- Is there a spellchecker, e.g. for performance reviews?
No, there is no spell-checker. All modern browsers have built-in spell checkers these days, so Small Improvements does not offer a built-in spell-checker. There are also plugins for older browsers like Internet Explorer 7 and 8 which add this functionality. You can check if your browser has a spell-checker by typing a misspelled word into a text field--you'll see if a red line highlights the error. If no error is highlighted, please check with your administrator to find a solution for your browser.
- What happens when an employee leaves the company?
You will need to disable the employee's account so he cannot log in anymore, but we advise against deleting the account altogether. There are three main reasons not to delete: Disabled users don't count towards your licenses anyway, so you can have as many as you like. You can still view all their data any time. And if you ever decide to rehire them, you can re-enable them with one click and they can pick up where they left off. See the admin manual to see how disabling an account works.
- What happens when a manager leaves the company, or if a person gets a new manager?
Performance reviews, 360 degree feedback and objectives are employee-centric, but are also automatically visible to the current manager. When an employee gets a new manager, the new manager can access those documents automatically to see what previous managers had to say about the employee. The previous manager can still access all reviews she signed previously, even when she's not the current manager anymore. Learn more about the details on the user management documentation.
In rare cases, you may want to prevent this from happening, e.g. when a person from within a team gets promoted to lead that team. In this kind of delicate situation we'd recommend printing (or exporting to PDF) the performance reviews the new manager shouldn't be able to see and keeping these on file elsewhere. Then you'll need to delete these from within Small Improvements to keep them hidden from the new manager.
Continuous feedback is a little different: these messages belong to their author, and anything that was strictly personal remains strictly personal. If a manager has been keeping personal notes that she didn't want to share or sharing feedback or meeting minutes with select people only, then this data is not automatically transferred to anyone else. Just because something is work related doesn't mean it needs to be accessible to a random successor. If an employee wants his new manager to see continuous feedback he shared with his previous manager, he'll need to manually share it with his new manager.
If it's really urgent to access data of an employee that just left, you could of course reset that person's password and then log in as them. But that's about as ethical as spying on an employee's work emails, so we'd only recommend this for extremely important cases.
- Does Small Improvements integrate with ADP?
No, we don't. ADP does not have a web based API and is not interested in working with smaller vendors, which makes it impossible for us to integrate with them. From what we hear major clients of ADP can get access to file-based APIs, but the effort to integrate easily exceeds $50k.
We do have plans to integrate with smaller and nimbler payment services, but due to the fragmented marketplace this is not on our short- to mid-term roadmap either.
- Can I run Small Improvements on my own servers?
This is not possible. Small Improvements runs only on Google App Engine, and we will (for now) not release the source code. Even if we did, it would still only work on Google App Engine. We might make exceptions under very, very, very rare conditions, but unless you're willing to pay exceptional amounts of cash the answer is no :)
- Does Small Improvements support other languages than English?
We do not support other languages in the user interface for now. However, our design and the wording is built for simplicity and with an international audience in mind. We use a lot of icons which help with navigation and of course you can customize the email templates, review questions and write feedback in any language. Also you can just create cycles for your team in Beijing in Mandarin, in Paris in French or Rio in Portuguese. Our system supports all international character sets, and many of our clients have offshore teams and it works fine with them. If in doubt, we'd suggest you conduct a limited (free!) trial with a couple of people from an international office.
- What kind of reporting does Small Improvements offer?
There are two aspects to reporting: reporting on status, and reporting on results. Small Improvements excels at reporting the status of your performance reviews, your 360s, and managing your objectives. As an administrator, you will always know what's happening, who's slacking, and who to nudge into action. If you're using the 2D graph to chart perceived results and behavior in performance assessments, then you can use the combined graph for your entire organization as a visual tool to compare teams or pick out discrepancies between self-assessments and manager assessments. You can also always find out what your compliance/completeness rates are by selecting "All performance reviews" from the Admin drop-down menu.
You can also export the ratings that we track to Excel for further processing (there are "export"-buttons at the end of the overview admins screens. We don't (yet) report on rating distributions or ratings over time. We will be adding more ratings reports in time, but it's not our core focus. Our product is at its core about helping employees improve. The ability to provide ratings is just a necessary evil. Some of our clients even disable all ratings and focus only on the content of reviews.
- What happens when a person moves to another team, or when a manager is replaced by someone else. Who can see whose reviews?
