A journey to evolve the employee voice process

At Waggl, we are proud to partner with American Public Media Group (APMG). Their commitment to informing the public and providing excellent programming, as well as our shared common value of inclusion has provided us with a fantastic working relationship.

Like so many professionals that help support the people inside their organization, Pamela Belknap, Learning and Development Director at APMG, wanted to be extremely thoughtful about the manner within which the organization switched from a labor-intensive annual engagement survey process to a more transparent and continuous feedback model. As she explained, “There were some concerns with us moving away from a standard survey. We wanted to ensure we would still know if people are engaged, using this new tool.”

The strategy employed was an incremental approach that bridges the gap between validating the genuine value of engagement surveys and evolving the employee voice model for the future. APMG began pulsing the organization on an almost quarterly basis, asking the same six questions plus one unique open-ended question per pulse.

“We use the same metric questions for each pulse to allow us to measure and track how each of our departments and divisions is performing over time. Seeing our results helps the managers’ gauge progress inside our organization as we face the challenges of a rapidly-changing media industry.”

APMG has a dispersed workforce and is the second largest producer and distributor of public radio programming (second only to National Public Radio, or NPR). It is also the largest owner/operator of public radio stations in the United States.

Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), under the umbrella of APMG, has more than 580 employees throughout Minnesota and various states. Marketplace programming, with 90 employees, is produced in downtown Los Angeles and New York City with bureaus in LA, NYC, Washington DC, and Shanghai, China. There is also a news station in Pasadena called Southern California Public Radio (SCPR) that employs more than 190 staff. SCPR operates independently with its own board, and its own unique company culture.

“We constantly have the struggle of how consistent we want to be across the organization. We do our engagement surveys and our pulses across the organization, but the follow-up happens at a local level. To support the local culture at the Pasadena location, for example, we’ve asked Bill Davis, the president of SCPR, to drive communication about the pulse dates and lead follow-up on the results there.”

A follow-up pulse at SCPR solicited employee solutions to communication concerns. Because the question was open-ended, Pamela knew that respondents would answer with whatever was on their minds: “What is the best way for your manager to communicate important SCPR decisions to you?”

“We got some very common-sense suggestions from the employees — we want communication that’s in person, we want team meetings, we want individual communication, we want email communication. We want it in many different ways, and through many different means. A theme that emerged was ‘we want more face-to-face communication’, and they want to be communicated with earlier instead of feeling like decisions are dropped on them.”

“The feedback from the follow-up pulse was taken very seriously. I happened to be out in California during the process, which allowed me to get the results on Wednesday and talk about them with leaders on Friday.”

“That is one of the things that we find most useful about Waggl — the instant feedback. We don’t have to filter the data and create reports to share it with folks. That’s also the positive feedback that we hear most often from managers; it’s the reason why they like using Waggl as well. We can have conversations about the results based on current information.”

American Public Media Group has been using questions based on the Likert Scale to measure consistent data over time as a means of incrementally replacing their annual survey.

1: I feel personally engaged with my job.
2: I feel my unique skills, perspectives, and experiences are valued by my colleagues. (raised because of our focus on inclusion)
3: I’m provided the support necessary to contribute my full potential at work.
4: My immediate manager cares about ideas, concerns, and well-being.
5: My manager supports my personal growth and career development.
6: I feel well informed about important organizational decisions.

In addition to the follow-up SCPR pulse, American Public Media Group has had high participation rates on a number of pulse topics including on-boarding discussions, a Green Team group survey (an initiative to drive environmental awareness throughout the organization), and prioritization of leadership competencies. They hope to use more frequent pulsing to distill real-time feedback within APMG on a regular basis.

Interested in how you might maintain a more self-sustaining and resilient organization? Contact us today to see how you can drive cultural transformation in your workforce.

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