performance forward.

Case. A medium-sized, industrial service organization.

The new management wants to do ‘something’ with their employees, but not a survey. They have never used them. They just haven’t got around to it. Management wants employees to experience more that they work together for one organization. They call it purpose and culture. They want to do something with that. A consultant who works with our dialogue tooling at a customer has set up “Engaging Dialogues”; three questions on a monthly basis. A combination of the open and closed scale. Questions that directly steer and listen to what “they see”, “they experience”, “they know”. It made management very nervous. What will come out of this? How will they react? Are they going to write that open answer? They applied questions that were/are directly linked to the management’s agenda, via a series of bi-weekly dialogues during a number of months. They called the results and subsequent actions a “veritable gold mine”.

Let’s continue

So we’re talking about organizations where, for whatever reason, HR currently uses the methodology of a survey as part of EX / EE and employee listening. In another blog we will discuss the differences between dialogue and survey and why open questions require a new methodology and technology.

 

What does HR do after the (pulse) survey?

HR now mentions the following three approaches most often:

  • do nothing
  • decentralized interviews by managers, sometimes with the assistance of an HR employee
  • focus group(s), EX/EE labs, interviews, etc.

Do nothing (yes, it happens a lot)

Research by LeadershipIQ and others shows that ‘doing nothing’ and ‘decentralized interviews’ are common reasons why survey results deteriorate. Yes, deteriorate. Doing nothing is explained by things like: busyness, no skills to interpret figures, or absence of a follow-up process. The report is delivered and then it stays quiet. That is a major flaw in HR. It’s not so surprising that organizations still have to contend with low levels of commitment and/or significant employee departures.

Decentralized interviews?

Often, survey results are broken down into business units. Individual management teams then ‘have to’ work with the results. HR supports this in various ways. What HR often mentions as a challenge is:

  • managers are not suited to having those interviews
  • privacy is violated by the loss of anonymity (see more here)
  • interviews are difficult, postponed, not completed, not followed up on
  • weak, central overview by HR and management of actions and visible follow-up
  • due to lack of inclusion and of real dialogue, bias creeps into the content and does not bring out what should and can be done.

Managers are not always trained or competent to conduct interviews. Certainly not because it is often about the quality of their own work and the associated poor scores. These bad scores from the employee survey have their possible repercussions on the same managers. This creates an unsafe situation: one in which, moreover, anonymity is no longer guaranteed. This is very strange, because the survey is (by default) anonymous. So why not have interviews? As soon as privacy is violated, employees drop out and the organization loses the power of multi-perspective decision making. No matter how ‘inspiring’ the meeting was in the eyes of the manager and (paid, often external) moderator. You don’t know what you’ve missed and that is a considerable risk for EX/EE and for trust.

The lead time is also considerable. We are told that it usually takes 2 to 7 months before all interviews have been conducted. The power of feedback is that the recipient is able to do something with it visibly, in the short term. In weeks, not months. And finally, you run the risk that, as a central leadership, you do not know exactly what has taken place decentrally, what was said, what was agreed and whether this really represents what is going on and what is needed. You achieve the opposite of what you are aiming for; no higher involvement or enthusiasm.

How about focus groups?

Many employee survey providers promote setting up focus groups, or variants, on their website. In this way, “HR can deepen their understanding of the results and understand why they are there, and how to improve”. The intention is good, the solution is not good in our opinion. The reasons are as follows:

– lack of inclusiveness; if you ignore 90-99% of employees, you run the risk of making decisions that are simply not going to be supported; statistically, your information and any decision you make is just unnecessarily weak

– in terms of content, you are missing something but you don’t know what; what does the rest of the organization say? their collective intelligence and ideas remain untapped.

Do keep in mind the intention: “to deepen the numerical results, and to understand why, and how to improve“. We will work on that in the next case!

 

Case. Philips.

After completing the global, quarterly employee survey, the leadership of one of their continents wants to understand why and how to improve. They want to do this by setting up co-creation with a number of consecutive CircleLytics Dialogues. Philips then selects weak scoring items, which are very important for success. The questions from the survey are now repeated, supplemented with “… Please elaborate on your scores to clarify how to improve.” Employees participate in big numbers and share their thoughts about improvements.

