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How We Gauge Health and Sentiment for a Growing Remote Team

6 min read

At Float, we are all about continuous improvement. As an operations team, we weave this thinking through everything we do, and as an operations and processes nerd, my heart is very much beating to the same drum. From continuing to grow our team (we're hiring!) to evolving our policies (like our new family leave benefit launched this year), as cheesy as it sounds—our work is never done.

A key focus of operations at Float is the health and well-being of our team.

We are constantly evolving our processes, supporting the Float team to grow, and pushing ourselves to improve the way we engage and assist our team. This year one of our company OKRs is to enable a better work life for our team. While leadership and operations have plenty of ideas for how we can do this, we want our actions to be driven by insights shared by our team members directly.

Growing teams have evolving processes

With a scaling team, the goalposts are always moving. A process that served our team well a few months ago may already need to be tweaked and refined. When I joined Float two years ago, we were a team of 15, and it was a lot simpler to understand how each person was feeling. Our co-founders Glenn and Lars conducted annual performance reviews, and it was during these meets and additional 1:1s that they were able to check in and assess how everyone was feeling.

Geekbot is one of our key tools for culture building, and it helps us get a sense of the team's general mood and what everyone has going on. As our team grew, we updated our daily status in Slack to include a How do you feel today? question. The aim of this was to let everyone else know where you're at, in a supportive and unintrusive way. Most of us use emojis or a brief sentence to respond.

Fast forward to today, and we now are a team of 40 (with seven open roles), so it's not sustainable to scroll through everyone's updates each day. Glenn and Lars couldn't continue to conduct every performance review and quarterly 1:1 either, and we now have three director-level roles on our team. They are taking the reigns to conduct intra-team career discussions and planning.

We want to focus on what's working for us and change what isn't, and that means making operational decisions that support our team's sentiment. It's crucial that we understand what our team thinks about key issues so we can make the right operational decisions. We don't shy away from the realities of growth, and we know the importance of keeping our team engaged and continuing to check in with them.

As a result, we are implementing some changes to the way we check on the health of our team. (The ops nerd in me is excited to shake things up!)

Operational processes should align with your team's culture

Processes directly affect how we work, and how we work directly affects our team's culture. When designing operational processes, it's important that we consider what we're asking of our team and how it will impact their day-to-day.

The best processes get the job done efficiently and add value to your team's culture. Here are our criteria for processes at Float:

  1. Respectful of our team's time. We have a culture of very few meetings and being able to self-design our most productive workday. We know that giving our team control over their work and life is a key factor in workplace well-being. It should be simple for our team to provide feedback and shouldn't interrupt their workday.

  2. Clearly defined channels for what we ask, where, and when. The aim is to keep unnecessary noise and communication to a minimum and to be deliberate about what we ask and when.

  3. Agility. We need the flexibility to swiftly ask pertinent questions when making important decisions or changes. For example, if we are planning a meetup and have narrowed it down to two location options, how can we get an answer from the team quickly without adding to the noise in Slack?

  4. Retain what's working. We want to hold onto the things that are working well and ensure that we don't lose parts of our operational processes that our team likes.

Choose simple tools that can be used purposefully

There's no shortage of advice on remote team tools; however, what most folks fail to recognize is being deliberate about how you use them. We've chosen three tools for keeping a pulse on our team's health and sentiment, with a clear directive on using them.

Slack

Duh! But seriously. It's no surprise that we use Slack as a fully distributed, remote team. Asking a growing team to open a new window and try a new service every time they need to tell us something just isn't scalable.

In being respectful of our team's time and wanting the process to be as simple as possible, almost all of our avenues for checking in our team members are through Slack apps. We have purposefully set up our channels as department teams and broader teams.

Geekbot

We are retiring Geekbot for daily task statuses that are shared with the whole team, but keeping it for social interactions. Every Monday we are prompted to share what we got up to over the weekend. Responses to Geekbot are shared with the whole org via the #status Slack channel.

With a growing team, there are new layers of management building additional processes for understanding what their team is working on, so it's time we cleared some space in Slack!

15five

We’re going all-in on 15five. We use 15five for weekly check-ins, quarterly 1:1s, and our annual performance reviews.

  • Weekly check-ins

Check-in questions focus on how our team feels, help managers figure out how to support the team, and inform leadership and ops planning and decision-making.

Some questions are for managers to read, and some are for operations and leadership. Answers to check-in questions are easily ‘passed up’ which means they can be flagged for further discussion. Going forward, each weekly check-in will combine core questions (the same every week) and rotating questions (differ based on the topics at hand).

Our weekly core questions:
What went well this week?
Any challenges you’re facing? What’s not going well?

Example rotating question: We have our next Remote Roadshow planned for July. What topics are you most interested in hearing about?

  • Quarterly 1:1s

Quarterly 1:1s are for unique individual and manager feedback. They should focus on continuous improvement, role satisfaction, career progression, and performance. Managers conduct quarterly 1:1s via 15Five.

We love the talking points feature in 15Five, which is where our team can add talking points in the lead-up to their 1:1s. We feel this feature, along with being able to ‘pass up’ discussion points via check-ins, aligns perfectly with our way of working, ensuring that everyone is prepared for the meeting and can best use the time.

  • Annual performance reviews (APRs)

The focus of the APR process is to support individual continuous improvement through constructive feedback. Managers schedule 1:1s with each team member in January to reflect on the previous year and plan for the next. This is our current process, and after conducting a wrap-up survey in February, we feel confident that this process is working for our team.

Team retention supports sustainable, long-term growth

It's an easy mistake to focus on growing your team and improving the benefits offered to new hires, while forgetting about those who are already on board. Championing the team you have will support your growth in the long term. Helping them feel heard is key to keeping your team members engaged and motivated—so the easier that process is, the better.

And so, this is our approach for now.

We don't anticipate that it will stay this way forever, but we are confident in the processes we have built and in our ability to recognize when things are no longer working for our team and adapt accordingly.

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