Management Outside the Box Technology

Interactive error reporting for faster remediation and boosting morale

Have you ever been on your computer or smartphone and had an error message pop up that asks you to explain what happened?  That’s an error report that is sent to developers so the issue can be fixed.  Wouldn’t that be a great thing to have within your business?  A quick way to get notified about issues your employees are experiencing.  The problem is that not every system can have that kind of error reporting system built in, so what do you do?

Have a unified channel where employees are encouraged to report issues.  Employees should be encouraged to post legitimate issues (not “my chair is squeaking” style complaints) and other employees can vote in favor of and comment on them.

Reddit style system

I’m a big fan of the website reddit, I even run my own subreddit for this site at r/MikeOplinger.  For a long time, the reddit source code was open source but has since been moved to closed source.  That being said, there is still the final open source repository available on GitHub (found here) and since companies don’t need all the fancy things added since the code went closed source they can use the available code to build their own internal reddit for error reporting.

To give you an example of what reddit looks like here is a screenshot of r/MikeOplinger

The beauty of reddit is that you can create as many subreddits as you want, so if you have 50 departments you can have 50 subreddits where employees in a department can submit error reports just for their department.  The best part is other employees can vote up or down on submitted errors and even comment to add their thoughts.  This allows management and I.T. staff to judge what is the most important thing to focus on fixing all the while the employees are doing the work of voting and determining what is the most important.

Identification and sorting

First, how do you identify employees who are submitting error reports?  Well, when you sign up for reddit you have to pick a username, so if your employees have employee IDs then just have their employee ID’s as their usernames.  This not only simplifies the identification of who made the report but makes sure employees don’t use inappropriate usernames.  Also, let’s say you have a Douglas John Smith in the marketing department and another Douglas John Smith in accounting.  By using employee IDs you avoid confusion and the need to require one to go by Doug Smith and the other to go by John Smith.

Second, you need to build subreddits for each department.  This is a simple task, r/MikeOplinger took less than five minutes to set up and I took the time to adjust some settings.  Once all the subreddit are set up, send links to everyone in a department with a link to their department’s subreddit with instructions on how to subscribe to their subreddit.  This is a simple process by the way, you simply go to the subreddit and click the “Join” button on the right side, that’s all there is to it, but I would recommend screenshots and link to the subreddit in the email for the non-technical employees.

Things to consider

Every subreddit has a sidebar where you can list your rules.  I would recommend putting in a few basic rules

  • Remember management is watching this subreddit
  • No hate speech
  • Error reports and suggestions for improvement only.

And then expand the list with whatever you feel is appropriate.  Just keep in mind if you put too many restrictions on the list employees will feel like they will be punished no matter what they post and will therefore not post anything.

There is also the fact that employees need to see engagement from management and I.T. staff so that they feel like they are being heard and that the system is a worthwhile effort on their part.  Let’s use a totally not controversial at the time of writing platform as an example, Twitter.  You can post great tweets on Twitter every day but if no one interacts with your tweets eventually you’ll stop posting.  This is why management and I.T. staff have to interact with employees when they feel it’s appropriate.  Even if it’s just a “thank you” comment on the post, just showing that you have seen the report will boost confidence and encourage the practice to continue.

Why go to all the trouble

Now, why would you go to all the trouble to set all this up when employees can just send an email to their supervisor and report the issue?  Maybe the supervisor is a non-technical person and doesn’t see the issue, maybe the supervisor is so overloaded with their own work that they forget to forward the email to the appropriate people within the organization and it never gets addressed.  Then there’s also the fact that with email there are only two people who know about the report, when you post the report in a subreddit everyone in the department can see it, vote on it, and comment, allowing for more discussion and possibly a better understanding of the issue for management and I.T. staff.

There is also the fact that having a department-wide subreddit allows employees to see an issue that has already been reported and rather than spend work time writing up a report they can simply vote the report up and make a comment, leading to more productivity.  There is also a feature of reddit where administrators can place tags on individual posts and pin comments to the top.  So once an error report has been fixed a “fixed” tag can be placed on the post and a comment describing the fix can be posted to the top of the comment section.  This is also useful when a workaround is needed, you can place a “Solved” tag on the post and then post the workaround in the comments and pin the comment to the top, then just email a link to all staff.

If you decide to allow employees to post suggestions for improvement you can also see ways to cut costs and improve efficiency that you may not have ever thought of.  As I talk about in my post Why do innovators leave? Google had a 20% time rule where employees could use 20% of their paid time to work on passion projects.  This led to major products like Gmail and AdSense, with Gmail being a tool to keep customer loyalty and AdSense being estimated at 25% of Google’s annual revenue.  Allowing employees to suggest improvements could lead to innovations that will propel you ahead of your competition, just make sure to engage with these suggestions and offer feedback.

Conclusion

Having an interactive error reporting system can greatly improve the employee experience by not only getting issues fixed fast but improving morale by making employees feel heard and getting encouragement from their peers.  By adding in the ability to suggest improvements employees will feel more invested in the company and become harder working and more loyal to the department and company as a whole.  Management and I.T. staff will also be able to take the pulse of the workforce quickly just by checking posts and comments, which will allow for faster course correction when needed.

Like what you see?

Sign up to receive new posts in your inbox, every month.

I do not spam! Read my privacy policy for more info.