Let employees speak their mind with 15Five

The cloud application gathers weekly information about morale and company progress in less than 15 minutes.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor
Review Screen
Image: Screenshot by Heather Clancy

Most small businesses may not have formal human resources programs, but the annual review process is usually a given, even as just a foundation for managing raises. But how much time does your company's managers spend gathering feedback and status reports from the staff?

This sort of thing usually gets overlooked unless there's some sort of crisis or opportunity to handle, but San Francisco-based startup 15Five is seeking to change that mindset.

Its cloud-hosted application is pretty simple. The idea is that each week, each employee writes a progress report that takes no more than 15 minutes of their time to fill out — and no more than five minutes of their manager's time to read.

That's not actually 15Five's idea, though: the credit for that feedback format goes to Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, who used it to gather feedback within his iconic outdoor products company.

But 15Five's software provides an automated means of collecting that information using a series of questions: it offers four basic starter ones that help companies surface pertinent feedback, regardless of company size or organization, said David Hassell, founder and CEO.

"It covers things including successes, challenges, and how they are feeling," Hassell said. "Those reports become conversation starters."

From there, companies can add their own questions or even create different sets of them for different departments.

The idea is not only that both employees and managers will stay more engaged with each other — feedback becomes two-way in nature — but that opportunities or potential problems can be addressed earlier on. "It helps keep you more plugged in every week," Hassell said.

15Five is priced at $49 per month for up to 10 employees; additional seats are $5 per employee per month. The company raised $1 million in seed funding in January from the likes of Richmond Global, 500 Startups, Yammer Founder David Sacks, Ustream founder John Hamm, and a number of other angel investors.

Hassell does caution that 15Five's application might not work for the culture of every company, especially in businesses or industries where people like holding things close to the vest.

"Just putting this tool in place doesn't mean it would automatically shift the dialog," he said. "But it works well for companies that have a great culture of open and transparent communication."

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