Small Improvements is a performance management tool supporting 750+ companies to run their feedback culture and help their employees grow. Notable customers include Zapier, Duolingo, Soundcloud, GetYourGuide, and Strava.
A feature offering employee-driven feedback requests had existed in the tool since 2016. Built as a hackathon project by developers, it remained virtually untouched for two-plus years after its release. There had been a few initiatives from former product managers and designers to update or improve it, but none got off the ground.
I initiated this project just 2 months after joining Small Improvements. My first observation was that usage was low even though customers regularly wrote in to say they would like to establish an employee-led feedback process in their company. My goal was therefore to review the current state of the feature, understand the issues that were limiting its adoption, and uncover unknown needs that could lead to increased usage.
I also saw an opportunity to impact some UX and UI issues around the feature:
- the navigation pattern to find previously sent or received feedback was difficult to use
- the defaults didn't reflect the settings most people used as shown by usage data
- the feature looked and felt rough around the edges, lacking design polish
I started with a thorough evaluation of the main feature flows. Through this, major usability issues could already be identified, such as ones related to navigating through previous feedback content and identifying feedback types (self-initiated or company-mandated).
The next step was to review usage data from analytics – which were very limited at the time, mostly reporting on backend requests – looking for trends, but also for anomalies such as 1-person 360° Feedback rounds, something which could have been achieved with the Feedback Request Feature, yet many companies still did.
FinallIy, I conducted interviews with several HR Administrators and Team Leads from companies that either used Feedback Requests heavily or had never used it, to better understand how they understood and used this feature.
The interviews led to several key insights:
- an employee-led feedback process created as much or more work for HR as a company-dicated one. This is because most employees will not ask for feedback proactively and must be repeatedly reminded to request or write feedback.
- the existing reporting about Feedback Requests was limited, making HR feel blind to what happenned in their company.
- team leads wished to have the ability to request feedback about their team members. This would give them the autonomy to decide when to run feedback rounds for their team, e.g. at the end of a project.
- the manager approach was backed up by HR, who saw decentralization as a chance to only deal with company-wide topics
These insights stood in strong contrast to the previous view held by stakeholders at Small Improvements, who believed strongly that each individual should be responsible for requesting their own feedback.
Development and Release
I worked with one of Small Improvements' agile development teams made up of 4 full-stack developers along with the CTO, to continuously build and iterate on this project. From our design and plans, we knew this project would impact different areas of the application:
- navigation for Individual Feedback and 360° Feedback
- view screen for Individal Feedback and 360° Feedback
- the Individual Feedback Request creation wizard
We planned a released in multiple parts, to allow customers to learn and adapt to each piece before the next one was released. This reduces pressure and stress and is especially important in a B2B context where users value efficiency above most other things.
The first two parts were released without any major issues, with HR Admins and end-users adopting the new navigation patterns naturally. For the last and most critical release – the new request creation flow – while the changes were received positively by the majority customers, there was also strong pushback from select HR Admins who wanted to keep their processes entirely centralized. These were mitigated by allowing them to opt-out or delay the new manager features.
The feature was completed in August 2019, delivering an improved information architecture, clearer navigation flows, and more usable UIs for finding, reading and requesting feedback. The positive impact of these changes was shown by improved KPIs:
- 30-40% year-over-year usage increase in Feedback Requests
- 20% increase in completion (answered requests)
- the new manager-led feedback requests account for 25% of total requests
- support tickets related to finding old feedback reduced down to 0