In brief, a new manager can always instantly see every performance review (even historic ones) of all people reporting to her either directly or indirectly. In addition, a manager can always see reviews she signed for previous team members (so no matter if the manager leaves the team, or the team member, the review is still accessible to the "old manager". Unless this manager leaves the company entirely of course) Learn more about the details on the user management documentation.
- We have many very different roles on our organization. Can we have different performance review templates for different groups?
Yes. Just set up two or more parallel performance review cycles for the same time period. For example, you could create one review cycle for C-level executives, and one review cycle for the rest of the employees. Then you'd create different forms in the two different review cycles, so the C-level executives answer different questions than other employees. Learn more in our video tutorials.
- Could we have one extra question for the performance review for a certain department?
A review cycle (and the actual questionnaire) is always the same for all people participating in it. If it's important to you to ask different kinds of questions of different departments, even if it's just one extra question for a particular department, then we'd suggest creating two independent review cycles that cover the same time frame but have different sets of questions. Then you assign people or departments to a particular review cycle depending on which set of questions they should receive.
There is in fact a quite convenient way of adding all people who report (either directly or indirectly) to one manager. To add the entire marketing department to a customized review cycle, you simply add the VP of marketing to the form under "Bulk create reviews for a manager's direct and indirect reports." This will create reviews for the entire marketing department in one step. Learn more in our video tutorials.
But you certainly don't need to create separate review cycles for just a single question that's not really crucial. You could instead add a question like "What do you think about our new brochures? Only fill out if you're in marketing please".
- Can we do "anniversary-based" reviews? We'd like to conduct 90-days probation period reviews for new hires or review each person exactly one year after they were hired.
Unfortunately we don't support anniversary based reviews out-of-the-box. Instead, the timelines for reviews are defined by each review cycle. While it's possible to create a separate cycle for each person being reviewed, it's not ideal. We'd suggest a workaround of creating between 4 (one per quarter) and 12 (one per month) review cycles per year, and adding new hires from a given time period to that period's respective cycle. The fewer cycles you can use, the easier it will be to administrate. You may need to be liberal with timeframes, and let people know when exactly you need results. (You will need to tell an employee if you need his feedback before the end of his review cycle; this cannot be specified for individual employees via Small Improvements).
- Can more than one manager (or peer) contribute to a performance review?
In Small Improvements the current direct manager is ultimately responsible for the performance review. The direct manager has the ability to share the review and to sign it. Indirect managers can always contribute as well. You can appoint one secondary reviewer for a person as well provided the feature is enabled. The secondary reviewer can access the performance review and provide insight directly into the same form. However, the secondary reviewer is not allowed to share/hide the review, nor sign it. It's also not currently possible to allow more than one additional person to contribute to a performance review (but it's on our longer term roadmap to enable this). If this is necessary, the main manager should collect additional feedback by email, and incorporate it himself. Learn more about secondary reviewers in the administration manual.
If you want to collect feedback from several people for several people, then our 360 degree reviews are the way to go. In a 360 review, a person can pick any number of reviewers (or HR or their manager can do it for them). These reviewers all provide their feedback, which is then delivered either to the recipient directly or goes via his manager. 360s don't even have to be anonymous--you can for instance customize your 360s to keep feedback hidden from everyone but the reviewee's manager. In this case an individual reviewer would only see what he wrote himself, but his review would also be visible to the manager of the person he wrote about. This manager would also be able to see who the feedback was from and take it into account during the more traditional performance review. Small Improvements is very flexible, and we're happy to provide guidance.
- Can we track what the secondary reviewer wrote, nudge them into action, or have them sign a review on behalf of the actual manager?
The secondary reviewer has just a helper role at this point, so what a secondary reviewer does can not be tracked, nor can they be nudged, nor can you distinguish their feedback from that of the main reviewer. It would be the official manager's job to collect feedback from the secondary reviewer, and the systems helps with it, but only to a certain degree. It's not perfect, we know, but it's a rarely used feature and we think it's "good enough" for the time being. We may be improving it over time, but probably not within the next couple of months.
- How does the dot in the 2D results/behavior graph work? My staff don't seem to get it.
The 2D dot is a subjective tool, but it may be helpful to think of it this way: If the dot is in the middle, then that means the person has done a good job based on what his role and seniority would indicate. If a person did better than expected, the dot belongs more towards the top right corner, and if the person didn't quite achieve what could have been expected of him, then it should be more towards the bottom left corner.
If your staff still feel unsure about it, you can of course disable the results/behavior graph in the settings for the performance review.
- What questions do you recommend for the performance review questionnaire? What do other companies do? Do you have a library of typical questions?
