60 Decibels

Instead of Assuming What Hourly Workers Want, Ask Them: Using Lean Data to Amplify Employee Voices

By 60 Decibels and SJF Ventures

This article originally appeared on the SJF Ventures website.

While traditional annual and pulse surveys are useful tools to gather employee feedback, it can be challenging to successfully collect and assess inclusive, candid insights from a full spectrum of workers. Are all employees aware of what is included in their benefits? Do employers provide their workers with meaningful support and opportunities for growth? How do valued aspects of a job differ across varying divisions of a workforce? Targeted questions like these underscore job-oriented impacts that are important to SJF Ventures and its portfolio companies, however gathering nuanced feedback that is necessary to help employers make tangible improvements can be unachievable using traditional, off-the-shelf questionnaires. To overcome these barriers to capturing insightful employee feedback, SJF partnered with 60 Decibels, a tech-enabled impact measurement company, to create a unique type of employee survey with a particular focus on hearing from hourly workers.

The Design

To date, 60 Decibels and SJF have collaborated to deploy surveys at two SJF portfolio companies — ShipMonk, a provider of multi-channel order fulfillment and inventory management services for small- and mid-sized e-commerce businesses, and TemperPack, a manufacturer of proprietary sustainable thermal packaging solutions. While the survey design and deployment strategies were uniquely modified to meet ShipMonk and TemperPack’s respective goals, the primary objective remained consistent across both projects — create a robust mechanism to hear directly from workers about what job quality characteristics and benefits matter most to them. Specifically, 60 Decibels, SJF, and each portfolio company team designed question sets that would directly and intentionally gather information on hourly worker satisfaction and ideal benefits, both traditional and creative in nature, to understand the perceived upside of optimizing wage versus other offerings that are valuable to driving employee satisfaction and quality jobs. The survey walked through a complete worker journey, through each employee’s Profile, Acquisition, Experience, Impact, and Retention experience, and while the included questions were very targeted, high-level topics included:

  • What do employees value most in compensation?
  • How satisfied are employees?
  • What challenges do employees report?
  • Do employees feel supported?
  • What benefits are most valued and how do they rate overall?
  • How reliant are employees on their company income?
  • Do employees want to continue working with the company?
  • What are employees’ general suggestions for improvement?

The Deployment

At ShipMonk, the team designed and distributed two distinct online surveys across its corporate and hourly worker teams to address specific issues and questions relevant to each population. With corporate and hourly employees working in three separate locations including the company’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters and two facilities in Pittston, Pennsylvania and Los Angeles, California, the ShipMonk team explained the impetus for launching the initiative, conveyed detailed information about the survey, and provided ample time for survey completion to ensure maximum input. TemperPack took a different approach related to survey population by focusing this initiative solely on hourly employees working at the company’s two manufacturing facilities in Richmond, Virginia, and Las Vegas, Nevada, and offered the survey in both English and Spanish to ensure all employees were able to provide feedback.

Survey accessibility was a priority for both companies and each team worked to achieve as high participation as possible by setting up designated computers, posting scannable QR codes around the facilities, and working with supervisors to explain the survey projects, among other initiatives. Partnering with 60 Decibels as a third-party data collector allowed for complete anonymity and increased response rates as employees could feel comfortable providing unbiased, candid feedback.

The Results

Once the surveying period ended, 60 Decibels began its work analyzing the responses to the multiple choice, sliding scale, and open-ended questions included in each company’s assessment. 60 Decibels not only retrieved and compiled all data, but also presented its findings to SJF and leadership at each company. The data unlocked valuable insights for ShipMonk and TemperPack about their employees and company cultures — highlighting specifics like communication tactics, healthcare benefits, opportunities for career progression, and access to training opportunities. Through this Lean Data approach, company leadership learned about what their employees value most, of the ways in which they are excelling and also the “blind spots” in their operations and human resource practices, and about surprising differences in opinion across employees working at different sites. Most importantly, these insights provided an invaluable springboard to discussion, plan creation, and action in direct response to employee feedback.

Data collected as part of the ShipMonk project laid the groundwork for an extensive foundational understanding of the participation level, knowledge, and perception of the healthcare benefits package offered to employees, providing core insights for SJF and company leadership to consider as the two groups partnered to explore renewed and improved benefits offerings shortly after the survey was completed. At TemperPack, workers described their motivations for joining the team, citing that the manufacturing facility roles not only offered professional advancement, but also aligned with their values related to climate change mitigation and creating more sustainable solutions. Further, the company was able to identify new ideas for training, continuous learning, and communication mechanisms to consider introducing, with particularly helpful feedback coming from responses to open-ended questions asked of employees.

While SJF and its portfolio companies have already found ways to act upon opportunities to accelerate impact as a result of listening to and learning directly from employees in the months following the 60 Decibels collaboration, the feedback collected will remain valuable to both ShipMonk and TemperPack as they continue to scale. SJF looks forward to working with more portfolio companies to take steps towards empowering workers and ensuring high-quality job opportunities, especially for hourly workforce populations.

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