“There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

Donald Rumsfeld

We’ve recently started implementing a weekly anonymous survey to all staff at FKA that we call Pulse. And I find this fitting considering there’s nothing like no-holds-bar feedback from your teammates to get your heart racing.

“Terrifying but gratifying,” says Rob, when I asked his feedback on administering the weekly survey. “As the company has grown, my role has changed. My number one priority is to make sure that the working experience here is a positive part of everyone’s life. But I can’t do that unless I actually know how people are feeling,” he reiterates. “It fits in nicely with our overall strategy: act, analyze and adapt. It doesn’t just apply to our work, it can be applied to the experience of working here.”

The pulse survey asks four questions:

  • How was your week?
  • Is there anything you want to tell us about your week?
  • What is one thing that went really well this week?
  • What is one thing that could make next week better?

The survey is deployed each Friday and the agency leadership team meets every Monday to review the results. “I’m not going to lie. If we had a rough week, I’m scared to read the responses,” says Rob.

It’s a natural reaction. The truth can be daunting and honest feedback has a way of triggering fight or flight mode. We fear the worst and our nervous systems react appropriately. “Of course it’s never as bad as I think. It’s always very constructive and actionable. In the end, I’m really happy to know how our team is doing and what we can do to help them,” he explains.

As a member of the team, I personally find the Pulse survey refreshing. I’ll even go as far to admit that I’m the kind of person who avoids conflict, so Pulse has opened the door to communication for me. I’m now more willing to let leadership know if I’ve had a rough week or, more often than not, a good one. I also feel less like a cog in the machine. Being encouraged to have a voice is empowering but being asked to share that voice to potentially affect change is even more so.

Since its inception, the Pulse survey has effectively opened dialogue in the agency and has created actionable items for the team to move forward with as a whole. Every week feedback is shared on what was learned the previous week, which has given everyone a better sense of how the agency is doing overall.

Of course, anonymity isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. As a social media coordinator, I can personally attest to this as I see the license people take online when masked by their social media profiles. If you’ve ever seen “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” on Jimmy Kimmel Live, you’ll know what I mean. It’s amazing what people will say when you give them an anonymous platform. Luckily, the feedback received from our Pulse surveys has been everything but malicious. Rob tells me that the feedback is always professional, fair and constructive.

While anonymous surveys may give a more honest picture, they’re also difficult to take individualized action on. This is why we have to acknowledge that leadership can’t always pursue each and every suggestion or frustration voiced. In some cases, it’s simply a platform to vent —which is okay, too.

In the end, it’s a two-way street. As members of a team, we have to take ownership of our feelings and share them with leadership if we want to grow and move forward. But we also have to trust that our leaders want to hear our feedback and intend to take action on it. I think Pulse is helping to solidify this trust and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of an organization that is at the forefront of actionable team feedback.