We don't look into what our clients are doing within the system, and we don't provide a library either. We believe that every company is slightly different, so you will have to come up with your own questions. We believe in simplicity--we think that it's best to find questions that make sense for everyone. "What did the reviewed person do well?" is a good example of this: It is just as relevant for the CEO as for the new marketing intern. Obviously the president of the company has different expectations of the CEO than a marketing manager has of the new intern. The more specific you make the questions, the higher the risk that they won't apply to certain sets of reviewees.
From what we have seen and heard from our clients, some use the basic short questions, others write lots of specific guidelines. We think the two default questions are really sufficient for a first round of reviews, and then you can fine-tune the questions in your next review cycle based on feedback. If the managers and employees feel that the questions were too broad, you can start adding some hints. (For example: "What did the reviewed person do well? Consider our core company values 'trust, customer focus, and efficiency.'")
For the sake of transparency and feedback, it makes sense to discuss the question set with your managers and get input from the people who are being reviewed before you start a review process. There's nothing wrong with putting up a blogpost on your intranet to share 4 or 5 questions you're considering and ask for suggestions to improve them before the performance review starts.
- Does Small Improvements have "competency support", e.g. a library of typical competencies to pick from, during reviews or for objectives?
No, we don't. We believe that every employee deserves an individual review, and that it's the manager's job to find the strengths and weaknesses of each employee. The manager and the employee (and possibly interested third parties) should assess the employee's skills, and devise a plan to help them improve. The plan should be based on achievable and actionable objectives that are in sync with what the company needs from the employee and the career path the employee envisions. This alone should be sufficient, and we don't think you'll need a competency library to achieve it!
What's more, every person is different, and the job descriptions and tasks at hand change incredibly rapidly these days. We believe it would take a lot of fruitless labor to assemble a competency library large enough to encompass the needs of each and every company and job out there. Even if it were feasible for us to create such an enormous library, the sheer time spent by the manager browsing such a library and tweaking it to his specific needs would make the process cumbersome or outright painful. We believe it's easier to focus on writing good objectives instead. In brief, we don't have such a feature, and we don't plan to implement one either.
- How can I translate performance review results into compensation and pay increases? Can we automate this?
In our opinion, the act of converting appraisal data into pay rises cannot be automated. You have to take into account many factors, for example, seniority of staff, current pay status, trend, and of course other staff increases. You might even have special agreements dependant on hiring contracts, and so on...
One way to quantify performance review results is to use a rule of thumb, for example, "anyone who is rated 3 out of 5 should on average get a raise of 2% to cover inflation, anyone who is rated 4 out of 5 should get 5% pay increase, and staff with 5 out of 5 get a 8% pay increase". However, we've seen (and heard) this model fail frequently, it can only be used if you're willing to make lots of exceptions.
Let's assume you have a junior on your team who makes 50k, and someone with 5 years of experience who makes 80k. The junior team member performs a lot better than expected, everyone is very impressed, and after two years the junior is just as good as the senior staff member. It would still take the junior 5 years to reach 80k! And by that time the industry standard has changed, not to mention that this (or any other) senior staff member will have gotten pay raises as well. A junior will always need to get significantly higher (or more frequent) pay raises than the senior staff member (likely 20% or even 30%) if you want them to stay at your company and not go somewhere else after two years.
We believe a rule of thumb makes sense, but it has to be at the discretion of the department manager and the team leads to view their team as a whole and find a balance that gives everyone a pay rise they deserve.
Performance review data is an important factor in this, but certainly not the only one.
- Should the manager share the review before or after the face to face review meeting?
Well, it depends! To play it safe, you may want to let managers only share the written feedback after the meeting. This way you prevent accidental damage, for example if a manager writes harsher feedback than she means to, and the employee gets upset or scared the day before the meeting. On the other hand, once managers have some experience writing reviews, it may be fairer to provide the feedback before the meeting so the employee can prepare accordingly. If you want to share before, we'd recommend sharing it an hour or two before the meeting, but not the day before. This prevents a misunderstanding from turning into a big issue and a sleepless night. If there's misunderstanding, it will be resolved at most 2 hours later.
- Can I attach documents (PDF, Word files, etc) to reviews or to messages?
Document attachments are not possible, and aren't planned for the foreseeable future either. Our system is about ease of use, and uploading documents is not how we intend the system to be used. What we are working on is integrating with other web based tools, so that you can see your unified work history and contributions of the past months easily when writing your review. But uploading previously created documents is not a feature we're considering.
- Can goals and objectives be part of the performance review, and evaluated in the performance review document?