Philips was able to take immediate action after the dialogue had ended. This is because the textual analysis was done directly by the employees themselves. They assign value, meaning and sentiment to the answers of others by scoring and explaining them. The artificial intelligence and other text analyses in CircleLytics complete this work seamlessly and in real time. The dialogue starts on Monday and by Friday afternoon, the results are displayed in slides and actions have been agreed upon. Philips can use the dialogue to quickly uncover direction and improvement potential. Without having to change their worldwide survey process every quarter, because that survey has to stay for the time being.

 

So the dialogue is an extension of the survey?

Yes, you can see it that way. If, for whatever reason, you cannot renew the old employee survey (the survey methodology), then at least ensure that you enter into a dialogue with employees afterwards. The advantages and necessity of the CircleLytics dialogue are the following:

  • online, anonymous, fast and very attractive because they can give open answers
  • scalable so inclusive: everyone relevant to the topic is asked
  • you increase trust and the employees’ direct involvement in the organization
  • they learn from each other’s open answers, score them, and say what is really important.

The dialogue compensates for all the disadvantages of the survey and is the perfect complement. To each their own. The survey collects figures, the dialogue collects interpretation. The survey indicates possible problems, the dialogue puts the potential for improvement concretely on the table. On a silver platter, as one customer recently told us.

Finally, should you ever consider not using a survey method in the future, let the following case inspire you.

Case: Temporary employment agency.

This organization decided to stop using the old method of general employee surveys in the Netherlands. They chose and deployed the CircleLytics Dialogue exclusively to approach all employees with 8 essential questions. They used the same questions as they had used before, but with the addition of “a clear explanation of why you currently see things this way”. The 2nd round of the dialogue yielded towards 1,000,000 additional thought processes with almost 3,000 employees, as they were able to read and assess each other’s anonymous answers. They did so in great numbers. Simply because, according to them, it was “informative”, “surprising” and “just plain fun”.

They could also explain why they scored the answers of others (anonymously) up or down. In their view, it was a rich, motivating way to “help the organization improve”, CHRO told us. Leadership received the ‘normal’ report with numbers, breakdowns, etc., but now also received the qualitative analyses with what the employees considered most and least important. They were able to quickly break down all results to subsidiary organizations so that they could take action. Actions that were put on the table collectively by employees themselves. Actions that come about in co-creation.

One big brain

Collectively, employees are the brain of your organization. Alone, they are just ‘neurons’, but through their cooperation, their openness to each other’s opinions (the ‘synapses’ of your brain), they form that one big brain.

“How can you co-create at a deeper level with people?” is the question posed by Ben Whitter to make human experience at work successful.

Entering into dialogue with your employees is our answer to deepening your current follow-up and increasing and sustaining commitment in the short term. If you are already doing surveys and employee research but want to enter into dialogue afterwards in order to achieve fast, reliable, concrete improvements, or if you just want to stop doing surveys or don’t have any yet. Remember that employees are just like people: they want to contribute and if you take them seriously, they are willing to solve things and improve together.

Contact us today to get started tomorrow.

 

Deliberate open-ended questions for high response rates and depth

How was your day? What are we doing next weekend? What do you think of this idea? How can we best solve this problem? Open ended questions. People are tired of closed questions that surveys present us with: the well-known survey fatigue (interesting report dating back to 2013 by the CIPD). This is understandable. After all, we want to be able to give our opinion, to contribute to the issue at hand. And we don’t want to be forced to choose from a limited number of answers. Open-ended questions also let people know that you take them seriously, that you trust them. Gallup has been researching this for many years: employees love, Einstein quote futureno require, need to be take seriously for their opinions. You also get a higher response rate and a much better response; they take answering your question seriously. As a result, your research becomes more reliable. Don’t forget to ask more questions about the future and present, than about the past; the past doesn’t resonate strongly enough with people.

