Online Tool Offers Honest, Anonymous Feedback

Rypple's Web site

Middle-managers and young workers say they value the kind of informal feedback Rypple provides. Courtesy of Rypple hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Rypple

As some employees are being laid off, others are sitting down for their annual employee performance review.

But the information employees get is often too little and too late to be of much value to workers trying to improve.

Daniel Debow thought there had to be a better way, so he created a company and a product called Rypple. It's an online tool that helps individuals get quick semi-anonymous feedback from people they trust.

"We wanted to create a channel for honest communication — crisp, direct communication — because we think that's what helps people improve," he says.

The product, which is being tested in beta form, works like this: After registering, you can type questions you want answered into a simple form. Then, you enter the e-mail addresses of the people you want feedback from.

Daniel Portillo, the senior director of personnel at Mozilla, recently asked his staff what it's like to work for him. "It was a lot of positive feedback, but the negative was really focused. And so I thought it was really helpful, because sometimes my communication isn't all that clear and that was pointed out," he says.

Portillo says he wasn't that surprised by the feedback," adding that Mozilla staffers take this process seriously: "It's impossible to develop if you're not getting constructive criticism. And everything that I've seen so far is people are direct, but not malicious."

Rypple says about 50 percent of those asked for feedback provide it.

They get a short, simple e-mail with a link to an online form. It takes just a minute or two to complete and then, Debow says, the feedback is sent only to the person who asked for it.

"It's not becoming part of your permanent performance record; it's not going to show up in your annual review," Debow says.

The responses are also anonymous. While you know who you asked for feedback, you don’t know who replied.

Talent Management consultant Josh Bersin says this privacy screen may encourage people to be more honest and direct in offering their feedback.

"Frankly, it's just difficult to have difficult conversations," he says, adding that in a lot of situations, feedback just doesn't occur.

Getting feedback on a continuous basis is something Generation Y employees seem to crave. Young workers in their 20s, who have been dubbed "the validation generation," are often portrayed as needy in the workplace. They are the ones who may well embrace an online feedback tool first.

A recent study by consulting giant Accenture found that a sizeable majority of middle managers also valued informal feedback — more than what they received from the traditional review process.

Yet more than one-third of the mangers said they did not get the informal advice they needed.

But things are changing in the workplace. David Smith, a managing director at Accenture, suggests that when it comes to feedback and managing employee performance, the ground is shifting: "The norms of the new generation are really driving into the workplace very rapidly."

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