In just two years Twitter has gone from having no obvious revenue and an unclear business model to a successful company that is getting the attention of Wall Street and Madison Avenue alike. eMarketer projects Twitter will beat Facebook in the critical fight for mobile advertising revenue in 2012, and other sources project Twitter to generate $1 billion in revenue in 2014.
With rapid growth, 1,300 employees and approximately 30 new hires a week, how does Twitter make sure they are building a strong company, values-based culture, and keeping employees inspired and engaged?
I recently spoke with Twitter Head of Organizational Effectiveness and Learning, Melissa Daimler, who shared key factors that continue to drive their high levels of engagement.
- CEO-led Management Sessions. Dick Costolo, who assumed the Twitter CEO role in October of 2010, believes that a big part of building a strong business starts with building strong managers. Just as Jack Welch personally taught courses at the famed GE University, Costolo leads a “Managingat Twitter” session at least once a quarter.Rejecting the use of slides, Costolo uses stories, leverages his own best practices and incorporates role-playing exercises to engage the managers in the class. The opportunity to spend this much time with the CEO to understand his management point-of-view sets the example of great management throughout the company. He is currently working on the next iteration of this class called “Leading at Twitter”.
- Measure it. Most companies conduct an employee satisfaction survey occasionally or at most once a year. Twitter executes their “pulse” survey every six months. Short and focused, the survey of approximately 15 questions measures current engagement levels and includes open ended questions to capture employees’ ideas for improvement. A monthly people dashboard also stays on top of attrition levels, learning impact, and organizational span of control.
- Focus on the Core. Traditional employee engagement efforts often fail because they are complicated and programmatic. Twitter values simplicity, which is why it developed just five core skills that every employee (from individual contributors to managers & leaders) is working toward. They aren’t just competencies, but, rather, skills that will be woven into how people are being evaluated and recognized. They are: Communication, Development, Direction, Change and Collaboration. Twitter wants people to learn every day. Establishing core skills to focus on helps employees with a context for doing so.
- Give authentic & fearless feedback. I previously wrote an article on Feedforward Coaching that explained that Growth is a top driver of engagement, thus enabling managers to provide future-oriented, ongoing performance-improving feedback is a critical skill—for everyone. Although there is currently a twice-a-year official performance review process at Twitter, the emphasis is increasingly on giving continuous feedback—up, down, and across. Quarterly learning labs are being launched to support employees in both giving & receiving feedback. It even starts in Costolo’s management session where he stresses the importance of defining what success looks like in each role, setting the direction, and just as critically, giving feedback in an open, authentic and fearless way.
Whether your own organization is a fast-growing startup or an established Fortune 500 company, Twitter’s focus on consistent approaches to feedback and learning is an approach that can be emulated to drive high levels of emotional commitment and engagement.
Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author, serial entrepreneur, and keynote speaker. His new book, Employee Engagement 2.0, teaches managers how to turn apathetic groups into emotionally committed teams.