A Small Improvement to Objective Cloning

As part of our recent “Ship-It Week” projects, we’ve made it a lot easier for you to select exactly who you want to clone an Objective to, not just all of your direct or indirect reports at once.

Within an organization, Objectives can be used in many different ways. Some organizations see it as a way to promote engagement by helping employees’ professional and personal development. Others see it as a way to align an organization by spreading a common vision through the distribution of common goals.

Whats New

In more detail, the Objective Cloning functionality now lets you:

  • As a manager, select specific people from your branch of the org structure. (Or still select the whole team of course)
  • As HR, opt to clone an objective to anyone in the organization. You can select whole teams, all managers, all non-managers, or pick employee by employee for a completely custom selection.
  • Sort by the list view to select staff based on helpful filtering criteria.

We’re always keen to improve even more, so please let us know your feedback!

Your Small Improvements Team


Step 1: Choose the Objective and click “Clone to Users”
Step 2: Select users and confirm cloning

New Objective Icons, Badges and some refreshing Colours

Over the last few months, the summer sunshine here in Berlin (Small Improvements HQ) has helped many exciting new product projects thrive and flourish. Last week we held our first “Ship-It Week” – aimed at innovation, creativity and with a focus on getting cool stuff done and released.

Today we’re proud to announce the release of the latest project: A new library of Objective Icons, Message Badges and some nice updates to the colours of charts and statuses.

Working hard during our “Ship It Week” – a fun week of getting creative but also focused on being able to release features to customers!
The big ideas board during Ship-It Week!

Objective Icons

We’re excited to give a fresh new look to the icons you have available when creating objectives. You still have all the same imagery, (including the popular Target icon, as well as our favourite – the Rocket ship!) – so your current and old objectives will still have the appropriate icons, just with a slight colour change. We’ve also made the icon picker a bit larger so you can get a better idea of each icon. Check them out below!



Message Badges

Similarly, we’ve freshened up the style of the badges you can add when sending praise – same imagery, brand new style. HR and administrators can always upload custom badges – and we’ve also added support for SVG files.


A fresh colour palette

We think these new icons look awesome – so we wanted to make sure the charts and statuses used within Small Improvements look just as awesome too! Part of our task with upgrading the icons included tweaking the colours used in overview screens and status indicators. It’s a subtle change… but a good one!


Let us know what you think. Any feedback or questions are more than welcome!

The Importance of Early Feedback for New Employees

To ensure that your processes in recruiting, onboarding and accelerating new team members into the organization is having the desired effect, it’s critical to get candid and data-driven feedback.

Giving and soliciting this type of feedback is the best way to ensure your investment in the employee experience is paying off and driving company ROI.

Recruitment and onboarding are key processes: get them right the first time and you save yourself the expense of repeating them a few months down the line. A study by the Aberdeen Group found that 86 percent of employees decide whether to stay or go within their first six months.

Read on to learn why early feedback supports new hire success and how to best implement an efficient and scalable process.

Why Early Feedback is Important

Feedback6The myriad of benefits that accompany providing early feedback can be grouped into two core outcomes.

First, it drives new employee proficiency, helping them become net contributors faster. Second, it significantly decreases the chances of new hire failure, lowering turnover and improving retention rates.

Each of these positives link back to company ROI – by investing in driving a great employee experience, you enable new hires to be more successful and increase their chances of staying with your organization longer.

What are the outcomes of early feedback?

1. Makes Them Feel Valued

Put simply, people like to feel that they and their opinion are worth something. Taking the time to invest in them by communicating how they’ve done so far can go a long way toward their sense of worth within the company.

Gallup reports that only 45 percent of employees are ‘completely satisfied’ with the amount of recognition they receive. Whether in person, or sending praise via a tool such as Small Improvements, you’re employees will feel valued when their accomplishments are celebrated. 

2. Supports an Open and Honest Culture

If new starters feel that their colleagues and management will be honest with them, they are much more likely to respond in the same way. Such an open and transparent culture can only be beneficial for your company.

3. Accelerates New Hire Productivity

As much as you can try to put everything in place to support them, the majority of the responsibility for any employee’s development lies within themselves.