Small Improvements always display the most recent objectives in the resources tab underneath the performance review. So technically they are not part of the review, but then again they are so close nearby that it's really easy to refer to them. And since you can also have a rating per objective, and provide feedback right on the objectives, the review itself gets easier. Even without the objectives being an actual part of it.
- How do I set up a review for the CEO?
Reviews are always written by a person's manager, it's not yet possible to assign arbitrary reviewers. We'll implement this feature in the future, but there is no ETA yet. In the meantime, the best way to review a person who does not have a direct manager (for instance the CEO or president) is to enable the secondary reviewer feature, and assign a secondary reviewer to write the review. Learn more in the secondary reviewer documentation
360 Degree Reviews
- Who can see the 360 degree feedback I write?
It depends on how the system is configured for your company. You can always see the visibility settings at the bottom of your feedback page, for example "this feedback will be visible to the recipient and their manager".
- Can you limit the number of times a reviewer can get nominated?
The simple answer is no, but we did this for a good reason.
If you limited the amount of times a reviewer could get nominated to 3 times, that would mean that only the first three people who requested their feedback would have the opportunity to receive it. Even if they aren't the 3 people who would benefit most from it.
So, an employee might get nominated 8 times. Rather than limit this, you can inform reviewers to look at the list requesting their feedback and then choose the 3 or 4 (whatever number is best) reviewees they have the most meaningful feedback for and decline to provide feedback for the rest. Remember, feedback is not required. This declination can trigger an email to the reviewee so that they could request feedback from someone else. You can enable this in the 'More options' area of the 'Visibility and Anonymity' section.
Knowing that an employee was nominated 8 times is very interesting, and valuable, information for you and your team to have. Are they overextended with that many people wanting their feedback? Or, are they a rising star that you should fast track to a more senior position? Either way, it's a great opportunity to you to reach out to them and get a pulse for it.
- If other people can see my feedback, can they all tell it was from me?
In the default setting 360 feedback is delivered anonymously, and only HR can uncover who wrote what. You could also choose a setting that makes feedback anonymous to the recipient, but allows his manager to see who wrote what. When you write your feedback, you'll see a note on the page telling you who will be able to determine that the feedback was from you.
- Is it possible to configure the 360 so that only the manager of the reviewed person sees it, but not the reviewed person?
Yes, this is one of the many settings in the feedback cycle settings screen.
- When I configure the system so that only a person's manager can see his 360 degree feedback, what about the CEO, who doesn't have a manager? Who can see feedback about him?
Anyone who does not report to anyone else (e.g. the CEO) will be able to see their own feedback automatically. Note that they still have to wait until the feedback release date has passed.
- Can we invite external reviewers, e.g. clients, without giving them too much access to the system?
Yes, this feature was added in June 2012. You can invite guests into the system. Guests have limited access only and don't count towards your licenses. They can provide 360 degree feedback and change their password, and that's about it. Learn more about how to customize the system and invite external 360 degree reviewers.
- Can we do "anniversary-based" reviews? For instance, we want to do 90-days review for new hires, or review each person exactly one year after he is hired.
We address this question above, in the section on performance reviews. In addition to the above answer, it may be worth noting that you may not require a full-fledged 360 cycle just to give feedback to a few specific individuals. For instance, maybe it's sufficient to tell the people who should provide feedback for a new hire to simply use the "write feedback" feature on the homepage, and share their insight with that person (and/or their manager). Maybe that's all that's needed! If not, check out the above answer.
- What if a reviewer is on vacation or sick leave? Who can step up for them?
It is not currently possible for the HR person (nor the manager) to step in for a person who is away. Well, at least it's not possible to impersonate them and by provide feedback directly from their account. It is possible for HR and managers to add themselves to the reviewer list of the reviewee (clicking the "manage reviewers" link on the 360 overview) and then act as a regular reviewers. In the feedback, an HR person or manager could then write something like "the following is on behalf of Joe", for instance.
- How do I add new employees to an existing objectives cycle?
Unlike the performance-review and 360-cycles, people don't need to get added to objective cycles by HR. Either you have objectives in the current objective cycle (by creating them yourself, or via your manager) or you don't. New people can create objectives as long as the review cycle is "open to edit". If the objectives in a cycle cannot be edited anymore, you could either enter their objectives as the HR manager, or extend the deadlines and tell the new employee to get it done on a day, and then set the dates back to what they were before, making the objectives cycle non-editable again.
- Can I connect objectives to each other, create follow-up tasks, or work on objectives with other people?
