Building A Great Company Culture With Nova

Hi there! If you are reading this blog, it means your company cares about your happiness and and has taken a positive step towards creating a great company culture by introducing Nova. I know some of you must be skeptical of it and you have all the reasons to be. However, with unwavering confidence I can say that it’s really good news for you.

Let’s get to know Nova to give an honest attempt to this effort towards improving your company culture.

Let me first introduce myself. My name is Abhinav and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Peoplebox. I finished my engineering in 2003 from IIT Delhi and in the past 16 years, I’ve worked with 6 different companies and have also launched my own startups. These ranged from 200 people start-ups to being part of a 100,000 employees multinational giant.

In this duration, I’ve seen all of them trying, in their own ways to improve the work culture. Some achieved great success, some were sheer failures but there’s one thing that I always found myself curious about – How can an employee help or contribute to building a great culture?

With time, I learnt that one of the best things an employee can do to help company become a great place to work is to just speak their hearts and minds. Speak about what is working and especially what is not working.

Imagine if you are the CEO – what you would bring? How would you advice your managers to build a great team culture?

In the real world, however, it’s easier said than done. Often, there are no channels to speak. People don’t know whom to speak with. Even if they know, human egos play a huge role. Many are scared (rightly) of repercussions. That’s why most companies do anonymous surveys.

Unfortunately everyone hates surveys, including us! Surveys bring generalized boring questionnaires that fail to connect.

We understand this and that’s why we built Nova.

Introducing Nova, it’s everything a survey isn’t!

Nova is a personalised conversational bot that speaks with you based on your workcycle events and previous feedback. It’s really quick with 6–8 questions in each fortnight. That’s less than 5 mins of your time every month!

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Think of it like a trusted intelligent friend who works in your best interests and has the knowledge and authority to bring outcomes for you and your company. It’s personalized, two-way, quick and mobile-friendly (answer from anywhere!). Every time you speak with her, it ensures you get some value out of it.  You can know more about your company, speak your heart, and you won’t have to wonder if Nova judged you or went behind your back and took this information to someone else (your boss!).

I’m sure by now you have a lot of questions. I’ll try to answer them one by one. Below a list for you to quickly scroll to the one that’s on your mind.

  1. How do you ensure anonymity and confidentiality on my chat with Nova?
  2. What’s in it for me? What do I get from speaking with Nova?
  3. I can rant all I want on Glassdoor. Why do I need to chat with Nova?
  4. I don’t have a communication problem with my manager. I can discuss directly with her and don’t need to talk to any chatbot.
  5. Why do I need to chat with Nova every 15 days? Can’t it be once in a year or quarter?

How do you ensure anonymity and confidentiality on my chat with Nova?

Your conversation with Nova is completely confidential and will never be revealed to your HR, Manager or to the leadership team. All the data is encrypted in a database and stored at Peoplebox’s servers very similar to how passwords are encrypted and stored. Even a Peoplebox employee can’t find out who said what.

Your company has no access to this data in raw form. Even a legal notice from the HR department or CEO cannot force us to share that data.

We also have a minimum of 5 employees criteria before sharing any cohort with the HR or manager to ensure anonymity. For e.g. if IT and finance departments have 3 and 2 people respectively, we never show individual insights. We would collate them and show it together.

This is how HR sees the report

However, one thing you must be aware of is that Nova knows basic details about you like your role, tenure, concerns, etc., to personalise the questions and check in with you again. You might be wondering why does Nova needs to know who is giving the survey and why it can’t be 100% anonymous.

The reason is 100% anonymity will work against you. It will prevent Nova to have a conversation that is relevant to you or ensure accountability for resolving your issues. For example, if you just joined a company, Nova should ask you questions on the recruitment or onboarding process and not about ways in which you can improve the current company’s culture! Therefore Nova needs access to your joining date in the above example.

Nova checks in with you from time to time to ensure concerns from the previous feedback are resolved to your satisfaction.