They’ll want to progress. To do that, they’ll need to know what they’re doing well and what could be better. Being praised for their efforts, and having the road ahead mapped out, allows your employees to tackle the next stage of assimilation into your company’s culture with renewed enthusiasm.

Best Practices for Delivering Early Feedback

Having recognized its importance, how do you implement an early feedback mechanism to reap the rewards?  We believe that there are six simple steps.

1. Improve Your Onboarding Process

An individual new starter who still can’t submit their timesheet or access their benefits
policy after four weeks with the company likely needs their own extra bit of training. But, if half a dozen have recently had the same problem, perhaps they’re not being introduced to the system well enough?

Shortcomings in employee performance may be a sign of holes in your employee onboarding program.

Feedback5Do you help them see the big picture of where their efforts fit in? Have all the onboarding workflows been completed so they have everything they need to do their job?  Is their onboarding roadmap clear?

Performance feedback solutions, like Small Improvements, allow you to define the objectives and goals essential to an employee’s success, while providing a platform to communicate around those.

Whatever gaps you discover, be sure to act on it: this was the third most popular initiative to reduce turnover, according to a CareerBuilder study; just ahead of it was increased recognition, which you can achieve through positive feedback.

2. Sharpen Your Communication

The benefits need not stop with the employees whose performance is being appraised – the managers and colleagues involved in the process will also benefit from the chance to have their say and articulate clearly the sort of feedback which can have great value on a day-to-day basis.   

Use specific examples that help employees identify the behaviors you’ve just pointed out and be held accountable for them. Allow them to respond to the feedback and suggest ways they might work to improve it.

3. Get the Timing Right

The setting and timing of feedback delivery is critical. A relaxed coffee break with a new hire in front of their peers may not be the time to point out that they still haven’t closed a deal or progressed with their training.

The level of formality will obviously depend on your company’s culture, but ensure the feedback is given in such a manner that it can be taken seriously and discussed there and then. Having said that, don’t delay: look to give feedback as quickly as possible after any relevant triggers.

If it’s improvements on their performance for a specific task, arrange a session soon after its completion so that the details are still fresh in their memory.

4. Make Feedback a Two-Way Process

Allowing new hires a chance to respond to each point may help you to uncover reasons behind their struggles. Is their low productivity due to a shortage of resources or can their timekeeping be attributed to a slow bus service for which you could know a great alternative?

This will also let you make sure that they’ve understood the feedback and how to move forward from it.

5. Deliver Positive and Constructive Comments

There are several psychological factors at play here.

FeedbackFirst, positive feedback is a motivational tool. In the book How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton, they found that the “number one reason most Americans leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated.” In fact, 65 percent of the employees they surveyed said they received no recognition whatsoever for the good work they did the previous year.

Second, delivering positive feedback first helps to balance the constructive points to follow. Avoid linking the two – they should be delivered sequentially but separately. Use your constructive comments to point out behaviors that could be improved upon, rather than personal traits.

6. Do It Often

The best way to provide feedback is in small, easily-actionable chunks. The more often you engage in discussions, the more comfortable each party will feel and the more productive your feedback will become. With the millennial generation taking over the workforce, almost half (46 percent) by 2020, there is increasing pressure to provide more frequent and actionable feedback.

Why? According to Harvard Business Review, millennials want feedback 50 percent more often than other employees. Putting a continuous feedback process in place will meet this need and result in happier, more productive, employees.

Summing Up

The benefits of giving early employee feedback are numerous, though they all tie into the same key aim of driving ROI and strengthening employee engagement.

Make feedback a regular, constructive and motivational part of your company culture that sets up new employees for success.


Andrew Crebar

Andy Crebar is a Co-Founder of Sapling, which helps companies use Employee Onboarding to amplify their total Employee Experience (‘EX’). He is passionate about self-improvement and supporting everyone to be their best.

Better insight into upcoming admin dates

We’re on a mission to streamline our Dashboard and to make it more useful. We’re now replacing the “right hand cycle list” with a proper component that display upcoming admin dates.

