How sharing praise can accelerate learning for new employees and improve team culture: My experience at hedgehog lab


13th September 2022


5 min


Tolu Kolawole

Starting a new role within a new organisation could sometimes be similar to the experience of an anxious teenager changing schools in the middle of the term.  By the time you arrive in the new school‚ everyone has already made friends‚ cliques are already formed and seating arrangements have all been finalised. There you are as the newbie looking lost and out of place. What can make this experience much more challenging for Product Managers is that they usually have no direct authority but can only get things done through influence. Therefore‚ being able to learn quickly and efficiently during the onboarding process is invaluable to increase the odds of success for a Product Manager as well as any employee. 

According to Alex Valaitis‚ the onboarding period has the most significant overall effect on success as a Product Manager in a company compared to other phases in their role. He described all his product roles as either “sink or swim” and effective onboarding was always the float that kept him afloat. The aspect of onboarding that can be particularly challenging is learning from colleagues you are meeting for the first time as relationship building usually takes time. This‚ as I realised‚ becomes a little bit more complicated in a remote-first/hybrid working environment.  

One of the tools that has helped to accelerate my learning in the first 30 days in my new role as a Senior Product Manager at hedgehog lab is a tool called Leapsome. It is used within the organisation for providing feedback and sharing praise among staff. I did not have much experience with this type of system and decided to take a dive into it during my free time. 

I would like to share 7 insights I derived from the exercise that I believe will be useful for employees who wish to accelerate their learning in a new role and for organisations considering this. 

  • It provides a more robust and context-based understanding of workplace values

The feedback and praise sharing though the platform provides rich context-based information on the scenarios where co-workers demonstrated the attitudes/skills they were praised for and in some cases‚ the specific actions that were taken.  By sharing this in a  highly visible manner to the entire company‚ new PMs are able to quickly learn how to influence their colleagues in ways that will be perceived positively. New starters can pick up on what colleagues in different teams value and how they want to be supported. This helps PMs to understand the “value-language” of their colleagues and how to communicate that to their new team members effectively.  

As a Product Manager with no direct authority and expected to work using influence within the organisation‚ being able to quickly understand what will likely move the needle in relationship building is invaluable. 

  • Learn from anyone and everyone in the organisation including successive generations of former employees

It is great to learn from colleagues that you meet in an organisation but the icing on the cake is to be able to learn from past employees who are exceptional. While many great staff members have potentially improved the processes of the team and organisation new PMs are now a part of‚ it is fantastic to learn the specific ways they added value to their colleagues‚ teams and organisations by reading their appraisals.  It also helps new PMs identify not-so-obvious best practices and attitudes that were especially valued by their co-workers when they worked with them.  

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  • Gives insight into the company’s history and organisational priorities at different levels

I was really pleased to see that the company CEO and other C-Suite executives also shared praise on the platform. This helped to gain a deeper insight into some of the challenges the C-suites face‚ and what direction they drive the company.

  • Focus on the most important best practices and reinforce learning

There can be a disconnect between what a company says it values in an onboarding process and what your colleagues actually value in the teams you work in. By looking through the feedback and praise staff members have shared‚ new PMs can figure out what are the most important values and best practices to focus on in their new role. 

  • Motivate new employees to be more proactive and add extra value 

When the recognition of how colleagues have gone above and beyond is publicly highlighted and praised‚ it encourages new PMs to look for more ways to add value and contribute to initiatives in the company. It is motivating to see colleagues being appreciated for their efforts to help the company achieve success. This promotes proactiveness and pushes everyone to do more. 

  • Opportunity for 360-degree feedback on areas of development and growth 

It can help provide a faster feedback loop and leading indicator for demonstrating growth in specific areas rather than waiting for the conventional review with your line manager before getting feedback. In addition‚ it helps to signal areas of strengths that line managers may be unaware of in a staff member. This also motivates employees to keep developing themselves in different areas.  

  • Culture of psychological safety and trust

A culture where employees are praised openly and celebrated creates trust‚ camaraderie and a feeling of psychological safety for new workers. New employees would focus on being their best rather than being anxious because of the awareness that great work and positive attitude is appreciated within the company. 

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I believe that organisations that develop a culture of sharing praise will have a significant advantage over those who don’t in an increasingly competitive world of work. The recent trend of “Quiet Quitting” is highlighting to employers that today’s workforce needs their work to be empowering and meaningful and being recognised by colleagues contributes to employees feeling valued in the workplace.