When I first heard about TINYhr, a Seattle startup that promises to make it easier for employers to gauge the morale of their workforces, for some reason I focused on one of its clients - the Maryknoll Sisters order of Catholic nuns.
I tried to picture the human resources issues that could arise in a convent, and all I could come up with was the nuns from "The Sound of Music" singing "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?"
After all, shouldn't they all be happy since they answer to, shall we say, a higher authority?
"Exactly," laughed David Niu, TINYhr CEO. "That's what surprised us. If I'm working at a non-proft, there's a higher calling and I get some self-actualization, self-motivation. But I think after a while that rubs off." Soon, he said, the sisters started asking themselves the same questions other workers ask themselves: "Am I getting recognition? Do I feel positive? Am I feeling empowered?"
Niu's idea to come up with a software tool that helps narrow the gap between employers and employees hit him during his "careercation" (career vacation) from BuddyTV, the online television fan community he co-founded in 2005. He and his young family traveled for six months, and during that time he would interview other entrepreneurs, asking them about the top management pain point they had that they would gladly pay to solve. "One of the most consistent themes that was really haunting for these business owners is when a key employee says, 'here's my two weeks' notice' out of the blue, and it's like, whoa, why didn't I see that coming?"
Like Maria's mother superior in "The Sound of Music," Niu asked himself how he could solve the problem of companies of all sizes - startups and bigger, established firms - retain workers and keep them happy. He came up with TINYPulse.
Intead of a big, annual employee survey that leaves managers with tons of data to sift through at one time, TINYPulse enables smaller, simpler, three-question surveys throughout the year that guarantee employee anonymity and encourage sharing of feedback. The three questions: how happy are you at work, what "cheers for peers" do you have for co-workers, and what suggestions would you make to improve the work situation? The website is mobile-friendly, so the surveys can be done during commutes or at home.
"Management is able to go in and see anonymous data stream in," Niu said, and since it's just three questions, "they're not paralyzed by having too much data come in."
That simplicity has attracted more than 300 clients worldwide, ranging in size from non-profits like the Maryknoll Sisters to the EMP Museum in Seattle to Microsoft.
But those who think they could use TINYhr's product are asked to be honest with themselves. "Unless you're a leader committed to change, don't use it. Unless you're going to share back the feedback, don't use it, and don't use it unless you're going to actually do something with it."