The problem

We want to give customers an easy way to jump to review- or 360-cycles, while also alerting them to what dates are coming up. Unfortunately, our old two-column dashboard layout that listed cycles on the right always looked a bit crammed. And just showing one upcoming date when there are several never felt great. Here’s the old version:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 16.08.36.png

Also, our side bar list only ever listed review and 360 cycles, it didn’t list objective cycles at all for lack of space.What looked so-so for new clients started looking really overwhelming for existing clients with many cycles.

The solution

We’ll phase out the sidebar, instead we’ll list upcoming admin dates chronologically in the center of the screen. We’re also looking back at the past 3 days to alert you in case you missed a date. Objective cycle dates are included of course. This way all admins will know better where they stand. Here’s the new view:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 16.14.02.png


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Improved Feedback Participation Chart

Everyone loves charts, they provide great insights at a glance. They help us quickly transform information into knowledge. You should not need to think twice about a visualization to understand its information and purpose.

However, one of our charts marched to a different beat and was not clear to most of our customers – the Participation Chart in the 360 Feedbacks. We scheduled time for a little side project to revamp it!

See who’s been participating

Before we used to calculate the Participation Levels (High, Medium, Low, Very Low) based on the average states of all participants in each feedback. Several times it raised confusion among our customers to grasp the underlying logic. Now we’ve changed the Participation Chart to show the status of each individual participant. We think it improves the user experience a lot.


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4 Manager Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Tips from Grovo, Soundcloud, Lifelabs Learning and Recruiting Inferno

Nobody said managing and leading a team would be easy. In fact, being a good manager is one of the most difficult responsibilities a person can take on. According to Gallup, only about one in 10 people have the talent required to manage. But, why is it so hard?

To find out what it takes to be a great manager, we sat down with:

A video of the whole panel discussion will follow soon. In the meantime, we’ve distilled four manager challenges, and suggestions for tackling them, that arose during the conversation.

Challenge #1: Understanding what’s expected of you


A “good” manager may look different depending on the organization. How do you know what’s expected of you as a manager and what “good” looks like in your company?

Many organizations don’t have outlined expectations or requirements for managers. For example, how often should you have a one-on-one with your direct report? When is a good time to discuss career growth and development?

At Grovo, the leadership team decided to clarify manager expectations at a company level, in what they call the “Manager Service Level Agreement (SLA).” The Manager SLA includes all of their defined, basic expectations for managers.

“We know it’s a good idea to send a first week plan to new hires before they start,” said Joris Luijke. “So, we add it to the SLA and give any financial or educational resources necessary to support it.”

Training programs are another excellent way to help managers understand what’s expected of them. At Soundcloud, Neil Wilks said, “anyone who joins, or is promoted, as a manager goes through a leadership and management program.”

This program is open to all people leaders and walks through key management challenges to help them grow. “We put a big emphasis on letting new leaders know that they’re not alone and we’re here to help and support them,” said Neil.

Tweet: “Put a big emphasis on letting new leaders know that they’re not alone”

Ever heard of a football playbook? How about a “People Leader Playbook”? Tania Luna conducts leadership training at Lifelabs Learning. She developed a “People Leader Playbook” for a company looking to help their managers be successful .

In the playbook, you’ll find 12 behaviors that they expect from people leaders. This playbook creates a language of shared norms across the organization and gives managers a guide to success.

Whether it’s a guide, a training program or a playbook, clearly defined standards, will reduce ambiguity and act as supporting foundation for manager growth in your organization.

Challenge #2: Keeping people motivated and engaged


It’s said that employees don’t leave companies, they leave people.  According to Gallup, 87 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged. Yet, managers have the greatest impact on employee engagement. 

At LifeLabs Learning, Tania and her team focus on training managers “Tipping-Point Skills.” These skills, once mastered, open up the door for greater employee engagement.

A few of these include:

  • Coaching skills 
    • Learning the fundamentals of what it means to be a good manager, how to empower employees and what types of questions to ask.
  • Feedback skills
    • Learning how to give and receive feedback.
  • Prioritization skills
    • Learning how to effectively manage your time and that of your direct reports.
  • One-on-one meeting skills
    • Learning what an effective one-on-one looks like and techniques for success.

Google’s Project Oxygen team research highlights similar skills. They found, “the number one trait of a good manager is that they are a good coach.” This is followed closely by a manager’s ability to empower their team and not micromanage.

