In 2021, René Schoenmakers was Director of Supply Chain at Philips Health for South America. He was dealing with a lack of engagement and involvement within his team. He wanted to gather feedback from the entire team on specific topics and better, engaged decision-making, and called in CircleLytics to start a dialogue.
Insufficient input from generic survey for decisions
René says: “At Philips, we conduct bi-annual employee engagement surveys. These are standard questions we ask Philips employees worldwide. This survey is intended to gauge the ‘temperature’, asking ourselves, ‘are we still on the right track? It does not yield any qualitative answers that drive my decision making today, because these are closed-ended questions that never vary. The textual answers remain unweighted: I don’t know what importance or sentiment others attribute to them, so I can’t derive reliable, decision-making value from it. We wouldn’t be able to make good comparisons with previous surveys if the questions were varying, so these global engagement surveys with generic questions make sense. But this also means that you cannot put forward specific topics to ask questions about for superior, faster decision-making. You will have to come up with another solution. The survey platform and surveys do not answer the ‘why’ and ‘how can we improve’ questions, to summarize it.
In a word, the survey is good for its purpose but not for decision making purposes. At Philips, we have high standards and strong ambitions, also when it comes to taking action where necessary. I wanted to gather more qualitative feedback that I could use within my team. So, I took the initiative to use the CircleLytics Dialogue. The Employee Engagement global team supported my choice because the engagement survey is not used for qualitative deepening, let alone co-creation, to tackle and solve (local) challenges together.
I used CircleLytics to ask concrete questions from two perspectives:
- I wanted to dive deeper into some (of the many) topics from the global engagement survey where my region achieved insufficient or very high scores. I wanted to understand the why of it all and learn what decisions are crucial.
- I wanted to tackle some issues in my own management agenda. I used CircleLytics for co-creation sessions with my people to make them aware, involve them in these issues, understand the root causes, and create solutions.
“People in South America are not as outspoken as the Dutch. They are rather reticent about what is bothering them or what could be improved. That is why Schoenmakers is so enthusiastic about the asynchronous design of the CircleLytics Dialogue. I can reach any team member; they can answer questions anonymously, at their own pace, at their own location, and then rank and comment on the responses of their colleagues in a separate second round. The answers from those who are quick to participate in the first round will not carry more weight in the second round: all input must wait until round 2 starts, and all input is treated equally. Another essential CircleLytics feature is that employees can not only positively but also choose to negatively rate the responses and solutions of others: they can score them with -3, -2, or -1. So, there is room for nuance, but they can also safely choose to reject certain options because an option is risky, unsubstantiated or otherwise not the best option for Philips. Groups can reduce a specific risk by 20-30% by asking questions about it, which is a significant extra benefit of this technology. The response was much higher than I ever would have thought and they showed impressive activity.”
Team interactions, diversity of thinking
“My team consisted of 70 employees from four districts. I wanted them to collaborate better, collect ideas from them, and inventory their priorities. I selected the topics for the first dialogue session from the global engagement survey results for South America. We repeated four critical questions (the traditional closed-end question with a score scale) but then extended the question to ask for an open answer, namely “can you give us your concrete explanation”. In round 2, the participants scored each other’s answers and explained their recommendations. This meant a profound dive into the matter after the closed-end questions in the original global engagement survey. For the second dialogue session, I selected a different set of critical questions from the survey. Some of these had scored really high, and some had scored low. I also wanted to learn why the high scores were achieved and how they could be maintained.
I personally came up with the questions for the third dialogue session. For the design of these questions, I held a brainstorming session with my team, and I requested the support of CircleLytics. During the second round of this new dialogue, the employees were once again given their colleagues’ answers from the first round, to assess (scores) and explain their assessment. I had immediate access to the (qualitative) results directly from the dashboard and took these with me to the management team consultation in the afternoon.”
“During that third dialogue session, I asked them about their greatest concerns for the coming months regarding a certain topic. I wanted to know what their first order of business would be if they had my job; what they thought would make people listen to their needs better; and how we could strengthen the collaboration between teams within Philips.”
Implement concrete actions: faster and better informed
“The dialogues’ results were not shocking; the most supported answers were already known (or at least to me). This dialogue enabled me to gather the evidence to prove that the answers were also most supported by my team. The CircleLytics results also show the answers with the least support. That is also helpful information: when making decisions and weighing options, you want to know the risks.
However, actively asking for people’s opinions and having those people contribute to the solutions has been a very positive experience. Their feedback on the CircleLytics Dialogue clearly showed that they appreciate the time we take to engage in a dialogue with our people. I now have a new role within Philips, and the challenge for my successor lies in linking these outcomes to concrete actions. From there, he can also engage in more dialogues with the entire team to ask for more in-depth information, monitor and adjust issues, and present new challenges to the group.”
Balanced team vision
“Truly listening to your team is invaluable. I discussed the dialogue sessions and the results with my supervisor. If you use the dialogue more frequently, raise concrete topics, or ask questions relevant to the team, you will also get more balanced solutions. You actively gather the expert knowledge of the team members, creating a substantial collective mental capacity. The dialogue will lead to a broader team vision; it enables people to think quietly, reflect on their previous answers given, and then share their feedback again. And that feedback often differs greatly from their previous opinion: they have gained more knowledge, and the tool cleverly captures that and applies it in the real-time dashboard.
When using certain techniques, such as live conversations, introverted people will often be reticent about expressing their opinions; others will dominate those conversations and not listen to others. In the dialogue sessions, we allow each employee to participate actively and appreciate the responses of others. In a continent like South America, with its more reserved opinions, the dialogue technique is an effective way to gather feedback. I highly recommend the dialogue technique; it has enabled me to make my decisions more quickly and better, with proven support and commitment from my people. It also actively asks for everyone’s opinion, which is a very positive development.”
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