In short, "no". We made a conscious decision here to keep it simple, and not stray into the task-management world. We know that some of our competitors allow you to create "social goals", which basically means opening up the door to traditional task management, but it's a path we don't intend to go down. We will certainly add more social features to our objectives, for example the ability to "like" a coworkers' objective. You can already have discussions about each objective as well, so that's a social component too. But that's about as far as we'll take the concept.
It's a slippery slope to start connecting objectives to each other, allowing multiple people work on the same objective, or creating tasks that result out of objectives. It sure sounds awesome on paper, but it opens up a huge can of worms, both for us as the developers but also for the end user. It just gets complex, and it's not our main objective at Small Improvements.
For more fine grained task management, we suggest using software that was specifically designed with this goal in mind. We've heard good things about Pivotal Tracker, and then there's JIRA that really covers all possible needs you might have. If you've used JIRA before, you'll know how flexible it is -- but also how frickin hard it is to configure. Task management is just bound to be complex. We'd rather integrate with such tools (check out our JIRA integration for instance), than try to copy them.
- I want to get rid off the sample data, and start fresh. How?
Erasing the sample data is really simple. There's a button at the end of the user management screen, which will let you do just that.
- I want to erase all my data (e.g. to start from scratch, or to delete the entire account)
Removing the sample data (as explained above) does not remove your own data. But there's a somewhat hidden option in the company settings screen, at the end of the advanced settings, that lets you erase almost all data in the system. You will need to ask us for a deletion code, since deleting all your company data is such a drastic operation and we want to avoid any accidents! Once you have the code, you're cleared to erase your company content.
- Where can I put salary data, leave taken, benefits, etc? Can I upload and download documents like company regulations?
We store core data like name, department and of course the reporting structure. But Small Improvements isn't intended to be a Human Resources Information System (HRIS), since there's a lot more to it than just storing salary data and leave taken. We wholeheartedly recommend you use BambooHR for that data. It's equally simple and user friendly, and has tons of useful features that you will need sooner or later to manage your employee data. We even support integration with BambooHR! To learn more, check out documentation on how to integrate Small Improvements with BambooHR.
- Can I attach documents, e.g. a job description, to people's profiles?
This is not possible, and it isn't planned for the foreseeable future either. Small Improvements does not attempt to be an HRIS, so we recommend you integrate with BambooHR if you want to track many files. Another option in this case however would be to simply link to an existing profile document, for instance on your intranet. Simply enter the URL into the person's bio field (when editing their profile) and any URL will be automatically clickable:
- I have a new team member, whose review needs to be done by their previous manager. What's the best way to do this?
Only the person's direct manager can share and sign the review, so you need to decide who should have the final say in a review. Typically that would be the new manager of a person. To give the previous manager the ability to contribute, you can make them (or anyone else you want to be able to contribute) the secondary reviewer. This secondary reviewer can access and write into the review, but without the ability to share or sign it.
- What's the best way to get users into the system?
If you're just thinking about 20 or so users, we suggest you invite them manually from the Invite Users menu. You can also prepare an Excel worksheet with the core user data (read here about the details) and import them into the system in bulk.
- How do I update the reporting structure when people switch teams?
We do have a web-based API to help out in case of drastic changes. But quite honestly, unless your teams change a lot, this is overkill. Just have someone in HR sit down and make the change, it literally takes less than 30 seconds: Locate a user, press the "edit profile" link, and type the first few characters of the new manager into the "manager"-entry-field. You're done!
- Do you support LDAP or Active Directory?
Yes! Small Improvements integrates with OneLogin, which is a middleware that connects to LDAP and Active Directory. You can use it enable Single-Sign-On with LDAP into Small Improvements. Using OneLogin with Small Improvements is free on their basic plan, so do check it out!
- Can we run the system on our own servers?
No, this is not possible. Our system is Cloud-based by design, and relies on Google App Engine infrastructure, which is currently very hard to replicate "at home". We may deliver a self-install version at some point in the future, but it's not on our mid-term roadmap yet. Please let us know if this is something you'd be interested in.
- Do you have Service Level Agreements?
Due to legal reasons, we do not offer any guarantees. Read the Terms of Service for the details. That said, we strive for the highest possible standards of course. We manage very sensitive data, and we'd be out of business within a day if we didn't take security and availability very seriously. Our application runs in datacenters at Google, using some of the most modern infrastructure available. The Google infrastructure is written in a way that it can scale up the number of servers within seconds to cover load spikes easily, and even if a datacenter goes down due to technical problems, then the next one takes over instantly without the end user noticing. We typically run on 3 server instances, but it wouldn't be a problem to fan out to 300 servers within minutes.
