ThanksBox: empowering peer-to-peer recognition

- Practices & Exercises

by Louise Brace

What’s the purpose of ThanksBox?

ThanksBox is a peer-to-peer recognition tool that allows teams and coworkers to recognize individual achievements and share them within the organization.

Essentially it was created to transform the way the HR industry looks to evaluating employee contribution. We want employers to see beyond the traditional core KPI set. To understand that employees often contribute beyond what their ‘role’ calls for. The purpose was to develop a tool that captured the contribution of individual employees, to recognize their achievements and provide real-time insights for senior level management..

How can organizations benefit?

These days we understand that the best assets of an organization are its employees. They recruit people they believe are capable of taking their businesses into the future. Then once they integrate into a team environment, they often miss individual achievements and career successes. As more often than not, senior level management lose sight of what’s happening at ground level.

ThanksBox employee engagement

ThanksBox uses the wisdom of the crowd to bring the right people to the forefront and be recognized. It lets the crowd speak up about people they think are valuable in the organization and feedback gets processed into an insight engine.

Until now HR has had very little access to information about its people, beyond demographics. Accounts has its data package and Sales has CRM; now ThanksBox gives HR a tool that gives them real time insight into the performance and behaviours of individuals, as perceived through the eyes of the employees. Giving them an overview of how the company culture and values are being played out throughout the organization.

How does it work?

ThanksBox thanks message

It’s really simple. The giver searches for the person they want to say thanks to and sends a message via the ThanksBox app, highlighting the reason for the recognition. The receivers gets an email to let them know they have been recognized. All message content shared between employees is private, unless the giver opts to provide visibility to management.

The number of messages sent is available to HR and team leaders, allowing them to observe the level of recognition that flows between employees, teams or departments. The message content is then used to create a word cloud, representing the reasons coworkers are being recognized. This is available to givers and receivers, and also to team managers; giving further insight into the motives behind what stimulates recognition within their team.

ThanksBox is an inter-organizational tool. Messages are sent between registered users, but currently aren’t shareable outside the organization. The message flows from one employee to another, or from one employee to multiple receivers.

Why peer-to-peer recognition?

Organizational structures have progressed to being less hierarchical and more about getting great people to do great things. Senior level is now about facilitating and leading teams, not just giving a pat on the back and an extrinsic motivator, such as a monetary bonus.

Peer-to-peer recognition creates a channel that allows recognition to flow up and down the organizational structure, not just in a continuous downward flow.

How can ThanksBox improve company culture and employee engagement?

It gives the organization a sense of what the culture is like in each of its teams. ThanksBox is relevant and useful for any size of organization, but it’s ideally placed in companies with 250 plus employees; in situations where bosses no longer know everybody’s name or team dynamics.

It’s first role is to make sense of the values and behaviours being championed in the organization and provide measurable points and key pillars from which managers can identify ways to improve employee engagement and motivation, and better support the company culture. Anyone that has an analytical role can examine what the culture is really like. Is it aligned with the values of the organization? How are teams and individuals being recognized and what values and behaviours are they being recognized for?

The tool can be a key contributor in understanding what organizational culture and engagement actually look like. Analyzing it on a real-time basis, not just in six monthly appraisals, or on a form given out once or twice a year.

In the first week of launch over 1000 thanks were sent across several organizations. This type of recognition is normally hidden from management. Always appreciated by coworkers, but invisible to managers. ThanksBox makes peer-to-peer recognition visible, meaningful and measurable.

Does your team practice what it preaches?

Yes definitely! We’re using it together with another new tool we’re just about to launch, which works like an ideas board for employees to give feedback on new ideas and ongoing projects. They definitely keep us on our toes!

It’s really important for us to evaluate what triggers recognition, what does it take to step up and say thanks to someone? The Ideas Board is also a really cool way to get a sense of what everyone on the team is thinking about a specific project, even though we are a really small team, sometimes you don’t get a chance to speak your mind on something that you feel could be done better.

Tell us more about the Ideas Board!

It’s the second coming! A suggest mechanism that allows anyone in an organization to post their suggestions. Each idea is given a link and can be shared through the organization. Employees can up and down vote different suggestions on the board and give feedback on current projects. The organization gets a sense of what employees deem as important and employees get a way to present their ideas and get initial feedback, without the daunting task of making a presentation to the boss, until they have positive feedback from peers and team leaders.

The idea came from an organization that launched a drinks fridge in their office. They asked a group of employees what type of drinks they wanted to see in the fridge and via the feedback they ended up pulling all the full fat and sugar drinks. Their decision left a lot of unhappy people in the organization, who wanted their full fat coke with lunch. Of course they hadn’t asked a broad enough spectrum of people – they had only asked the well linked and social team members, which gave them a very narrow view of the opinion of the masses.

How far along with your experiment are you?

Myself, Merlin, our CTO and Steve, our Product and Design Manager, came together last October, so we’re a year down the line and now a team of seven. Our first line of code was written on December 1st 2014. We secured our first customer in April this year, and our first invoice was raised on the 1st May. Right now we are working with six companies, in three countries and we’ll be in five countries within the next two months.

What type of businesses are using ThanksBox?

Any organization that recognizes the importance of employee engagement and motivation can and should be using a tool like ThanksBox. At the moment we are working with marketing agencies, a satellite developer, technology companies and healthcare providers.

What’s next for the team?

Getting the Ideas Board live is imminent and then we’re working on further global reach for both products. Of course we want a lot more companies using our service and in the long-term we’ll be developing more tools that help organizations gain an insight into employee satisfaction.

Can you give us your top tip for Worker Happiness?

Ensure everyone has a really clear sense of purpose and what it is they contribute, and ensure they understand how what they do impacts on the business.

Visit the ThanksBox to find out more about peer-to-peer recognition for your organization.

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