Iiwwa is an SME lender which owns and operates a marketplace for its loans. The company has loaned over $40 million to small businesses, resulting in the creation of 4000 jobs in Jordan. Iiwwa employs 40 people across its headquarters in Jordan and in Egypt.
Kamel Abu-Eisheh, Director of People and Culture, joined liwwa in 2019 after studying and working across Europe, North America and the Middle East. His original focus was on HRIS and people data but it became apparent that he could connect the data with organisational design and culture to drive meaningful change across the hiring, performance and team dynamics.
Challenge: Finding a solution to overcome cultural barriers
When Kamel first joined liwwa, he took time to understand what aspects of the company culture and processes were working and what needed improvement.
A recurring theme for managers was around measuring performance. While some of their employees had been exposed to different approaches in larger firms, others were looking for more structured ways to measure performance and provide recognition.
“Even though it was apparent that there was a business requirement for a clear performance management process, people in our markets may not always be accustomed to giving or receiving feedback,” Kamel explains. “Providing feedback is often a sensitive effort.”
Kamel had used Culture Amp’s Performance platform with a previous employer and knew that it could bring the structure needed to depersonalise the review process for liwwa employees. He also liked the platform’s lightweight, intuitive approach which would make it easy for employees to buy-in to the process.
The fact that Culture Amp is on the same time-zone was also important to Kamel as he would have immediate access to support teams.
Enabling employees to provide feedback
Kamel continues, “We spent considerable time and effort educating employees on the concept of feedback – putting it into context, explaining why it is important and what constitutes constructive comments.”
With the initial training programme complete, Kamel encouraged everyone to start giving and receiving feedback on a continuous basis. This would get them used to the concept and processes involved before carrying out a mid-year review in 2019.
This review involved self-reflection and manager requested feedback from both an employee’s peers and direct reports. The findings were then centralised and made available in Culture Amp’s dossier feature which provides a holistic view of how someone is performing and documents previous comments and ratings.
“Pulling together the different elements needed for a performance review could typically take several days by the time you’ve chased up feedback requests, then collected and reviewed the data,” Kamel says. “Instead, using the Culture Amp dossier we can do the same process with greater detail in just a few hours.”
Aligning liwwa’s brand values into the Performance Review
Iiwwa has subsequently embedded its ‘TRUST’ brand values into the process. These address:
Service to the Customer and the Community
Thinking and Acting with Fairness
By incorporating these values into the Culture Amp platform, employees can see how their own performance, goals and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) align to the company’s vision.
Like many growing start-ups liwwa has people who have been promoted into their first managerial position and therefore are not very experienced at leading teams let alone conducting reviews. Culture Amp brings a level of reassurance that all performance reviews are being carried out consistently, providing prompts so that nothing is missed and ensuring that feedback is properly documented.
Result: Creating a culture of feedback
“In the absence of constructive feedback, it can be easy to dilute a conversation around performance,” says Kamel. “Culture Amp provides the much-needed rigour to have deeper discussions because the data has substance. People recognise that it’s not personal so they can be more objective when considering the observations. They are really taking the comments on board and digesting what’s being said so that, ultimately, better business decisions are being made.”
Feedback is very much part of Iiwwa’s DNA now. So much so that as part of their induction, new joiners to the company receive training on the concept, processes and the Culture Amp platform.
“Taking time out to do a process like performance reviews can often be seen as detracting from the actual delivery of the business,” Kamel adds.
“But because Culture Amp is so lightweight and easy to use, people have embraced the process as it’s not impinging on their other responsibilities. They are also recognising the value feedback can have on their own performance and the broader business. When people work together or when a milestone or business target is reached, they actively give feedback on both the positive and negative aspects of the situation.”
Ability to scale and evolve processes
Culture Amp’s simplicity and ability to scale also meant that when Iiwwa expanded into Egypt, the platform could easily be adapted to incorporate the new team. Moving forward, Kamel plans to integrate the platform with Slack.
“I’m really looking forward to rolling out Culture Amp and the new features further,” he says. “The findings from Egypt will be interesting especially with the cultural idiosyncrasies between the country and Jordan. The integration with Slack will help us identify which users should be asked which questions, which brings greater relevance and depth to the process.”
Culture Amp isn’t just impacting how Iiwwa operates, it’s also driving change across the region. “I’m constantly being asked by people outside the business how feasible it is to undertake feedback in the Middle East and I always cite Culture Amp as the key factor to making it work,” Kamel concludes. “The team is mindful of the challenges we face and is incredibly supportive when we want to try out something new. Having access to the People Scientists at Culture Amp in particular provides so much value, they help ensure our continued success.”