Thursday, May 17, 2012

Changing the World, One Thank You at a Time

Image courtesy of Orin Zebest
With a background in a software industry that tends to focus more heavily on VOC than on VOE, I have been searching lately for tools that help companies make it their mission to focus on the employee first.

Note that this focus on VOC has not necessarily been a reflection of the vendors. I can speak for myself (as head of their Services departments) that my teams and I talked to clients about the importance of listening to employees and focusing on the employee experience; however, I felt like most companies didn't get it. (Many still don't.) The stance was often, "We'll listen to and focus on employees next/later; customers first." Wrong.

If you follow my blog regularly, you've probably noticed that I have written several posts about employee engagement and employee experience lately. I can't convey enough how important those concepts are to the success of your business.

Well, put all that together, and a few months ago I stumbled upon a company that I felt had a solid tool for amping up a culture transformation and putting the focus on employee experience, engagement, and appreciation. And then, lo and behold, just recently, I had the pleasure of meeting (virtually) the company's co-founder and CEO after he read and commented on my post, Employee Engagement is Not a Mandate.

In that post and in my post about employee passion, I describe the emotional connection and talked about how passion fuels alignment and results. But think about this: how can employees become passionate about your brand if they don't understand the vision or the purpose because it's not clearly communicated or if you don't have a culture to be passionate about?

A quote I used in my post about the lost art of thank you cards, which has become one of my most popular posts, supports the notion that communication is key and that appreciation needs to be shown and heard!

Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone.  ~G.B. Stern

There is a solution... or at least a tool that will facilitate all of that.

Curious yet? I'm speaking of Kudos, a company co-founded by Tom Short, whom I spoke with, and Muni Boga, both with backgrounds in starting and leading successful and innovative companies. It was a delight speaking with Tom. He's so passionate about about changing not only the employee experience and how employees are recognized and appreciated but also about creating this movement that results in, well, world peace. Hey, why not!

Tom took me through the history of the company and some of the things that inspired him to create this platform. One of the stories included a company of his that was growing so quickly that  people didn't know each other, the vision of the company, or much else about the business, for that matter. People were isolated, and he needed a way to bring them all together. As he noted, the #1 reason people leave is a combination of lack of appreciation and an understanding of how their contributions really matter.  Kudos solves that problem.

Hold that thought...

First, a couple of books that Tom mentioned that I believe are worthy of a read - if you're into that sort of thing, i.e., wanting to transform your culture and understand the framework for employee engagement.

Drive (Daniel Pink)
Fish! (Lundin, Paul, Christensen, Blanchard)
First, Break All the Rules (Marcus Buckingham)
and, most importantly...
Carrots and Sticks Don't Work (Paul Marciano)

All four books provided some of the background necessary to create a tool to support and facilitate employee engagement, but Dr. Paul Marciano's book really became the driving force behind the development of what Kudos is today. So impactful was his book that he now serves as a strategic advisor to Kudos. In a nutshell, as the subtitle notes, the book is about "building a culture of employee engagement with the Principles of RESPECT," which stands for:

Supportive Feedback

Honestly, how can you question any of those attributes?

OK, back to Kudos. What is it? It's a social recognition and communication platform. It facilitates networking, communicating, collaborating, and reinforcing corporate values and culture. It allows your employees to appreciate and recognize each other for not only a job well done but for other great things they might do. Kudos really supports and facilitates the spirit of RESPECT.

While I could have signed up for a free plan and taken a tour of the platform myself, Tom was my tour guide and showed me all that you can do with Kudos. I was thoroughly impressed. The UI is so clean and simple, and the platform is so user friendly.

I've used tools like Yammer before, and this is no Yammer. People get bored with Yammer very quickly. Kudos is more like the best of Twitter, Facebook, Yammer, Basecamp, and FourSquare all wrapped up in one - on steroids. And yet, it's incredibly easy to use! It's fun and engaging, and it's an amazing way to help your employees build personal connections in a global workplace. Today's teams aren't all sitting in the same office; they are spread across the world. Kudos is a great way to bring everyone together. I can totally see this as one of those apps that sucks you in and keeps you following and using day in and day out.

While Kudos allows teams to do so many things, the core of the platform is the peer-to-peer recognition tool. It provides an easy way to send kudos to a co-worker, either privately or publicly. Who doesn't like to be thanked for helping a teammate or for staying late into the night to complete a project? What pride could that elicit to see that your extra efforts were not only appreciated but also helped to land a big deal? Or what if you got a surprise Kudos from the CEO because he heard you did a fabulous job giving a presentation? The possibilities are endless. Remember their tag line: Kudos - Thank Different.  (TM, of course)

Kudos is a software company; there is no Services team to implement the platform (not needed) or to consult on execution. But having said that, Kudos is in the process of creating a guidebook to give you best practices and ideas on how to use the platform to drive employee engagement within your organization.

What's really neat, too, is that you can send Kudos to people outside of the organization. Shortly after our call, Tom sent me this:

I can click on the link in the email, create an account, and perpetuate the kindness. Have fun with it. Return the favor or pay it forward. Perhaps world peace is not that far off!

As Tom says, "Do big things by doing the little things."


  1. Annette - Wow - great post! You're so right - the employee and customer experience are intertwined, but we often forget that.

    Gallup, Hallmark and others all have significant research on the power of recognition - yet it is so often forgotten. Terrific stuff!

    Heart of the Customer

    1. Thanks, Jim, for reading and for commenting! Glad you liked it. If we can spread the word and create such a movement, to transform the workplace and create cultures of appreciation and recognition for contributions, what a difference that would make!

      Annette :-)

  2. Another great post Annette! Employee engagement is essential for an organization's ability to deliver the desired customer experience. Hiring the right employees in the first place is very important, so is training to help them understand and reinforce the corporate philosophy. But there is a general lack of practical tools to help organizations engage employees on an ongoing basis. Peer-to-peer recognition and feedback are very effective and you sell Kudos as one simple solution very well. I might actually recommend it. Definitely will look it up.

    Thanks for the book list! That's a lot of value right there and it's something else I might share!

    Looking forward to your next posts.


    1. David, thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed it.

      You make a great point... starting with the right employees is extremely important, but that's not enough. Like any relationship, you must put forth effort and nurture it: training, communication, appreciation, feedback, etc.

      Annette :-)

  3. Hi,

    Great site! I'm trying to find an email address to contact you on to ask if you would please consider adding a link to my website. I'd really appreciate if you could email me back.

    Thanks and have a great day!

    1. Hi Reagan. Thanks for reading and for commenting. Glad you enjoy the site. Feel free to respond here and leave the link to your site. If it's relevant to the topic, I will happily link to your site on the blog roll page. Annette :-)