- What about availability of the servers?
As we said above, we do not make any promises for legal reasons. But if we are offline, we lose business, so uptime is crucial to us. Our service is being monitored by Pingdom, and we have an uptime of just short of 99.9% for the last year. Combined downtime in 10 months was about 10 hours. However, the actual number is lower than that, because according to Pingdom we're down for 5 minutes if we fail to respond to even a single request fast enough.
Still, there can be brief downtimes, and we occasionally roll out upgrades on the weekends and need to restart servers, which takes a few minutes. But overall, we have a good track record of being up and running, and we've recently improved uptime even more by moving to a more distributed database.
- Is my data safe?
Yes! We plan the application very carefully, so that no data is accidentally available to unauthorised parties. The overall database never leaves the data centers, every database access is strictly "per client" only and gets double checked several time before being printed on the screen. We encrypt all passwords so even in the event of failure, an attacker would not be able to attack our users' other systems. We enforce the usage of SSL(https) to access our systems. Our database is hosted at Google, uses battle-hardened Jetty servers, is based on a non-SQL database, we update our software stack all the time, and so on. It's very unlikely that an attacker would find an attack vector using typical technical approaches.
Most attacks these days exploit user behaviour and weakly protected workstations. To protect against this, at most 3 Small Improvements employees have access to the raw database -- everyone else here at SI can only access the data via our administration screens, and we make sure that this access is tightly monitored as well.
We have even more details about security in our security specification.
- What about backups?
We do daily backups and we verify that the backups can actually be restored. In addition, we offer clients the ability to download pieces of data they are interested in. See the next question. These XML exports can also serve as your own additional backup copy you keep on file.
- What about data export?
We would love to keep you as our client, but if for some reason you have to leave our service, rest assured that you can export all your data. There are several options depending on your usecase:
You can download your reviews and 360s as PDFs. You'll find documentation here: Reviews or 360s
You can download a CSV or Excel file for reporting purposes for reviews, 360s and objectives
You can download an XML file with all data in the system into one XML file. This is a very technical format geared towards your IT department's needs. The button for this is on the Adminstration > Advanced Settings screen.
Messaging system and continuous feedback
- Who get notified when messages are sent? How does the daily digest email fit in?
First of all: The daily email digest is sent once a day, and it is is entirely independent of the instant notifications that get triggered when people send messages to each other.
Our basic assumption is this: If you write a message, and you pick a recipient, or restrict it to certain people (or do both), then these people will want to be notified immediately. They will get an instant email notification. If you however don't direct your message to anyone in particular, and don't restrict visibility either, then we assume it is not crucial that everyone be notified instantly, and no instant notifications get sent.
So if Dan writes a message about Mark, then Mark will get an email notification instantly. If Dan writes a message about Mark, and shares it with only select people, say Mary and Irene, but not with Mark, then Mary and Irene get email notifications instantly. Mark of course won't get an email, because he was not included in the permissions list. If Mary responds to Dan, then Dan gets an instant notification for the reply as well.
This is all independent of the global Email Digest.
The company-wide Email Digest will get sent if the global setting for it is on (this can be enabled by an administrator). If the global Email Digest is enabled, each person will get a daily summary of all the messages, replies, and other interesting things that happened (of course only those he is allowed to see). People may of course still opt out using their own profile settings, and admins will receive a greater level of detail than other employees.
- I'd like to make an announcement. How do I make sure it reaches everyone in the company?
The announce feature doesn't work like an email list. You can write an announcement and leave the recipient field empty, and not restrict its visibility, then everyone can see it's a general announcement. However, it won't trigger emails automatically. IF (and only if) your company has enabled the daily digest emails, THEN a mail gets sent once a day to everyone, and your announcements will be summarized in there. Also, people who log in can see them of course.
If this suits you usecase then that's great, but if you need separate mails to reach everyone, you will have to resort to email, or to other means like your intranet if it has such a broadcasting feature.
Also, note that some other typical usecases, like informing staff about their new accounts, or about reviews they take part in, are covered by the actual features (there are buttons like "inform every reviewee about their performance review" in the administraction screen for performance reviews, for instance)
- When feedback can be anonymous, doesn't it encourage people to write rude things?
No, it doesn't. Your anonymous messages will remain anonymous in general, but HR representatives can uncover the author, e.g. when someone posts rude or inappropriate messages. HR will only do this as a last resort, and the author will be notified if his anonymous post is looked into. If everyone knows that it is in theory possible to unveil any post, we hope no sane person will not use Small Improvements for inappropriate behaviour.
