Vega IT’s experiences
It all started around eleven years ago when Vladan and Saša founded Vega IT. They wanted to create a workplace where they would be surrounded with people who love the work they do and have a great relationship with each other. It was quite easy to do that in the beginning because there were only two people in the company.
Later on, when the company grew to 10, 20 or 30 people, it was still easy to maintain happy atmosphere because they were all in the same room and they always knew how people felt and what was happening in their personal lives. They could speak with their colleagues about how they could help them to approach challenges, and so on.
But, as Vega IT continued to grow, they felt that they were not at the same level as before when it comes to knowing how their colleagues feel. And, they were experimenting with all different kinds of approaches and tools such as standard job satisfaction surveys. They were trying to use them more frequently than once a year. But, even when they conducted the survey quarterly, it was still not enough to bring satisfactory results because people might have already felt unhappy or unsatisfied at the time when they were asked to do these surveys. Also, questions focused more on their job satisfaction and common rational things than on how they really felt at work.
Back then, just at the right time (when there were around 50 or 60 people in the company) they started talking about how they could improve things, sustain the growth and still have the great culture where they would know how people feel. They wanted to conduct surveys more frequently, ask people about their happiness, or how they feel and so on.
They met Alexander Kjerulf, the founder of Woohoo Inc. and the author of a few books about happiness at work, who found a better way to measure the level of happiness of people working in companies. That experiment was performed “manually” - meaning that there were no tools that would automate the entire process. The results he obtained were one of the crucial factors Vega IT took into consideration when starting their collaboration with Alexander.
After the experiment, three entrepreneurs, two co-founders of Vega IT, Saša and Vladan, and the founder of Woohoo inc company, Alexander Kjerulf gathered together in a room to have a meeting. They decided to turn this idea into a product and commercialise it. Soon after, in 2017, they started to build the first version of the product, and around six months later they started testing it, which lasted for a year and a half. They tested the product within Vega IT with around two hundred people and the results were great.
So, when they were finally happy with the results and when they felt they were ready to launch it on the market, they decided to show it to the rest of the world.
It is in a form of a very short survey that people get every Friday morning at around 10 a.m. There are 3 short questions and five given answers for each question. People literally need less than 30 seconds to do the survey. They look at the question, choose the answer, submit and that’s all.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the tool itself will not really improve things within an organisation, and, it can’t fix anything. You need to take the results into consideration, and act on them to make some improvements.
Here are a few cases that Saša Popović, CEO of Vega IT company shared with us:
One of the Heartcount questions that doesn’t cost a thing and can improve things dramatically is: “Do you think that your team lead or any other person in the company cares about you as a person?”. I was surprised to see that a few people answered with “no” to this question. However, I consider most of them to be really good people besides being professional and technically great at software development that we do in Vega IT. I was surprised that they didn't know that. Then I went to some of them and told them in person that I knew that a few people (and then I would name those people including myself) think they are really great. Also, I wrote an email to some of them. My colleagues from people operations team did the same thing.
We wanted to be very personal and sincere, and not fake or anything similar. This really didn't cost us a thing, and resulted in a great improvement regarding the way people felt as well as the results they produced afterwards.
One of the differences between Heartcount and a lot of other tools is that it allows you to actually see the people’s answers. It's not anonymous which enables you to find and address a specific problem with a given employee (something they are not happy with or something that's not working).
And, then, another example - “Does your team lead praise you for a job well done?”. Saša said: “I was surprised to see that some people answered “no”, or “I do it rarely”, etc. And, then when I spoke with a few of my colleagues who are team leads, I would hear answers like “Yes, but she didn’t do a great job, and this is repeating a week after a week”. Nevertheless, we still tried to praise our colleagues for a job well-done. Even when they would do only 30 percent of the their work great and the rest solid, praising them for what they did well gave them more motivation and helped them improve. Also, this showed them that we look at what they do, that we care, and that we want them to be better at work, and not to punish them or anything like that. However, it was not that easy for some of my colleagues who are team leaders to accept this idea because they wanted to praise someone when they did great work.
But, to make any progress, sometimes you need to shift your mindset and embrace the change. It turned out that this kind of approach led to great results.
This type of measuring happiness brings additional value. It allows you to present the numbers to your team lead and ask them to do something about it. You can talk to them directly and say: “Here are the numbers - 45% of your employees don't actually feel they are being praised for good work they do. Maybe, there is something you can change in your behaviour.
What I also find interesting about Heartcount is that very often people use it to say how they feel. We are a flat organisation where anyone can approach anyone without fear. For instance, when I chat with people on a daily basis, in a canteen or anywhere else, they don’t always speak about how they really feel at work. However, when we ask questions on Friday mornings, they would basically show us that they don't feel well. For example, when we ask a question “Have you learned something new this week?” some of the people would say “no”, even though we know that that person has learned something new during that week. Then we would go and speak with that colleague and discover that something else has made them feel unhappy that week.
People would simply answer “no” just to express that they don't feel great/well, even though the question isn’t about their feelings but about learning something new that particular week. On the other hand, when we know that they really haven’t learned something new that week, we are completely fine with that. In that case, we don’t want to waste our colleagues’ time and ask them too often about the answers they have provided.
There are also cases when people regularly answer the survey and then stop answering for a few weeks. Usually when they stop answering for two or three weeks, we would go and speak with them. Sometimes there are good reasons why they have stopped doing that. It usually turns out that they decide to stop answering questions because they don’t feel well at work. So, not getting any answers can also be helpful which is another advantage of using Heartcount.