Closed question with open answer

Even if you ask a closed question (score, multiple choice, statement), it is almost always better to offer the open text field as well. You must then explicitly ask for an explanation of the score or of the answer to the multiple-choice question. By asking for an explanation, the score is given in a more considered way, which makes your results more reliable. Moreover, you learn about the reasons that lie behind scores and you can finally, reliably interpret your numerical results. This also enables you to analyse whether low scores have been given by mistake, while the open answer indicates the opposite; or vice versa. Your research results will improve, which in turn will lead to better follow-up and targeted, fast action! Managers need to be helped by your insights, not overwhelmed by data and additional home work. Just adding an open-text field to a closed-end question is not an option. If you don’t give the open answer meaning by a clear, guiding open-ended question, why do you expect respondents to give it meaning?

So, instead of asking: “How do you assess ABC?” and allowing a score or throwing in a text field,
ask this: “How do you assess ABC at this moment, and can you clearly substantiate that?”

Don’t limit them, or yourself

The current technology of survey providers is very limited in processing open answers. Therefore, they often discourage this, and you are left with the big question ‘what is behind the scores’. Or they limit themselves to counting words, topic modelling and trying to discover combinations of words. Consequently, the ease of processing the data for such providers is more important than the quality and depth of your research. Even worse, more important than the needs of your participants; there is hardly or no specific room for open answers. Open answers are driven by the open-ended question, not by a functional text box to put in ‘anything you want’. They can’t say what they do want to say. The section below is from the website of one of the market leaders for employee surveys, showing that after the survey, you have to find out for yourself what’s behind it.

the why behind numbers

 

Instant useful information

CircleLytics technology, on the other hand, has been developed to process open answers and convert them into information. Information that you can use immediately. Useful top 5s for instance. You can see right away what was said by which target group and why. This means you will get the most out of the open answers, making sure participants are heard.

Prof Neely (University of Cambridge): “People often reveal their true thoughts and feelings in the open-ended comment boxes. In general, the content of these comments offers a much more reliable predictor of a people’s behaviour.”

How do you deal with open answers?

What is the difference between open answers processing by a survey tool and by CircleLytics? We will explain this using a simple example. After a reorganisation of HR, in which they started working de-centrally as business partners, management and HR wanted to investigate the results. The question was simple: “How do you assess the effects for you of decentralising HR and can you explain this?” Approximately 3,000 employees gave a 1-10 score including their explanations. The average score was high. The answers were then grouped based on traditional word count and topic modelling. These are simple ways of processing texts which made it possible to group 14 themes and to count which words were mentioned most often. The latter resulted in a nice word cloud. That’s it?

For surveys, yes. For CircleLytics and participants, this is where it all starts. Our tool allows for a unique second round per question. In this second round, the unsorted answers are sent back to the participants in sets of varying compositions to maximize diversity of perspectives. Employees (or other participants such as customers, members, etc) can rate these and give them a score of -3 to +3, choose key words and explain their score. Do you know how much they enjoy doing that, how happy that makes them, to learn from each other’s answers and enrich these?

Sentiment & Semantic Analysis

They give a sentiment, a weighting, to the answers of others. You immediately have your real-time sentiment & semantic analysis and natural processing of language. No algorithm can beat the human mind in processing something so complex as natural language. To humans, language comes natural, yet to algorithms it’s one of the most complex things to capture in a meaningful, actionable and reliable way.

By selecting key words, the human minds (the participants) give those words even an extra weighting and extra semantic, contextual value to the data. That is an enormous enrichment; even before our AI/ML/NLP technology starts to perform analyses, hundreds or even thousands of participants are already doing the natural language processing. In practice, this proves extremely attractive: more than 70% of the participants rate more than 15 answers from others. Participants love this way of answering questions, learning from others and structuring the output, and give this two-round method a report mark of 4.1 on a 5-point scale. Very different from the fatigue that plagues surveys….

