Strengthening Employee Feedback in Nous Group’s Flat Organizational Structure with Lattice
Nous Group is an international management consultancy with over 400 people working across Australia, the UK, and Canada. Nous Group’s primary practice areas involve public policy, organizational performance and leadership, and business and digital strategy development. With more than 20 years of operating history, Nous Group is consistently recognized as one of Australia’s Great Places to Work.
The client comes first at Nous Group. But for Tanya Day, Nous Group’s Learning & Performance Manager, building programs to support the firm’s employees ensures the company can achieve that business goal. She notes that at Nous, “we aim to build on the great culture Nous has through excellent people practices. We’re improving our people systems so we have better access to data, accelerate performance, and evolve our performance feedback ecosystem.” Intentionally designed as a flat organization with minimal hierarchy, Nous is widely praised for the autonomy and empowerment its employees enjoy.
“Our people are spirited, collaborative, service-minded, and focused on performance,” says Tanya. “It’s a fast-paced and intense environment, but one where the company’s rewards are shared with employees.”
But like many organizations with a streamlined organizational structure, Nous has faced some human resource challenges. “We’re really good at responding and adapting to business needs,” says Tanya, “but we knew we needed to improve our data insight capabilities and decision-making processes.” The company was grappling with fragmented and outdated feedback systems, with feedback stored in multiple places, largely in simple text documents. Nous tried to rectify this by building a partially automated system to collect employee feedback, but it was still difficult for employees to access, resulting in frustration. Meanwhile, the company was still growing rapidly, more than doubling in size in the four years since Tanya was hired.
Nous Group embarked on a broader strategy to evolve its people systems and ensure that HR processes would scale with the business. “Ultimately,” she notes, “we wanted to be less reliant on a twice-a-year feedback cycle and move to an integrated system that supported real-time and continuous feedback.”
A Solution for a Unique Structure
“We needed a system that didn’t work in a purely hierarchical way,” says Tanya. “We’re not big on hierarchy at Nous and many of the performance systems on the market are built around a traditional management structure.” And she isn’t exaggerating. Nous doesn’t have “managers” in the traditional sense. Instead, the team’s “performance coaches” work with employees to promote employee growth.
As such, Tanya says that in the market for people management tools it was important to find one that met her specific expectations and criteria. “We really wanted flexibility and a product that would evolve along a roadmap and could grow with us,” she says. When she found Lattice, one surprising factor that really stood out to her was the care and attention the Lattice sales team provided in the evaluation process. “[Our Account Executive] really took the time to understand and learn our business so he knew what we were trying to do. It was just a joyful process to work with him.”
And in addition to the features enabled by Lattice, Tanya also considered another source for helpful information: Glassdoor. “I know it's a bit of an unusual thing to do,” she says, “but the Lattice team is obviously really happy working at Lattice. It’s clear they're a happy employee group and go above and beyond to serve their clients, so I'm feeling really confident about our selection with Lattice.”
After evaluating many systems, Tanya narrowed the decision to Lattice and a close competitor. To help make the final decision, she organized an internal user group to dive into the products and provide detailed user feedback.
When it came to the decision, Tanya was confident that Lattice was the solution that would help Nous Group succeed. As she puts it, “Lattice’s excellent interface, external product reviews, great company culture, and customer service during the process won us over.”
Phased Implementation of Lattice
Nous Group took a gradual approach to rolling out the features of Lattice, introducing them progressively over a period of 12 months – with more features to come down the line.
The first order of business was to migrate Nous’s biannual feedback process to Lattice which introduced most of the company to the platform. “We released short videos at each step,” says Tanya, dropping the instructional videos on a just-in-time basis so as not to overload team members with a mountain of material all at once. “The strategy worked well because Lattice is so intuitive,” she says, “so people only needed to access video help to become familiar with the process. To build excitement about Lattice, we also used TV screens in the office, intranet banners, blog posts, and direct emails, but the product really did the talking for us.”
In a matter of months, Nous had rolled out an array of Lattice’s features with high employee adoption. “We’re leveraging nearly every part of Lattice now,” says Tanya, “after gradually rolling out new features when both my team and the business were ready.” That includes bi-annual reviews, automated check-ins for new employees, scheduled to take place after one, three, and five months on the job, and the Praise Wall.
