Employee Engagement Is Broken — Here’s How to Fix It 🎉

Why ignoring employee engagement is a big mistake.

Jared Volpe


Niko: Employee experience, empowerment, & engagement made easy — photo credit: Jonathan Simcoe artwork: Anthony Burrill

“A healthy company culture encourages people to share bad news. A company that discusses its problems freely and openly can quickly solve them. A company that covers up its problems frustrates everyone involved. The resulting action item for CEOs: Build a culture that rewards — not punishes — people for getting problems into the open where they can be solved.”

- Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Solving Important Problems

I was working at a company where the leaders actively covered up problems and hindered the free flow of information. The health of the company and the people working there was suffering accordingly, and it wasn’t solely because our office was in the basement of a converted parking garage.

As luck would have it, we hired a Director of Web Engineering who was previously at Twitter. She understood the power of giving people a voice at work and set up Google Moderator for the company.

Moderator was a Google service (shut down in 2015) that used crowdsourcing to rank user-submitted questions, suggestions, and ideas. Obama used it.

The effect was remarkable and indelible. People felt confident sharing their questions, ideas, and suggestions. Their voices were heard, valuable, and relevant.

When my colleagues and I moved on, we took Moderator with us and watched the same remarkable things happen at other companies. It’s not surprising that companies like Google (Google Moderator), Twitter (Falquora), Mozilla (Mozilla Moderator), Yahoo (YoMod), Salesforce, Optimizely, and others made, and still use, their own Moderator-like internal tools for employee engagement.

When Google Moderator shut down, there was a clear need for a dynamic, modern replacement.

Building buy-in and a solid foundation of trust with employees is essential, from the youngest startups to the largest public companies. The more your business relies on hiring highly-talented, knowledge-intensive team members, the more you must ensure your communications channels are strong. As you scale, those communication channels must scale with you to keep your team feeling like a cohesive whole.

Niko was created to give us all a way to ensure we’re surfacing important questions, ideas, concerns, and institutional learning so that the right decision-makers and key stakeholders can engage constructively before small problems become big ones. Unlike bulky, “sad-making” HR software, Niko is the single-purpose, simple, and intuitive solution to ensure everyone feels heard.

Try it out: https://www.getniko.com/

Niko makes it incredibly easy for employees at all levels, from intern to vice president, to share what is on their minds by letting them submit, vote on, and respond to questions, ideas, and suggestions. Submissions and comments can be anonymous if someone is feeling shy. It creates a different employee engagement experience and helps leaders listen better so teams can do remarkable things together.

“Niko allows ideas to percolate up through organizations of any size. I really like the ability to choose to anonymously submit or respond to questions. Niko takes the hierarchy out of the feedback loop.”

- Laura Franzese, Head of Communications at CircleCI

“Any company worth working for is going to need Niko. It is one of the best ways to keep a team engaged and productive, which is what the best talent is looking for in a job.”

- Hong Quan, Entrepreneur & Recruiter

Niko home page

What Does The Research Say?

Gallup, one of the most respected performance management consulting agencies in the world, examined the effect of employee engagement on organizations’ bottom line for over a decade and found that employee engagement consistently affects key performance outcomes, regardless of the organization’s industry.

Employee engagement is important. Period. Some of Gallup’s findings include:

Businesses at the 99th percentile have 4x the success rate of those at the 1st percentile.

Median differences between top-quartile and bottom-quartile businesses were:
- 10% in customer loyalty/engagement
- 21% in profitability
- 20% in productivity
- 24% in turnover (high-turnover organizations)
- 59% in turnover (low-turnover organizations)
- 41% in absenteeism

Businesses scoring in the top half on employee engagement nearly double their odds of success compared with those in the bottom half.

Opinions count. Asking for the employee’s input and considering that input can often lead to better decision-making. This is because employees are often closer to many factors that affect the overall system than the manager is, whether that is the customer or the products they are producing every day. In addition, when employees feel they are involved in decisions, they take greater ownership for the outcomes.

- Gallup Q12® Meta-Analysis Report

What’s with the name?

Niko is a variant of Nikos, which originates from the Greek Nikolaos. It means “Victor of People” or “victory of the people” or “people’s champion.” (Plus, Niko is an awesome character in the Legend of Zelda.)

Get Started — #AskMoreQuestions

If you want to make your company a great(er) place to work and want to know what is important to the people you work with, you should try Niko.

Learn more and get started here: https://www.getniko.com/
It’s easy to
create a group. You can even connect it to Slack.

Questions? Get in touch @get_niko or niko@getniko.com.

Discuss on HackerNews: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13836901

Thanks to Carolyn Conner, Laura Franzese, Penny Campbell, Phuc Quach, John Saddington, Jenneviere Villegas, and Nathan Dintenfass for reading drafts and contributing.

PS I want to give a shout-out to all of the people who make things like Node, Express, Jade, React, and Bootstrap. Without you, this wouldn’t have been so easy.



Jared Volpe
Editor for

product designer. daddy-o, main squeeze, gypsy jazz pompeur, off-piste skier, kook surfer, mini-golf master. i’m very curious. believer in brunch. ad astra.