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Customer Stories
6 Min Read

How Upskilling Managers is Helping Houwzer Thrive in a Turbulent Market

Logan Hendrickson

About Houwzer

Houwzer is a modern, socially responsible real estate and mortgage start-up with employees all over the US. Unlike traditional brokerages, Houwzer employs salaried real estate agents and mortgage advisors, which requires a more stringent approach when it comes to monitoring individual performance.

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The wrong tools cause a lack of company-wide alignment

Krystal Eason, VP of People @ Houwzer, told us that before 15Five, goals were out of sight and out of mind for her ~200 employees.

Eason recognized that as Houwzer was growing and transitioning to a hybrid environment their current way of organizing goals and setting them on the shelf wasn’t working. They were trying to use their HRIS to track performance objectives, but it was manual, clunky, and lacking several important features:

  • Not intuitive for managers
  • No ability to see a roll-up view of goals
  • Minimal reporting
  • No visibility or connection to weekly check-ins
  • Difficult to update and easy to forget

Because of this, they were being overlooked or forgotten about altogether. She started looking into ways to successfully roll out OKRs at the company for the first time.

The team had tried introducing OKRs a year prior but it was never fully embraced by the rest of the organization because they didn’t have the right goal management tools in place to track or manage them.

Weak goal alignment leads to inconsistent management practices

Because managers at Houwzer did not have clarity on company-wide OKRs, they all managed their teams a bit differently when it came to setting goals and objectives, operationalizing 1-on-1’s, and connecting it all to performance management. 

The HRIS software they were using was clunky, and the process required a lot of repetitive action and duplicative work, so no one prioritized it and overall goal attainment, as well as employee engagement, suffered.

Houwzer began looking for a solution that could house all their performance management, employee engagement, and goal-setting in one place.

15Five provides a holistic approach to staying aligned at the employee, manager, and company level

Eason chose to use 15Five because she saw value in an integrated approach where OKRs, performance reviews, employee check-ins, and 1-on-1’s are all interconnected and under one roof. Having one holistic tool in 15Five has helped everyone on the team feel like they are on the same page and working toward the same goals.

 “It has provided a lot more transparency across the organization for what other people are working on and how we are tracking.”

Krystal Eason, VP of People

As a lean People Ops team every minute matters. Now that Houwzer has the right tools in place Eason and team are no longer wasting time responding to repeat questions or creating work-arounds for clunky products. Eason attributes 15Five’s ease of use and simplicity with saving her team time so they can focus on more strategic and important work.

“Now that we have 15Five, we spend a lot less time troubleshooting than we did before when we tried to use our HRIS for performance management. The HRIS wasn’t built intuitively to track goals and review performance. Since 15Five was built for this purpose, it makes everything easier.”

Krystal Eason, VP of People

Most importantly, now managers feel empowered to make their employee interactions meaningful and not just go through the motions of a weekly 1-on-1.

The outcome: steering with clarity through a shaky economy

Like many tech companies, Houwzer was impacted by layoffs in early 2022, and Eason was thankful to have 15Five to help manage through it.

With help from having 15Five in place, Eason and the executive team felt confident in their messaging and strategy.

“We were able to communicate that the company may be facing some challenges right now but we are able to provide more clarity on what the company is focused on and how each individual role fits into those priorities… It has actually made us be more disciplined than we were before.”

Krystal Eason, VP of People

The Houwzer team has held on to its great company culture and has been able to remain on the same page during difficult times, which is not always easy. They have become more disciplined in how they track and attain their goals, averaging >70% of their OKRs being “on track” for attainment.

(Remember: 70% is an aspirational goal for OKRs – consistently hitting 100% means the goals are not challenging enough, and below 50% means performance is low.)

15Five has given me the tools I need as an HR business partner to coach our managers on how to improve performance and productivity within their teams.”

Krystal Eason, VP of People

Eason says their managers are now more strategic and efficient with their 1-on-1s and that OKRs are being looked at, updated, and communicated about on a regular basis.

In addition to increased manager effectiveness and OKR visibility, they have also seen improvements with their engagement survey process using Engage, making it much easier to acknowledge and respond to what they hear with action plans.

The Houwzer team has seen

  • 80% participation in their employee engagement survey
  • Over 4 (on a scale of 5) average pulse
  • 78% average check-in submission rate
  • >70% of OKRs are “on track” for attainment
  • Several managers proactively taking action to address problem areas

Using Check-ins has helped keep the pulse of the team in between surveys to stay ahead of any potential engagement concerns.

“I appreciate being able to see how employee sentiment is tracking week-over-week. We had no way of gauging that before.”

What is next for Houwzer and 15Five?

After completing their Performance Review cycle this summer, the team at Houwzer is looking forward to rolling out their Career Hub through 15Five. Results from their Engage survey indicated the desire for more communication and documentation on career paths and role clarity – something the Houwzer team is excited to solve, using 15Five.