Tweet: “the number one trait of a good manager is that they are a good coach” 

Managers who take the time to learn these identified success traits will have a much greater chance of engaging their employees.

Challenge #3: Having difficult conversations

We’ve all had to have those tough conversations that we’d rather avoid. How can we help managers master those difficult conversations, instill an environment of openness and encourage honesty within their team?

You’ve probably never thought of Clint Eastwood’s film, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, as a resource for managerial advice. But, for recruiter and consultant Steve Levy, it’s the inspiration for his weekly check-ins. Every week, Steve requests a “GBU” or “the good, the bad and the ugly” from each of his employees. This report helps to highlight problems and maintain an open, honest environment.   

Neil uses a similar technique for this called the “traffic light.” One of his favorite managers would say, “give me a traffic light of how you’re feeling at work and outside of work. Then, tell me why.” This strategy helps to unlock employee emotions, get a feel for where they stand and tackle any issues.

HR can help with these tough conversations as well by pushing managers and employees to have regular check-ins. Joris found that when managers have more frequent, open and honest dialogue with their reports, those difficult discussions come up naturally.

Tweet: “when managers have more frequent, open and honest dialogue with their reports, difficult discussions come up naturally”

Tricks like these help to solidify the relationship between manager and employee. They keep conversations flowing, uncover issues earlier and create a foundation for the tough conversations.

Challenge #4: Bringing the best out of people

Great managers help people find something within themselves that they hadn’t seen or didn’t know was there. Joris recommended the book, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, by Liz Wiseman. In the book, she explains that great managers are able to extract out an individual’s full capacity.

“If you add up all your passion, intelligence and energy,” he said, “that combined together is your 100 percent capacity. But, if you ask an employee how much capacity they’re using at this given moment, it’s probably closer to about 60 percent. The job of the manager is to help people use as much of their capacity as possible.”

Tweet: “the job of the manager is to help people use as much of their capacity as possible”

How does a manager do this in practice? Here are a few starting points:

  • Get to know them 
    • How well do you know your direct reports? What does a good day look like for them? What are they passionate about? Where do they want their career to go? Take the time to learn who they are and you’ll discover opportunities to help them grow.
  • Be selfless 
    • The best managers have arrived at a selfless place in leadership. One where they no longer think about themselves first. At that point, they only think about helping people reach their maximum potential. “If you’re constantly focused on helping people be their best, regardless of team or organization, that’s when you grow from good to really great,” said Joris.
  • Ask the right questions
    • “A little trick that we teach managers in training is to ask open-ended questions,” said Tania. “Instead of asking “what do you think?” ask, “what are your thoughts on?” This tiny tweak opens up the door for conversation.
  • Lead by example 
    • Lead in a way that will make others want to follow you. Steve quoted The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack, where he says, “shit rolls down hill.” If the leadership team isn’t doing what you expect managers to do, you’ll have a snowball effect and struggle to get everyone on the same page.

As a leader, a mentor or a manager, the end-goal is the same – but the journey to get there will differ for everyone.  

Tweet: “As a leader, a mentor or a manager, the end-goal is the same – but the journey to get there will differ for everyone”

Ultimately, it’s about overcoming challenges and obstacles to build lasting relationships and creating an environment that facilitates growth, encourages honesty and promotes continuous learning.

What manager challenges have you faced?


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All Aboard the Customer Success Express

We’re packing our laptops, bean bags, blankets and portable WiFi back into the 1985 VW Westfalia Vanagon this Thursday, July 14th, for our third round of the “Customer Success Express!”

With our team working remote and spread across San Francisco, the mobile office is a chance to co-work, hang with customers, say “hi” to friends and throwback to the early 80’s when pop-up vans were plentiful!

In the area? Stop by Treasure Island  any time between 9:30AM and 5:00PM for a little grill action, a stunning view of the city and mingling over a hot (or cold!) beverage. We’ll be meeting on Avenue A, directly in front of Cosson Hall to expand the van canopy and catch some sun.

Not convinced? Check out our pop-up office adventures on Ocean Beach to see what we’re up to. Questions? Reach out to Elle Morgan at emorgan@small-improvements.com for more details!

Pop-Up Office