- If HR administrators can uncover any reviewer's identity, won't people be afraid to write honest feedback?
While HR or CEOs can look up who posted something, even they are kept in check. Each time a message's author is unveiled, an event log entry is written. The event log doesn't give anyone a clue about who the anonymous author was, but it shows that HR just unveiled an author. No sane HR person would abuse their permissions to spy on totally legitimate messages.
- Maybe even reasonable people will be tempted to overboard and criticize too harshly — only to regret it later?
In theory it can happen. However, the same can happen with email, or in a regular discussion. Life is full of dangers, and one of them is inexperience. Fortunately, people can learn. That's the whole point of Small Improvements. Nobody is born a perfect coach or feedback provider. But feedback that's a bit too harsh can be toned down or explained later, making the actual feedback still valuable, while getting no feedback at all is a lot worse.
Of course, before you roll out Small Improvements to your staff, make sure to explain how to give feedback. There are tons of blogposts, books, and articles out there.
Pricing and Sales
- How long can I evaluate for?
You can evaluate with up to 10 people for as long as you like. If you want to evaluate with more people, that's fine too. Test drive the system for 30 days. The trial begins the day you sign up, so don't delay. :)
- Can I evaluate with more than 10 users?
Yes, this is possible. We recommend a proper pilot phase with a reasonable number of employees. In a small organization, the free for 10 plan should be sufficient, but if you have 300 employees, then 30-60 trial users makes more sense. Once you've concluded the pilot, just let us know how it went and when you want to start using the system for real.
- How do I transition from my trial account to a paid account?
You're piloting the "real deal" already, so if you're happy with your trial, just invite all remaining staff (or import them from an Excel worksheet). You can keep using the very same system and delete the sample data at any time. Since the sample users don't count towards actual users, you might as well keep them until you are confident with the tool.
- Do you provide training?
No. We're happy to demo the product to you and your HR team, and we're also happy to set up a second call to demo to your CEO or VP. If needed, we can do a third demo to your senior management team once you've decided to purchase. But that's about it. We do not provide end user training since the product is really easy to use. We do encourage you to conduct a (free!) pilot phase, so don't take our word for it but see for yourself if your staff "gets it". It's a good practice for the HR team to demo the product to their staff properly, and while you can use our presentations and videos for it, we will not attend those sessions. If you feel uncomfortable presenting SI to staff, then you probably haven't played with it enough yet. Conducting a pilot phase will help!
- Is there a setup fee?
No. We charge a minimum price of $150 per month, but there is no setup fee whatsoever, and no hidden mandatory training either.
- What's the implementation time frame?
It only depends on your schedule. SI is ready to use from day one. When you sign up for a trial, you already get a proper account. It's a two-click process to remove the sample data, and off you go! Small companies can invite their staff by hand, or you can import your data from BambooHR yourself. Or upload an Excel spreadsheet using our format, and import your staff in bulk.
We're a lenient bunch, so if you can assure us that the check is in the mail, or that finance will pay the invoice next week, then you're fine to launch even before we've received the payment.
So, the main consideration is how fast you can set up your review form, or define your goal-setting best practices, or schedule demos to your staff. We strongly encourage a limited (free) pilot phase with one or two small departments. So the setup time frame really depends on your own schedule.
- What about vendor lock-in, do we have to commit?
We don't believe in long term contracts. You can quit our service any time. This keeps us on our toes, and we like it that way. Obviously we hope you'll stay with us, but in the event of a need to change, you can export your data and delete your Small Improvements account.
- What if my user number changes?
We love growing customers, and we enjoy helping you with that transition! So don't worry about invoicing too much. Say you're on a 50 user plan, and you happen to hire 20 new employees all of a sudden. Don't panic. Just set up those 20 new accounts, and let us know when you're done. We don't enforce any user limits in the software, so you'll be able to set up the new people right away. Next we'll discuss whether you want to change the invoice incrementally or whether you'd rather add all at once during your next annual renewal. Whatever is most convenient for you!
However, if an employee leaves the company we only charge for active user accounts. If someone leaves the company you will probably want to keep their data, while not allowing them to log in anymore. Not a problem! Just deactivate their account, don't delete it. You only pay for active users. And we keep the performance reviews and other data for as long as you like. If you need to erase their data at some point (e.g. for legal reasons) then you can do so of course, but that aside the deactivated users still exist in the system without counting towards your license. Obviously we'll hope that your company grows instead of shrinking. But we won't penalize you by charging for inactive accounts.
