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How to sustainably make your COO cry over feedback

Behind the Nitro Games decision to use Evergreen, the Slack-integrated service that plans trees for every given positive employee recognition

Starting point

When I started as the HR manager at Nitro Games, I got a wonderfully frightening amount of freedom to do what I saw necessary for anything people-related. After a while I narrowed the biggest focus points down to feedback, trust and preventing (the very) possible strains of the hectic industry and the nature of the work we do.

Nitro Games is a Finnish free-to-play mobile game developer and publisher with over a decade of experience developing games for the mid-core user. The Company was listed in Nasdaq First North Growth Market in 2017 and has since collected steady funding. We focus on producing games with high production value and high revenue potential for smartphones and tablets. We have a team of nearly 40 people with offices in Kotka and Helsinki.

Back to basics

The competition for talent in the gaming industry is fierce. Since we are still a relatively small company, I found it crucially important to have all the basic things an employee would need and appreciate done right. This way we can keep our current team happy and content and attract new talent when we needed to recruit. A company can have the coolest, most extravagant benefits and a shiny employer branding strategy, but if the core values and practices are not in line, your employees will not act as EB ambassadors for sure.

After a challenging period of going through co-operation negotiations and having to do cost cuts when it came to personnel, we decided to really listen to what people thought of the company’s current state. We invested in various feedback- and survey tools and added an extra set of development discussions to our annual plan. Even though the team was annoyed to fill out a buttload of new surveys and questionnaires at first, we slowly learned what the most efficient and liked ones were and stuck with those. We decided to reward any actionable feedback we got with quick reaction to it, and support our new, more open and honest atmosphere by actually acting on the suggestions and critique.

Slowly but surely‚Ķ 

After a few months of relentlessly asking for feedback, we found ourselves in a situation where people were actually looking forward to our weekly pulse surveys with Menti and were disappointed if we had to skip it for some reason. One of the weekly statements is “I got valuable feedback on my work” and people vote on a scale from 1 to 6. This question repeatedly got lower scores than the others, and we decided to change it.

Among other actions we took to add more valuable feedback to our team, I was introduced to Evergreen by one of our employees. At the time, we joined the PlayCreateGreen group to work in a more sustainable way, and saw a chance to kill two birds with one stone (that’s not very nature-friendly, is it?).

Impulsive and organic feedback was more easily given before these remote-work times and we wanted to bring that back. Also, one of our goals is to have company-wide “good vibes everyday,” and  Evergreen seemed to be the answer to all of our prayers.

Did it work?

Evergreen is a Slack-integrated service, where you can give out positive recognition in the form of tree seeds and then Evergreen plants the seeds in Asia and Africa through Edenprojects.org. It has lightened the team leaders’ burden by activating peer-to-peer feedback that moves every direction inside the organization rather than just having the old-fashioned model where recognition comes only from top to bottom.

And oh boy, our team loves it! Nitro’s 40-strong team has given more than 600 unique recognitions to each other in just a few months and our organization’s annual carbon offset is 100 464 kg. The added value from the green agenda makes people even more motivated to give out good feedback.

This is our way of giving back to the environment while looking for other actions we can take to reduce our carbon footprint. Our COO (the ambassador of Good Vibes Everyday) told me that he has even shed a few happy tears whilst reading the recognition our people give to eachother, so it’s definitely a win-win situation in our books!

Milka Tarkiainen, PeopleOps manager, Nitro Games

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