Now let’s see

Back to our example: 3,000 participants assessing an average of 30 answers, is almost 100,000 thought processes in just a few days! That 2nd round is called collective intelligence. This gave the client a whole new insight. Instead of 14 themes, it turned out that after the 2nd round, only 3 themes were favoured and supported. On second thought, the participants focused on those 3 themes, not on 14 at all. Moreover, a fourth, new theme emerged, which only a few people thought of in round 1, but was positively scored by a large group of participants in round 2!

The theme was about someone’s observation that HR business partners themselves were having a hard time…. A few had empathy for this in the 1st round. A regular one-round survey, a word count and topic modelling simply did not reveal the theme. Only through the 2nd round of CircleLytics could participants see the opinions of others, learn from them and gain a deeper understanding. On closer inspection, they thought differently. An unprecedented enrichment of the research. And a wonderful example of deep democracy in which a minority opinion is clearly revealed.

Think again

That is why the CircleLytics technology is not called a survey; it’s called a dialogue, based on deliberate open-ended question and human (and after that AI/NLP) processing of the open answers. Because dialogue requires that people are prepared to think differently about your question. They learn from the answers of others. People think better in the second instance. They usually think fast first, and then slow down (also read Kahneman’s research), which gives your research more depth. You also come up with subjects that no technology had come up with. Topics that are sometimes only mentioned by a few, and that cannot emerge without the collective intelligence of all brains together.

So when would it be useful to have a survey?

Forget the word survey for a moment. Based on our experience, we advise to determine the design per question in CircleLytics. This means adding a closed scale, presenting a multiple choice, or offering a text field. You can adjust the question when you add a text field. You can now explicitly ask participants to fill in the text field and what you expect them to do. Finally, you can determine whether the question will be included in the 2nd round and set the deadline for this. This is how you can combine the old survey with the new possibilities of the open text field and the 2nd round. If a question leaves no room for thinking for yourself but is just a score or ticking of a predetermined answer, you leave out the 2nd round, and possibly even the text field. This can all be done in a single tool. Tips for formulating strong questions, can be found in our WhitePaper with design principles.

Analyses and results

In conclusion: the response rate and quality are higher and, more importantly in our opinion, you will achieve accurate results and a reliable interpretation of the figures. You can also further analyse the results in CircleLytics by using the unique Weighted Word Count that takes sentiment (score/selection of words) into account. This leads to completely different insights than the old word count.

Everything has an expiry date. The regular surveys you are used to, something that causes fatigue among participants and shows fragile quality, need renewal.

We would like to invite you to get to know the power of people, based on (mostly) open questions, with the CircleLytics Dialogue Solution.

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Rules. Which ones really hinder employees, do we understand why, and can we solve them? How do you as a works council, HR, manager or CEO ensure that employees actively think about this, come up with ideas and help set priorities? After all, they know exactly what it is that frustrates them every day.

I remember a lecture on Mintzberg and the usefulness of bureaucracy to manage chaos in growing organizations. Today, it is thought that we need to be flexible, embrace bottom-up decision-making, servant leadership and agility precisely because markets are so fickle. Onward! Right? Down with rules, then? Freedom and trust so we can be creative and solve problems together? As Seth Godin pointed out in his book and TED talk Tribes, people are most easily led in the direction they always wanted to go. In a McKinsey study on stability versus agility, the authors state that modern leadership is the art of removing procedures, structures, and rules that get in the way of change, and keep what is needed.

And which rules and procedures should remain? Which ones are in the way of people changing in a direction they have wanted to go for a long time? 

The remarkable thing is that we don’t really appreciate change. At least, not if we have no influence on it, have no part in it, or have no co-ownership of it. We shy away from change when we have no role in it, according to, for example, research from the American Psychology Association on Well-Being. Stress increases as employees see the values they implicitly live and work by threatened. And vice versa. Values are therefore smarter to deploy than rules! Netflix discovered this much earlier. They follow a very simple rule: Avoid Rules! People over Process! However, a close examination reveals that Netflix only allows rules if something can lead to irreversible damage. Netflix apparently allows a margin of error, so to speak, to learn. Fail fast often is what start-ups and gurus like Gary Vaynerchuk sometimes say. So do we. And rules hold back this learning process.

