In February, our CEO Mark wrote a blog post about what it’s really like to work at Cogent, which described why we’re taking the rather unusual step of publicly sharing our employee engagement survey results.
Since then we’ve run another survey so, in the continued spirit of transparency, I wanted to share some of the insights we’ve gained.
The macro context for this engagement survey was a society hopefully, but cautiously, emerging from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic here in Australia.
Our top line engagement results were really pleasing and humbling to see.
Firstly, 93% of the team participated. That’s a record high for us and a great sign of engagement in itself and a positive sign of inclusivity in the process. We also received plenty of comments, which are a critical part of understanding why a given factor scored the way it did.
Our overall engagement score was 92%. That’s also a record high for Cogent (up from 85% in August ‘20) and testament to the compassion and hard work from people all across our team. Pleasingly, that puts Cogent into the top 5% of Culture Amp’s New Tech global benchmark.
However, this blog post is intended to be even-handed and it’s not in Cogent’s nature to rest on our laurels. We know there are plenty of ways we can improve.
I’ll briefly highlight a factor which saw good progress, then I’ll get into the interesting stuff; areas in which we still need to improve! If you’d like to skip to our latest, overall scores, you can view them here.
Learning & Development
This area saw the biggest positive shift from the last survey. We’ve moved 17 percentage points up from our last survey and 11 points ahead of our chosen benchmark.
Cogent’s Learning and Development score compared to Culture Amps’s Top 10% of New Tech benchmark
Cogent hires people with a growth mindset, which creates a healthy tension to provide opportunity, challenge and structure to learn. When the economic impact of the pandemic caused us to temporarily pause discretionary spending – including L&D budgets – our score suffered. Rather unspectacularly, part of the score increase this time around is simply owed to the re-introduction of that benefit.
Nothing is ever quite that simple, though. The comments confirm the improvement is also attributable to a deliberate organisational priority of growing our people.
One interesting thing we’ve done is more transparently sharing – with permission – the development goals of our people not just with their peers but with our customers. That’s counterintuitive for most services companies in a sales context (we’re meant to be the experts, right?), but is a very on-brand thing for Cogent to do. By being open about a team’s relative strengths and growth areas, we deepen the trust we have with our customers and ensure our sales conversations remain authentic and deeply rooted in our commitment to transparency. It’s clear that we can achieve growth for Cogent’s people, the customer’s people and their products at the same time.
So what can we do better?
Given it’s continued prominence in most of our lives, something we were really keen to explore was how remote working is affecting our team’s experience. Culture Amp allows us to ask people a custom question – like how a respondent would classify their current mix of remote and in-person work – and then use that to slice the results. Pretty cool.
Due to lockdowns, no-one at Cogent works from the office on a full-time basis. Here’s Cogent’s split at the time of the survey:
We found that team members who describe their current balance as “mostly remote” are more engaged than those who described themselves as “fully remote”. It’s worth noting that even the less engaged group (“fully remote”) have an engagement 83% overall, which is high by most standards but still presents an opportunity for focus.
As an organisation that has historically placed value in working (literally) side-by-side with each other and our customers, we naturally have some evolving to do. Despite the uncertainty and speculation about the future of work, this feels like a safe investment in effort for Cogent. After all, when we were working co-located with our customers, we were already a somewhat distributed team!
So what’s driving the engagement difference? Studying the results more closely, we believe one big area for continued focus is access to information and how we communicate with each other.
Our scores for “Action” provide some clues…
Cogent is pretty good at reflecting and acting on our engagement surveys but we can always improve how we communicate what we’re doing in response to feedback and why. Evidence suggests that we need to try even harder now that we’re fully remote.
Cogent’s score for “Action” decreased, compared to our last survey
You’ll notice the main thing driving our lower score is the “neutral” 18% of respondents who neither agree nor disagree. Only 1% of respondents were actually negative in their response. We’ve learned over the years that a large proportion of neutral responses is reflective of a communication issue. People just don’t know.
Here’s a heatmap comparing “mostly remote” team members (first column) to “fully remote” team members (second column). An increase in neutral (“neither agree nor disagree”) responses is largely what creates the discrepancy in score.
Increased neutral responses from fully remote Cogent team members results in lower scores than their partly remote colleague
This feels like a solvable problem, but the proof will be evident when we publish the results of our next survey!
Of course, there are lots of other areas where we can improve. But I’ve agreed to a word limit so we’ll leave it there, for now!
Thanks for reading. Hopefully this brief write-up has given you some insight into our challenges and perhaps even given you some ideas. I’m looking forward to sharing our results with you again soon.
Finally, a big thanks to Culture Amp for building a great product and for also being supportive of us taking this step.
Like the sound of joining the team? We’re hiring.