Choosing a modern employee feedback tool for your remote team

Aditya Rao

Covid-19 has shifted the dynamics of work completely, and most probably, forever. If you are worried about employee engagement levels in your remote team; rest assured that you are not the only one. While the basic fundamentals of good leadership still hold true (listen to your people, act on the feedback and over-communicate about the team's progress) the tools and processes need to change. You can no longer tap people on the shoulder and have a tête-à-tête. 

Your chosen employee engagement and feedback tool must fit remote work philosophies, scale with your needs and solve real people problems. We have spent 11+ years working in the industry; and this is our exhaustive checklist of things to keep in mind when buying an employee feedback tool for your remote team. It's these same factors that we have also kept in mind while building Kaapi (employee feedback tool for remote teams) We have personally researched all the tools mentioned here to ensure that they are ready for 2021 too!

#1 - Business leader vs HR leader

HR teams have a completely different use case for employee engagement and feedback vs managers and CXOs who want to set up people systems.  The most obvious one being that HR teams look for statistical dashboards and analysis of responses across the entire company. This is useful to analyse company pulse and mood across departments and different locations; but not very useful for a manager. Managers need text based, detailed feedback from their direct reports. This helps them take direct action on the feedback!

Here are some recommended tools if you are a leader who wants to buy a feedback tool for your team and direct reports 

I sometimes find it strange that there aren’t more good tools that cater directly to managers, but I guess this side of the industry will mature soon with the onset of remote work. 

#2 Does anonymity of feedback matter to you

Most employee feedback tools take one of the two paths - when employees give feedback the answers can either be anonymous or not. Both sides have pros and cons. At Kaapi we have chosen not to be anonymous. We believe in being open and transparent vs anonymous, and wrote about it here.

We have seen that usually HR buyers of employee engagement tools prefer anonymous feedback, but if a business leader is buying the software directly for their team they do not want anonymity. Anonymous feedback is difficult to resolve and to take action on. It might give you good patterns, but if you don’t have enough statistical data to analyse that pattern, it’s of no use. If you are a small team, I would 100% recommend you to not buy an anonymous employee survey tool.  

#3 -  Specialisation vs Full Suite

The HR tech industry is full of all-in-one tools. These will give you features for all people processes - right from onboarding, to employee feedback, engagement activities and even payroll sometimes. While there are pros of buying such a software; you should carefully examine your exact needs. 

If you go with a full suite of tools, it’s not just the price that rises steeply. The complexity of the software does too. And sadly, the engagement levels and adoption of the software goes down with each new module. Full suite tools can become very bloated, and difficult to use, which results in user frustration across the entire organization.

“If a product is for everybody, it's for nobody.”

While we at Kaapi, are of course, biased towards building an amazing steak knife vs trying to build a swiss army knife, you should make the right call based on your needs! E.g. If you are a small startup, do you really need OKRs and Pulse Surveys combined into one place? Do you need payroll too? How many new people are you hiring every month that you also need an onboarding module?

If you are a CEO of large company, or you are an HR professional buying it for a growing enterprise, it definitely makes sense to buy an all-round software that will fit your needs for the next 2-3 years at a minimum.A few tools though which do a good job of servicing the entire HR funnel are:

A few platforms like this will also give you consulting and hands on training on topics like leadership development and diversity etc. 

Here is an exhaustive list of specialist tools that are ready for the future and all the uncertainties of 2021 - that specialise in a few things across the entire HR funnel 

Onboarding 

Daily standups and status updates

Sprint / scrum retrospectives

Pulse surveys and employee feedback

Icebreakers and have fun with your team

1 on 1 meetings

Goal planning, performance reviews and OKRs

Employee rewards, company values & recognition 

Diversity and inclusion 

#4 Integrations with your current tools

Remote work comes with its own stack of softwares - Slack, Google Drive, Zoom and Asana etc. Each new software introduced into your team is a new hill for them to climb. And most software fails because they are too rigid, and require users to change their current behavior. And this is why you need your employee engagement or team feedback tool to work; where work already happens. 

Most modern softwares will provide you easy integrations with business chat tools like Slack and MS teams. While this is not a deal breaker most times; it can be a very important factor on how easily your team adopts the new software and processes. 

#5 Embrace asynchronous work

There is a simple secret to make your remote work productivity go 10x. Don’t expect everything to happen instantly. Adopt simple scalable processes like documentation and async meetings. What do I mean by async meetings? Simple. Instead of jumping on a Zoom call; write a doc and share with your team. This helps you polish the point you are trying to make; and lets them reply at their own comfortable time slot. A one hour meeting between 5 people is 5 hours gone. 

Similarly, to make sure that your 1-on-1 meetings as a leader are fruitful and productive, there should be documentation of all agenda points in a single place. A single source of truth. It helps everyone come prepared. 

This problem is compounded more in global distributed teams that are spread across time zones. That is why remote first tools like Kaapi ensure that status update check ins go out at your local timezone!

# 6 Other factors that you should keep in mind 

Another factor can also be the pricing model of the tool e.g. some tools charge per employee and some charge per manager. If you have part time contractors in your team that keep changing, you might not want to go with per employee pricing. 

You should also think about the level of customisations you need in the engagement tool for your team. A few simple tools like Kaapi don’t have easy ways to build your own question bank to send as a survey. Do you need that custom feature, or would the default question bank suffice? 

That’s all I guess! I hope this checklist was useful to you. While there are no easy answers in a crowded marketplace like HR softwares, building a framework of important factors will really help. Feel free to buzz us if you are still confused and I would be happy to refer you to the right tool that would fit your team needs. The employee feedback and engagement tool you choose today will define how you build your team; so take your time to research well and make the right decision!

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