In his book Doorbreek uw bedrijfscultuur (Break through your company culture), Rudy Snippe talks about the self-referential ability of organizations. They maintain their own system, and rules, and confirmative bias ensures that people are mainly open to signals that confirm them right and do not threaten their already existing perception or views. Managers or employees who say: “this is the way it has to be, because those are the rules, don’t ask me why” or “it doesn’t work that way here” are not wanted by anyone, except your competitor. Well, not even them..

There is evidence that €5 billion of administrative burden is wasted in the healthcare sector in the Netherlands alone. It’s quite bold to state that this ‘can therefore be scrapped’, because rules also provide structure, support accountability and make risks transparent and manageable. And last but not least, the legislator also wants to see all kinds of things complied with, such as requirements for a license, tender, etc.

Do we leave it at that? No, definitely not. What if you had a smart online dialogue twice a year and asked your employees which rule they think could be abolished and why? What if you could let employees respond to each other’s ideas, and you would know which ones could potentially be abolished, and more importantly, why? What if you also asked which rule allows them to do their work in a stable and structured way?

One of our clients tackled the ‘rules’ topic by simply asking its employees (nearly 3,000 employees) to name rules that only bother them and the organization and do not benefit the client, prioritize others’ answers and comment why you favour their answers more or less. The outcome was clear and could be divided into:

1 rules that hinder employees from doing their jobs and unexplainably still exist;

2 rules that are inconvenient, but serve a purpose;

3 rules that need to be looked at more seriously but have the appearance of not being so.

Anything under 1 can be simplified or removed after further analysis. Note the chain effect: ask the question where the rule got its origin. Do we still understand if the rule is outdated and unnecessary? Conduct further online dialogue in a small(er) group if necessary.

Anything under 2 is explained in more detail. Apparently, the main thing you need to make clear to employees is that these rules exist and why compliance is necessary. Realize that they apparently didn’t know that. Therefore, go over why they didn’t know that? Why are there rules that are unknown, untrained, and/or untraceable? You can also train important rules smartly with groups of employees via dilemmas. Contact us if this appeals to you.

Finally, anything that falls under 3 should be analysed more closely. You can have deeper online dialogues with the group that identified these rules to clarify what to do with them. Again, what is the origin, why don’t we understand why we have these rules?

You get the idea. Clearing clutter and making important rules visible are both necessary. Something you simply can’t pass up. You don’t want to wait for this: you either want to get rid of rules or see them enforced. There is nothing in between, in our opinion. So neither work, nor the customer, nor your employee falls between two stools.

How do we proceed: We can set up a program with your organization or department for the above challenges. You will have the first results with groups of 10 employees up to 10,000s within 2 weeks.  You will be amazed to see the results: a quick return on investment. This will not only be reflected in money and agility, but also in higher employee satisfaction and commitment. The best companies in the world, have a foundation based on the commitment of employees. At the time, not the CEO of IKEA, but an employee came up with the idea of removing the legs of the LÖVET table, in order to develop “flat packaging” as a smart, customer-friendly logistics solution. Don’t underestimate employees, they have ideas, they want to improve their work and they know which rules can be thrown out and which ones are badly needed better than anyone.

Fancy a challenge? Contact us today to get started tomorrow.

Vragen

 What are right questions to ask employees? And how do you get more insight from the participants’ answers? How and why did they come to their choice? What is the real underlying story? Or does that linger under the surface?

The right questions will lead to a successful round of questions

Asking the right questions sounds simple, but it’s not. Countless surveys you have ever distributed as an organization show this. The response rate is low, the answers hardly give the desired results and the frustrations of employees only increase because they have the feeling that ‘nothing is being done’ with their response.

Therefore, we won’t use the word survey. We talk about challenging, listening to each other, working together, where the approach is to engage in a conversation with each other. In question rounds, the right questions are critical to making a question round successful. By successful we mean; whether the outcomes lead to solutions that contribute to the purpose of the questions.