None of this would be possible without knowing its you. Once your feedback is collected, Nova collates real time insights and shares it with HR based on locations, department and tenures, which in return gets sent to managers as concrete action items. If it doesn’t, an escalation matrix kicks in, ensuring accountability.

What’s in it for me? What do I get from speaking with Nova?

To strive for an open and accepting work culture, you are a custodian and co-owner of it whether you are an individual contributor or part of a larger team. If you don’t participate, you unwittingly become part of ‘the blind leading the blind’. The trick is to constantly provide feedback to Nova on what can make you or the workplace happier.

Nova ensures that your conversation doesn’t become a one way feedback collection platform.

Nova can give you suggestions from others in your company on how they approached a workplace problem. Further, Nova also includes insights about how others are faring in the company on specific work cycle events. Take career growth, for example. Nova will let you know how other teams in your company define career growth and what your peers are asking for. This would give you ideas and information, but above all provide transparency about career growth drivers at your workplace.

It’s the easiest and safest way for you to bring change in the company and know that there will be an outcome. Casual conversations die and demotivate you in voicing your opinions. One-on-ones and/or group meetings are weighed down by priorities, action items without any accountability, hidden agendas and fear/lack of incentives give very little reason to change. Nova ensures that this doesn’t happen. Finally, it takes less than 5 minutes of your time per month!

I can rant all I want on Glassdoor. Why do I need to chat with Nova?

Sure you can. And Glassdoor is a great platform for recording your experiences, but it’s a one-way street that doesn’t accommodate timely interventions to prevent or mitigate issues until it’s already too late.

Let’s say you have a hostile manager who routinely yells at you. You write about it on Glassdoor or any other platform (Don’t let that platform be LinkedIn!). There is a good chance your manager will never see or hear about it. Similarly, if you post a general comment about the poor work life balance, minimal career growth prospects, etc, your post doesn’t provide a clear accountability or action item to the people who are responsible for ensuring these in the company.

Nova ensures that all these comments are communicated to the right person, converted into action items and regularly tracked.

There is an escalation matrix that kicks in if there is no resolution within an agreed upon time frame ensuring accountability.

Nova also empowers managers, CEOs and HR with coaching and learning material to help them fix issues they may not have answers to.

Nova is more than about just ranting and helps you co-own your company’s culture.

I don’t have a communication problem. I can discuss everything with my manager and don’t need to talk to any chatbot.

We’re happy you share a great relationship with them. But it’s healthy for your manager to have an overall view of his/her team management skills. Let’s say there are 8 peers in your team and 4 of your colleagues have mentioned informally to you they have issues with role clarity. However, only 2 of these 4 colleagues have mentioned this to your manager formally. The manager may forget about it or de-prioritize it while running daily operations.

Nova ensures that your manager gets a clear picture of where they stand with you and the overall team.

Our dashboard clearly articulates the concerns and provides tools and action items to the Manager to resolve it based on the urgency of the issues. An escalation matrix ensures swift change if there is a delayed response. This ensures accountability makes for an efficient intervention rather than informal chats.

Why do I need to chat with Nova every 15 days? Can’t it be once in a year or quarter?

We believe a fortnight is the ideal frequency for the CEO, HR and your manager to become aware of and execute timely interventions BEFORE it becomes an issue.

It’s impossible to build a great culture without cyclical feedback and suggestions. The aim is to ensure you are heard and to close the loop each time on any previous grievances.

When you provide feedback annually, quarterly or biannually, you tend to forget issues that seemed important when they had occurred. Also, annual, quarterly or biannual surveys tend to be long-drawn and cumbersome to fill out. We ensure the experience remains smooth for you by only asking 6–8 questions in a given session.

That’s all for now. I’m confident you will find Nova as a powerful platform and use it to ensure a better culture at your company.

I’d love to work with you and hear from you on any ideas or questions you may have. You can always reach out to me at Abhinav[@]

– Abhinav Chugh, Co-Founder & CEO, Peoplebox

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Abhinav Chugh Administrator
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