Another benefit: If you hire the same people back again (think contractors for instance), all you have to do is reactivate their accounts, and they can pick up where they left.
- How does the annual payment discount work?
To reduce the hassle of monthly billing, we offer you a discount if you pay upfront for a whole year. You simply pay for 10 months upfront, and you'll get 2 months free. Note that this isn't a binding contract; we won't lock you in if you want out. If you decide to stop using our services, you will get a refund for the months you don't use. We'll simply charge you for the months that you did use, applying the regular monthly price.
And it gets even better! The annual payment discount includes a 10% additional staff buffer to reduce administration headaches on both sides: If your organization grows at a moderate rate over the year, you can simply add a few more staff without having to pay for them. If you grow beyond 10%, we'll either send you an incremental invoice, or just charge you for the extra users during the next annual renewal.
- What about volume pricing?
Volume pricing automatically kicks in above 200 users. Just try it for yourself in the pricing page calculator.
- Why is there a minimum monthly price?
We don't want to charge a setup fee. But we do have initial and ongoing costs for each client. Our sweet spot are customers of 50 employees and more, but we don't want to exclude small companies (we're small too!), so a minimum fee it is. If you feel $150 is too expensive, maybe your need for a online solution isn't big enough yet?
- And how do we pay?
Once you have an account and are logged in, there's a 'buy' button on the pricing page that lets you request an invoice. You can send the money by wire transfer, pay by credit card, or use PayPal. If you want to add staff later on, no problem, just let us know, and we'll send another invoice. If you're on the annual plan (getting 2 months for free), the additional users are of course discounted as well.
- Why do I have to request an invoice, can't I just enter my credit card details somewhere?
We like to get in touch with customers in time so the roll-out is as smooth as possible. So some interaction with us is required. Just let us know that you want to purchase, and then we'll send you an invoice, which you can pay by creditcard or wire transfer or check.
- I tried to pay with PayPal, but my payment failed.
Sometimes paying with Paypal doesn't work. There are two main reasons:
You (or your coworker) has connected a credit card with a Paypal account. When you now try to use the credit card without logging in to Paypal, there's a decent chance Paypal rejects the payment. Solution: Log in to the Paypal account first, then pay. Your creditcard has been used for plenty of other purchases recently, and you've reached a limit. Paypal may reject the payment. Solution: Again, log in to your Paypal account before paying. These are the most common issues we've seen, but there may be more problems. If everything fails, try another card, or send us a check, or pay by bank transfer.
- Careful: Not everyone can become a customer!
We love our customers, and go out of our way to make them happy. But not everyone can become a customer!
We currently don't work with any armed forces, and reserve the right to refuse entry to anyone whose company or business model we do not appreciate. We have high ethical standards, and we decide on a case-by-case basis if a client fits. To avoid surprises, please ask for a quote early on.
We believe that every person and every business, no matter how small, should use what influence they have to make the planet a better place — or at least not be active contributors to making it worse. We will use Google to do a quick background check on your company. If it seems to us that your company is exploiting other people's problems for profit (e.g. promoting gambling, or promoting substance abuse, or inappropriate financial services, just to name a few), or if you have a bad track record with regard to human rights issues, inequality, environmental issues, corruption, or something along these lines, we will not want you as a customer. It doesn't happen often, but we do occasionally turn down prospective clients.
Obviously there are always nice people even at companies we don't want to conduct business with, so please don't take it personally. Also, the world is never entirely black and white, and sometimes we might make a call that doesn't make sense to you. So, please get in touch early.
- We're a nonprofit organization...
Small nonprofit organizations of up to 20 users can use Small Improvements for free, and medium-sized non-profits qualify for 50% off. We decide on a case-by-case basis - please check out our nonprofit guidelines.
- I have more questions!
Email us or check out our Product FAQ.
- Staff are not receiving their emails! Or it takes very long!
There are a few common problems that happen all the time: Your internal email system might be aggressively spam-filtering our mails, or it might delay delivery because it feels we shouldn't send you one email per employee within a couple of minutes. In both cases, please tell your IT team to whitelist small-improvements.com both for spam and for throttling.
If select people still don't receive mails, please check the 'bounces'-screen in the admin overview. Surprisingly often emails get bounced because employee's emailfolders are too full - and once an email has bounced, we don't send to that person again, you need to clear the lock on that screen.
If the problem persists, please contact SI support, and let us know when you expected who to receive what email. The more details you can provice, the easier it is for us to take a look.