If you don’t like getting feedback, Applied Predictive Technologies (APT) isn’t the workplace for you. Every six months, all 450 employees undergo a formal 360-degree review process to assess core strengths and areas of improvement. It’s a company-wide endeavor that incorporates feedback from co-workers and mentors. After client presentations or project milestones, employees can expect informal feedback as well. While many companies pay lip service to the value of communication, at APT, it’s baked into the culture.
“Team members appreciate the thoughtfulness on how they can improve,” CEO Anthony Bruce says. “They appreciate that we very much listen to the feedback that we receive. It’s part of what makes this a great place to work.”
As a technology firm that helps organizations leverage data for better decision-making, APT works with industry-leading clients, including 45 of the top 100 retailers. In a rapidly changing tech environment, growing complacent means losing your edge, and without feedback, employees can grow stale in their roles, explains Cathy Baker, APT’s chief people officer and SVP of marketing.
A large percentage of APT’s new hires are recent college grads, a population that’s particularly passionate about learning and hungry for constant communication. But every employee, from new hires to the CEO, has the opportunity and expectation to pursue professional development. “Feedback is really critical to professional growth and something we pride ourselves on really doing well,” Baker says. “There is no shame in having development opportunities.”
More important than feedback alone is how employees react to that feedback. Bruce says APT values honesty and transparency in its communications, and there’s a willingness not just to celebrate what’s working well but to shine the spotlight on areas that need improvement. “Transparency about why we react or how we react to the feedback is important,” Baker says. Whether you take action or choose to stay the course, employees should be honest about their intentions. “If people understand the rationale for why you’re doing things, there’s much more happiness with having been heard,” she says.
APT’s flat organizational structure is a reflection of the expectation that individuals contribute by following their passion, Bruce says. “The competitive advantage of having that 360-degree teaming is that we’re able to bring all these different perspectives to bear and to have our entire team thinking about a client issue,” he says. However, APT’s non-hierarchical organization can be challenging to more experienced hires who are accustomed to bosses and titles. Setting expectations with clear communication is key. “Individuals with experience may come in with the expectation that they will lead the team, so it’s essential that they understand the non-hierarchical nature and that we help coach them as they grow,” Bruce says.
With offices spread across 10 global cities, APT’s leadership works diligently to maintain consistent communication across locations. As the company has grown, it has instituted global training programs where peers on similar career paths can gather offsite for three days to reinforce bonds. “Team members recognize that there’s just one APT,” Bruce says. “It’s critical that culture is similar across the entire globe.”
Another way APT reinforces those employee bonds is through its hackathons — intense, 24-hour collaborative computer programming events. APT’s most recent hackathon drew 180 participants in 70 teams working to improve some feature of a product or internal system. In the middle of the night, employees break for ice cream or a poetry reading and to mingle with co-workers across departments. “It’s a fun way to energize the creativity, imagination and innovation of the team,” Bruce says.
No matter how large APT grows, Bruce says his company will remain recognizable in its commitment to the key principles of transparency and feedback. “It will continue being a place where people have opportunities to have an impact, to grow, to do great things,” he says. “What we are striving to achieve now is the same thing we should be striving to achieve in the future.”
Baker says leadership should always be listening for feedback as well. “Most of our great ideas didn’t come from me or from Anthony [Bruce],” she says. “They came from somebody who joined us who thought we should do something differently. If you respect that and nurture it, people are excited about that opportunity to have an impact.”
Bruce advises all business leaders to focus on communication and transparency and to treat all team members as partners. “All voices really need to be listened to,” he says.
Photos (L to R): Top row: Anthony Bruce, CEO; Jim Manzi, Chairman Emeritus; Scott Setrakian, Managing Director. Bottom row: Patrick O’Reilly, President and COO; Cathy Baker, Chief People Officer and SVP of Marketing; Andrew Fedorchek, CTO