Coming up with questions is difficult

We found that many organizations struggle with asking the right questions. To this end, we conducted research in recent years at dozens of organizations with many tens of thousands of employees, examined studies and designed 100s of questions. We asked them how they are doing, what could be improved or even what needs to be improved.

The 2nd unique round of CircleLytics is used to challenge and inspire each other to think deeper about the questions presented. Organizations such as Fivoor, Inspectorate for Health Care and Youth, Movisie, Unilever, Municipality of Utrecht, HR Community, RSM (global) and several others engaged in a dialogue with employees and their network in this way.

In recent months, dozens of organizations have surveyed 10,000 employees about how they are doing, and what could or should be improved, including what work can be done at home, or not, and why? How much of the work should be done at home, how much at the office? What do employees want, what do they demand? How much room does the labour market allow for not meeting the employees’ demands or wishes? Will employees continue to have the same wishes and demands when it comes to working at home or in the office? What if this changes? What is the influence of the government and social developments when it comes to choices regarding working at home or at the office?

Together with several client organizations, we designed questions, did research and read studies. As a result, we designed top-notch dialogue questions for you and your organizations. You can use these unchanged, enrich them or you can make a selection.

People, society and organizations are currently facing unprecedented circumstances. Insecurities regarding health, finances, jobs and a future for you and your environment go hand in hand. In addition, home and office work must be combined and that in itself is complex enough without corona . Societies and countries are also under pressure to keep their heads above water, to be accountable to parliament and citizens and to ensure that healthcare is or will be up to standard, to offer confidence to all. And then there is the labour market, accessibility of offices, cost of office space versus working from home, etc. Organizations are already making different choices, like Lloyd’s and Goldman Sachs do in this article.

In this sense, we are part of a great experiment in which many people and agencies have opinions, point to each other and are constantly confronted with new, mostly uncertain information. Uncertainty and forms of social isolation can lead to stress and mental problems that transcend normal absenteeism. This can result in a serious loss of confidence, commitment and productivity.

CircleLytics has developed top-notch questions that allow the leadership of the organization, HR, the works council and all employees together to determine what is going well, and what can or must be improved. Contrary to the various corona surveys, the CircleLytics questions reveal the scores: why and how employees think about ‘how to do better’. This provides deeper insights into how to make sound decisions compared to using scores from an old-fashioned survey. It also results in collaboration: employees learn from each other and listen to each other. Something that is desperately needed in these times of little social interaction.

People need trust and connection. You increase this by taking them seriously, showing them that their opinions matter and connecting them in the 2nd round.

We designed a set of questions for dialogues with managers and a set for dialogues with employees. These questions are incorporated into CircleLytics and can be used immediately. We recommend that you don’t limit the dialogue with your people to just one because conditions, markets and uncertainties are constantly changing. You can enrich the questions with matters that apply specifically to you.

An example question:

“To what extent is information from leadership clear and available to you?”

Enrich this question with, for example, the following:

“And please indicate what improvement you see for a higher score next time.”

Or:

“And please explain your score with a recent, clear and telling example.”

Another example question:

“What is the biggest challenge in leading your team when you work from home?”

Enrich this question with, for example, the following:

“Describe a situation that other executives can learn from the most.”

or you can give even more direction to the participant:

“In answering this question, don’t focus on video conferencing/IT but on the social side of your work.”

The first round of questions will generate scores and quality answers. These serve as input for the second round of questions in the Circlelytics dialogue. This is how we challenge participants to think more deeply about the questions presented earlier. They learn from each other and listen to each other. This brings about collaboration and creates support for final decisions. A dialogue emerges and the power of an organization’s collective intelligence now comes to the fore.

Ask it!

Ask managers and employees the right questions, show that their opinion matters and connect them in the second round of questions, so that you can respond as an organization to the real needs that are felt by employees. The right questions help management, Human Resources, the works council and all employees to gain more insight into what is already going well, what can be improved and what really needs to change. And make sure you repeat these rounds of questions regularly, because circumstances are constantly changing.

Looking for more information on these dialogues for your employees and/or managers and are you ready increase your insight immediately? Then email us and start your Proof-of-Concept today.

