We surely don’t believe that employee recognition should be relegated to one day a year. And we sure as heck don’t think it should be top-down. What we do know is that a lot of people are searching for—quite literally, on Google—employee appreciation ideas, but so often they aren’t involved in the process of who to recognize and why. That’s a sure-fire way to make folks feel unappreciated!
At Management 3.0, we use Merit Money and the Bonusly app, where—no matter our monthly commitment to our flat team—everyone gets 100 points to give away each month and the points are directly related to one or more of our values. Every month we have an allotted monetary bonus amount for the entire team and this is distributed, relative to our Bonusly points, on months in which we roll a six with our lucky dice.
But Merit Money isn’t the only way to offer peer-to-peer employee recognition and appreciation. That’s why we jumped at the chance to interview the team at Redbooth project management software about the different ways every team member has an opportunity to recognize and celebrate fellow colleagues.
Startup culture is something leaders want to preserve once their companies grow past the small label. Redbooth had the challenge many tech companies did, when the Barcelona-based software company moved some of its team to the Silicon Valley. This meant dealing with not only nine hours and thousands of miles of distance, but with distinct cultural differences.
Forget Boy George, in came Redbooth’s own Culture Club, a monthly meeting open to anyone willing to bring forward ideas of where employees want to see improvements. They track it all within a separate Redbooth workspace so everyone can see what’s happening with proposals and current initiatives.
“The Culture Club was created to improve this and make the culture across both offices a real strong point,” Redbooth’s Human Resources Manager Daniella Sikora said. “We wanted to do this collectively and by being inspired by our employee’s ideas and initiatives.”
We’ll talk about more of these crowd-sourced ideas later in this piece, but some include:
free foreign language classes at the office—Catalan, English, Spanish, French and German—making team communication easier and opening opportunities to learn new things
a biannual company feedback survey on work life balance, management relations, and company culture
a skill exchange initiative, where employees share their passion and skills with others
team-bonding activities, like a guessing game of colleagues’ baby pics
a monthly book club “to share knowledge and discuss interesting reads”
And, most importantly, the Culture Club inspired “Crispetes,” a monthly meeting dedicated to company culture that changed everything.
Redbooth on Fire: So much cooler than ‘Employee of the Month’
Daniella thinks peer-to-peer recognition is much more effective than if this recognition was just top-down from management.
Over the course of a month there is an open Typeform feedback form that allows anyone to take a moment to acknowledge someone else.
“The main idea is to recognize and congratulate those employees who’ve made great impact and contributions in Redbooth ,” she explained. “The employee who has been voted the most gets a really nice ‘Redbooth on fire’ hoodie and 100€.”
At their monthly Crispetes (Catalan for “popcorn”) meeting, this team of more than 60 teammates—three-quarters in Barcelona and one-quarter in the Silicon Valley—overcome that long distance to welcome new teammates, say farewell to older ones, receive Culture Club updates, and declare who was “on fire” that month.
Daniella said this all-hands meeting is purely fun. The person who received more feedback and recognition over the month is the recipient of cash and hoodie. During this call, they make a big deal about the winner and read aloud some of the peer feedback.
More often than not, she said, people are recognized for their continuous contributions to the team, hard work and commitment and particularly for giving support to others.
She assures that it’s not really competitive, and that “the idea behind this is to recognize employees that have done a really outstanding job.”
Someone can win more than once but it hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps because it’s early enough that everyone remembers who’s won so far, but maybe it’s just because in a smaller company a different colleague gets an opportunity to shine each month.
When Redbooth on Fire was initiated about a year ago, some employees were concerned about the cash creating false culture of competitiveness as Redbooth has a very horizontal team structure.
“In the States, the culture of rewarding employees with cash prizes is perhaps more prominent than in Spain,” Daniella explained.
In the end, the employees sanctioned the experiment and it was a resounding success. Daniella says the cash is just a nice little extra, but it’s that hoodie everyone really wants. Teammates now look forward to the monthly fun meeting to see who gets the coveted on-fire hoodie.
For Redbooth, it’s a dash of competition, a dollop of creativity
The crispetes meeting isn’t the only snack of employee appreciation and collaboration going on. The Redbooth team is in the midst of their third company-wide step competition. Teams work hard to motivate each other to take a healthier attitude and walk more.
“People really encourage one another and working as a team rather than individually,” said Daniella, sweating more for the bragging rights than the 25€ Amazon gift cards winning teammates and the three individual top step-takers receive.
She says this simple team-building activity works, “Maybe because it’s small, because it’s competitive, and because everyone can really see how the competition is going” in the apps Daniella said.
The 64-person startup looks to encourage people to collaborate as much as they want. These include:
crowd-sourced a ping pong table that saw designers and engineers self-organizing to build the ideal office gaming table
biweekly Spanish and Catalan-style breakfasts and monthly team lunches
an engineering hack week every six weeks with product initiatives coming out of each team
“Some of these things could be delivered and put into production but it doesn’t always happen.”
Daniella said the hack week is a chance for the engineers to work together, often out of office—one team even had a remote hack week in Mallorca!—where they get to work on fun stuff outside their usual workload and release their creative flows. Then at the end of the hack week they demo their work to the rest of the team.
Sometimes, written recognition is the most important gift
We don’t have to go on and on about how strong collaboration is as a value at Redbooth. It’d be much easier to come from the proverbial horse’s mouth and to share the feedback previous Redbooth on Fire winners have received:
“Since he joined our team he’s been a really positive member considering all the changes, always willing to help and is working hard to keep the team stay on track. I will say, I do expect this from anyone, but his attitude is really positive and it seems that it’s spreading. For that I think he’s on fire!”
“I can’t even imagine what she does to keep in mind the situation of everyday of every team. She’s definitely amazing switching from one context to another. And when we need any kind of help on how to deal with a problem in the team, she always comes with a solution making all people feel more engaged to resolve the issue.”
“He’s doing a lot of work trying to improve performance on Gantt. Not only that, he’s also documenting the process and talking about it.”
“He’s always eager to help and share his knowledge. He’s an altruist!”
“His critical thinking and love to abstract all the things help me every day. I have full trust that can pass any task/code to him and everything will be done top-notch.”
“He’s always looking for a way to improve things. Takes ownership and tries to cooperate with other teams.”
It’s clear that initiatives driven from peers to peers makes for a happier, more collaborative and welcoming workplace. And we say Cheers to That! (Or Salud!)
Do you have your own style of peer-to-peer recognition? We’d love to hear about it!