Feb 21, 2023 6 MIN

How we are able to sustain high employee engagement at OpenBB

This blogpost shows the measures we are taking to ensure we have high employee engagement at OpenBB through a periodic feedback survey

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When we started OpenBB, I was absolutely obsessed about our product. All my focus and time was dedicated to building our suite of products (OpenBB Platform or OpenBB Bot), or talking about these with our users. I care deeply about the OpenBB team, but I expected everyone to be as motivated as me, 24/7.

But things just don’t work that way. Although we always have a fun quarterly event online, that isn’t enough. Everyone knows that I’m a big fan of remote work, but one clear down side of it is the lack of contact and face to face conversations which makes employee engagement more volatile. I say this, because I believe that when your team is together in the same space, it's easier to thrive off eachothers excitement and motivation.

Soon enough, I realized that “alone you can go faster, but with a team you can go far”. This is when I started putting time into understanding what we could be doing better to improve our work culture.

Some things that we have now put into place include:

  • We updated the company values as a team, based on what we currently had that they were proud of and where they would like us to be in the future. In a startup, where the pace is incredibly fast and the team is constantly changing, I strongly believe that the values change over time too.

  • We had an OpenBB rap made by a freestyler for our OpenBB Christmas event:

  • We started pushing for more transparency. We were already very transparent internally, but now we started to push this value externally too. Everyone in the company has skin in the game, this allows the team to feel as accountable for the metrics as I do. I wrote more about this in this blogpost: From open source to open startup, and I am currently working on the OpenBB Handbook too.

  • I started having office hours, where I can spend the time with the team chatting about anything (product, strategy, engineering, storytelling, even fundraising). The team knows that I’m usually available, but having that 1 hour blocked gives them the confidence to know that that time booked in the day.

However, there was something critical missing. I will explain what it is by using what I learned at university (that way I can say that my MSc in Control Systems was indeed useful for OpenBB 🙃).

What we had built is an open loop control system, and it looks something like this:

Open-loop at OpenBB

The problem? open loop systems can be inaccurate and unreliable. More importantly, because there is no feedback mechanism to correct inputs as the controller (leadership) never gets the information that comes out of the system (team engagement).

The key word here is feedback. An office hour session is great, but it’s a poor “sensor device”. The reason being that you are opening the door for the team to communicate with you, but that data isn’t significant to extrapolate through the whole team.

We needed feedback. We needed to have a closed-loop system instead of an open one. By that I mean:

Close-loop at OpenBB

This allows us to constantly monitor our team happiness, and be able to react when the feedback doesn't match our desired culture.

But what is this feedback? What do we want to track? We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, so we looked up to how the best companies do it. In particular, we studied “The Psychology of Employee Engagement” e-book from Workday written by Phillip Chambers.

This allowed us to come up with the following survey, where the team would reply anonymously to each of the questions with a rating from 1 to 10 where 1 corresponds to "strongly disagree" and 10 corresponds to "strongly agree".

  • Accomplishment: I feel a regular sense of accomplishment

  • Autonomy: I feel that I am given autonomy in the way I complete my tasks

  • Meetings: I feel that I have a good amount of meetings every week. (this question was originally about environment, but due to our remote nature we felt that the amount of meetings was something more important to measure)

  • Freedom of Opinions: I feel that I have a voice in the company and my opinion matters

  • Goal Setting: I feel that both my goals and expectations are set clearly

  • Growth: I feel that I have opportunities to grow professionally

  • Management Support: I feel that my manager cares for me and empowers me

  • Meaningful Work: I feel that my work matters

  • Organizational Fit: I feel like the company values align with mine and we share the same goal

  • Peer relationships: I feel connected with my colleagues and that I can be myself with them

  • Recognition: I feel like I get recognized for my contributions

  • Reward: I feel like I am rewarded fairly for my work

  • Strategy: I feel like the company strategy is being communicated effectively

  • Workload: I feel like I can manage my workload efficiently

Now you may be wondering how we made this survey completely automated, the workflow is actually very straightforward and we were able to automate it. Here is what it looks like: Airtable + Slack ✅

Employee engagement survey at OpenBB

Even though our salaries don’t compete with the MAMAAs of this world, we believe that: our mission, our innovative products and unique culture are what makes us OpenBB. And why we can retain our talent.

You can find our employee engagement index at: openbb.co/open

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