 

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Intelligente PDCA

The hard truth is that if you want to take your organization into the future with innovations, your organization needs to be a learning organization:

On the basis of a unique data set covering 2000 Danish private firms, it is demonstrated that firms combining several of the organizational traits of the learning organization are much more prone to introducing new products than others.” (Peter Nielsen and Bengt-Åke Lundvall, Aalborg University).

One of the critical ingredients for creating a learning organization is ensuring that there is a feedback culture.  Because let’s face it, how do you learn without asking for feedback?

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Based on our experience we’ve compiled 5 questions you need to ask yourself to evaluate if you’ve got a feedback culture:

  1. Has your leadership identified and communicated the most important competencies needed for the future?

Yes, it’s important to have a vision.  Steve Jobs, ex-CEO, of arguably the most innovative company of this decade, Apple Computer, has been quoted saying, “I skate to where the puck is going to be”.  Having a vision is knowing where that puck is going to be.  But getting to the puck requires identifying those competencies you need in your organization to get there.  Identify your most important competencies and monitor how good you are by getting feedback on them.

  1. Does Your Leadership Regularly Ask for Feedback on strategy, obstacles or ways to accelerate progress?

Do your most senior leaders continually ask for feedback?  “Walk the talk” and demonstrate that without feedback you don’t learn.  This starts at the highest level (McKinsey). Leaders who don’t ask for feedback regularly, are really saying to their employees: “You don’t need to be open to learning to get to my position.” It also works the other way around: people perceive you as more competent when you ask for their feedback and opinion. Gallup and Bersin of Deloitte already explained to their management that making employees’ opinions count actually drives their engagement. That’s what we call a win-win!

  1. Do you have an easy tool for getting frequent feedback, askingopen questions that matter most?

We believe that the days of just-a-survey-and-a-dashboard are over. In our mobile device lifestyle, we handle 65% of our emails on our mobile device.  That means that your request for feedback, ideas, solutions, will be handled safely on any device, at the employee’s most convenient time. Make sure your employees can take their time to respond; slowing them down will crack your puzzle faster.

Evidence also shows that firms seldom learn and innovate alone.  Innovation requires open cooperation and an inquisitive mind (read for example the book “A More Beautiful Question” from Warren Berger).  Learning is very much an outside-inside process.

 

  1. Do you embed feedback into your business processes and easily enable growth?

We’re in a learning economy now, which means that globalization, deregulation and information technology has created an environment with more intense competition, rapid transformation and change. A VUCA world. To compete in such an economy, the ability to identify the competencies you need, and attain them (whether by yourself or by adding others to your team) is crucial to the performance of organizations.  Make sure continuous feedback and dialogue becomes a habit, instead of an incident.

  1. Do you have a way to enable the sharing of knowledge and insights to improve collaboration?

Organizations can learn only as fast as the slowest link learns. Change is hindered unless an organization can enable knowledge to be shared. In feedback and learning organizations, knowledge flows freely, and talent becomes visible and what we call “liquid”.  “The best performing teams have talent that comes together in a complementary way. Teams must tap the potential for many minds to be more intelligent than one mind, the collective intelligence. If teams learn, they become a microcosm for learning throughout the organization” (The Fifth Discipline, Peter M. Senge, MIT), or superorganism as others call it. We believe this can only be achieved when social collaboration mechanisms are in place, an ecosystem for people to accelerate their growth, together.

Our first step, together with you, could be to evaluate your feedback culture in your organization by engaging your employees in a series of pulse dialogues. Collect their feedback and thoughts, and make them rethink matters like: “What’s the main obstacle in the organization we could take away together so that it become open to feedback and why do you think so?” or “What’s your best example of compliments in our organization that made a difference for your motivation?”, etc. This will clarify how, when and in what context feedback and recognition can be introduced, and identify the work that needs to be done. Feedback is worth a lot, yet very complex, no matter what others say.  Together, we will work out the steps to introduce a sublime feedback culture.

MaurikDippel, co-founder of CircleLytics.

+31 (0)611 78 80 47

 

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