Minneapolis, MN, October 8, 2015 – After helping Cedar Rapids-based Threads design and develop its employee-review software measuring workers on culture fit, The Nerdery helped the SAAS company evolve their product while simultaneously creating Threads’ marketing site, now launched at threadsculture.com.
Threads co-founders Sean and Ben Abbas owned another business when they got the idea for a better employee-review process, hatched out of necessity when a supervisor wanted to fire an employee whose poor attitude outweighed otherwise high performance – yet “meets expectations” was the bottom-line of the employee’s most recent review.
“To me it sounded like failure to communicate,” said Sean Abbas. “We began to investigate a process that would forever change the way I manage people. We acknowledged for the first time that our values are just as important as what we do for our job. From that day we’ve changed the way we view and measure people and the expectations we have for them. What happened next was to be expected: the culture in that area absolutely exploded. People helped one another – people went out of their way to do things the right way.”
Ben and Sean Abbas still run that other business, but they've shifted much of their focus to helping other companies improve their employee engagement through Threads’ software. "We developed a method that can help any organization build a great culture,” said Threads co-founder Ben Abbas. “To make it a reality, we needed to find someone who could create an application as good as our idea."
Enter The Nerdery
“We didn’t know it at the time, but Threads vetted The Nerdery on their own before approaching us to help develop their software,” said Nerdery President Tom O’Neill. “They looked for a technology partner with a culture rooted in core values – they felt it was important that we ‘get’ them, almost instinctively.”
A culture fit with Threads, The Nerdery’s vision is to be the best place in the world for nerds to work, and the custom software design and development company celebrated its tenth anniversary by sending its core values coin into the stratosphere; The Nerdery got the gig.
“Threads found a good match, as did we – essentially, the perfect client found us and we’re grateful they did,” said O’Neill. “Our Nerds are as passionate about our clients’ business as we are about our own, and that comes especially naturally building a product like Threads.”
“We want Threads to be a game-changer within the human resources industry,” said Brad Amundson, Senior Software Project Manager at The Nerdery.
“They came up with an interesting way to graph their employees with two essential metrics: how well were they living company values, and how well were they performing operationally,” said The Nerdery’s lead developer on the project, Jordan Norlen, Principal Software Engineer, Ruby on Rails.
The Nerdery’s User Experience team worked with Threads throughout the engagement to guide interaction and design decisions. “From a UX perspective we had a unique problem to solve,” said Amundson. “Whether you break down Threads as a project or a tool, it’s a series of small interactions that all do individual things – hiring a person is different from giving them a performance review. How do all of these tools fit together to create a product that’s easy to use?”
“The most rewarding thing about working on Threads’ project is just seeing the continual growth on it,” said Molly Longbella, Senior User Experience Designer, whose UX team did user research to discover features to enhance the customer experience. The Nerdery identified a software solution for managing employee information via an organization chart, developed in Canvas with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.
Nerdery UX designers also identified ways for Threads’ software to add job-interview capabilities and a two-dimensional employee review scale to help managers chart employee progress, further differentiating Threads as an HR-management tool unlike any other.
User feedback – Threads’ clients say:
“We knew before Threads that employees are what determine culture,” said Cori Power, HR Director, Bergan Paulsen. “When Threads came along though we said, ‘now we can measure it.’ Now we can look at our performance reviews and say ‘this person is a cultural fit.’ We’re kind of risk-takers here in terms of taking a chance on a new company that makes sense – but I appreciate the fact that Threads is coming from people who were managers and did reviews, instead of from Silicon Valley.”
“Threads isn’t just a review system, it’s a communication tool,” said Gayla Hoppenworth, HR Manager, Advanced Heat Treat. “When you have emails going out every week telling managers who stepped up and displayed a core value, what’s happening in a counseling session – I don’t even have to write an HR report because it’s just automatically showing up.”
“The proof of why we do it is because you can see the impact Threads makes so fast,” said Josh Petersen, Sales Manager, PIPAC. “No other system has been able to do anything like that.”
“Threads has really done a great job of striking the balance between the software and the human aspect of it,” said Andy Van Fleet, Partner, Visual Logic Group. “People are excited to put notes into Threads on an ongoing basis. The adoption rate has been really high. I remember before Threads, people walking into my office for their review and I could just sense this doom walking in with them and it was like, ‘here we go, we’re going to start talking about all the things I’ve done wrong for the past 12 months.’ Threads really turns that on its head and says let’s focus on the things you did well and celebrate those. The most profound thing about working with Threads has been the opportunity just to reflect on what we stand for as a company.”
Nerds and Threads, Partners and Kindred Spirits
“Threads was one of those projects that came in as an idea – and Nerdery founders can relate to building a business from something written on a napkin,” said O’Neill. “Threads pushed us to stretch our capabilities – the friendlier way of saying that is they really believed in us. So did we.”
Threads’ project was continuously shaped by its growing relationship with The Nerdery – like when Threads’ founders visited The Nerdery to have its software showcased at Bottlecap Talk, a Friday tradition anchored by a show-and-tell, happy-hour-fueled demo of a recent project led by the team that created it. Emotions ran high at Threads’ Bottlecap as passion for the project was evident from Threads’ co-founders and their Nerdery collaborators.
Then, another lightbulb moment as Ben and Sean watched Bottlecap’s shout-out-video montage of Nerds giving kudos to fellow Nerds for jobs well done throughout the week, as well as a meet-the-newbs video introducing incoming staff members. These Nerdery videos inspired Threads to incorporate video into its marketing site, and to lure Nerdery filmmaker Mike Ross to Iowa to film and produce videos for Threads’ marketing website.
“As Threads evolved, our team implemented a robust and dynamic DevOps structure, redesigned their website and deployed over 100 enhancements to the Threads application,” said Nerdery Software Project Manager Amy DuChene.
"Our entire project team at the Nerdery did an amazing job,” said Ben Abbas. “We have continued working with them to refine and expand our original vision."
“The absolute best thing was seeing how happy our client was at the end,” said Norlen. “They took their idea, built this software and now they’re going around training other companies and other people how to do this thing that they figured out, which is really pretty inspiring.”
About The Nerdery
The Nerdery is a custom software design and development company built on the belief that passionate nerds are the driving force behind business breakthroughs, redefining what’s possible through technology. Headquartered in the Twin Cities, The Nerdery has offices in Chicago, Kansas City and Phoenix. Founded by three programming pioneers in 2003, The Nerdery is professional home of about 500 software engineers, UX designers, QA engineers and other Nerds. The Nerdery has made Inc. Magazine’s list of fastest growing private companies each year since becoming eligible and appeared on multiple top workplace lists. Through The Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge, volunteer web pros have donated about $6 million in pro bono services to 175 nonprofits in communities where Nerds live and work. The Nerdery won a BOLD Award from the Association for Corporate Growth for embracing a culture of distributed leadership, articulated by the late Luke Bucklin, Nerdery President and co-founder: “Put your business card on the desk in front of you… This card does not define you. You are a Co-President. You are bigger than your defined role… Play your part – transcend your job title, be a hero.” Watch Nerdery CEO Mike Derheim’s Ted Talk, titled “What if everyone at your company was a Co-President?” The Nerdery doesn’t sell websites or mobile apps; we sell access to unstumpable problem solvers. While surely we work for our clients – we do this best as your collaborative partner, sharing a common goal. We balance innovation and pragmatism, learn together, share expertise and encourage innovation through culture.