To help make each of these rollouts successful, Tanya knew that she could rely on her Customer Success Manager for best practices, guidance, and thought partnership. "The benefit of having a Customer Success Manager is that they can say, 'this has worked really well with this client, and how about you try it this way, or these are the sort of things you should watch out for'. And [our CSM] has been so great. He even popped in to visit us when he was in Melbourne recently, and it was amazing to see him in person!"
Tanya also conducted benchmark surveys every six months to measure and gather employee feedback on improvements she and her team were making, including the Lattice rollout. "In mid-2018," she recalls, "Nousers rated the old technology to support feedback at 3.4/5 stars. By the end of 2019 after we implemented Lattice, this rating had jumped to 4.4/5 – a 22% increase. Over the same period, ratings on the format and quality of feedback also jumped 10% from 3.5/4 to 4/5 stars. Overall, we've received many great qualitative comments on the improved quality of feedback." One Nouser commented, "I found the Lattice survey made me more thoughtful of my responses - because it was the only way to provide feedback, and because feedback would be given word for word to the Nouser, I really thought about what I was writing and how I could add value."
The most recent feature to go live was Lattice Engagement, and Tanya says the she has been particularly impressed with the survey insights and user interface. “We got an 80 percent response rate,” she says, “which is impressive given that it was the first time we’d used the survey functionality.” The Nous People Team also took advantage of ideas from Lattice’s Crisis Response Survey template to incorporate into the questions. It proved to be immensely valuable to ensure employees were being supported. “Our HR Business Partners and CPO all said, wow, this data is so much better than what we've had access to before.” Having an engagement survey product that not only surfaces insights but that employees are happy to use means more time her team can spend developing strategies and taking action.
Achieving a Winning Culture
Looking back at how things have changed since implementing the system, Tanya says the automation tools in Lattice have been one of the biggest game changers for the company. “We were having trouble keeping track of the onboarding check-ins due to our company growth, and some of those check-ins were missed or delayed,” she says. “Not anymore.”
Being able to collect and find employee feedback over time in one place was another area where the impact of Lattice was felt immediately. Nous Group is proud of its strong culture of giving and receiving feedback regularly encouraged by their performance coaches. But before Lattice, Nousers had no way to easily index and search for prior notes and feedback. Now, any team member’s feedback can be unearthed with a few keystrokes. “Our performance coaches love the one-stop-shop nature of Lattice,” says Tanya.
Tanya has even seen an improvement in the feedback content shared between individuals thanks to the ability to customize the anonymity in reviews. “The quality of feedback is better because there's less groupthink and potential for bias. Everyone's submitting their feedback individually and then it gets collated, so you can’t be influenced by other people's perspectives on performance."
At the same time, Nous embarked on efforts to revamp non-system processes and communication to improve employee perceptions of bias, fairness and transparency. Tanya found that Lattice made a measurable impact. "Lattice’s identifiable and anonymous feedback question features contributed to important gains in perceptions of bias (improved by 24%), fairness (improved by 15%), and transparency (improved by 12%)," she says. With Lattice, Nous prioritizes non-anonymous feedback to increases transparency and encourage employees to give feedback directly. But in delicate cases, the ability to set anonymity and private questions help to surface sensitive feedback and encourage candor, especially upwards to those in more senior roles.
Lattice is proving itself not just to Tanya but to leadership as well. “Our Managing Director says he is delighted with how the product has performed,” says Tanya. “By his own admission, he was very skeptical about moving from face to face to online surveys for feedback. Now, he’s a huge supporter.”
With automated reviews, continuous feedback, Praise Wall, 1:1s, and now engagement surveys, the team has implemented nearly the entire Lattice platform at Nous Group with widespread employee adoption. Now, the People Team can make room for new programs and enhance the kind of culture that is best for Nousers. With Lattice, she says “it’s just made our life so much easier. And it’s nice to be part of something that's so successful. Most system implementations are fraught and can go poorly. You can make a poor decision and then have to regroup. We haven't had any of that. It's really been kind of a dream run.”
- Lattice stood out as the only solution Nous Group evaluated that was an ideal fit for its unique, flat organizational structure
- Lattice allowed Nous Group to consolidate employee feedback in a centralized, easily navigable system
- Nous Group is now able to automate new employee check-ins, ensuring new hires are supported throughout their onboarding process and setting a positive tone for their future growth
- Lattice’s own company culture and excellent sales and customer support were key elements that convinced Nous Group to select Lattice