Build a culture of recognition with kudos and badges

Regular recognition of good work is a critical part of a healthy culture. Studies show recognition in the workplace doesn’t happen enough despite being the easiest and fastest way to improve team morale and employee engagement. Oftentimes, the reason for the lack of praise is innocent enough – it just slips people’s minds as “recognition” is not a task attached to a tangible outcome. How can we make healthy praise a habitual part of managers and peers’ average day?

Brian sent David a Kudos for good work, and it showed up in my producitivity stream.

Through an employee mobile app, there’s two tried-and-true methods to help with this issue: badging and kudos. We’ll cover what these tools are and how best to use them.


Kudos: let someone know they’re awesome

Kudos is our term for, well, praise: it’s a system that allows you to publicly praise someone for excellent work, a good deed, or whatever else you deem to be praiseworthy. Kudos are sent from one user to another and also visible in a dedicated ‘kudos’ channel. Kudos are user-initiated and can be for subjective achievement.

Sending someone a kudos isn't a grand ceremony, but it’s not insignificant either: it's a publicly visible declaration that shows you went out of your way to praise someone. Kudos are best fit to use regularly for everyday excellence.

Badging: reward your most active users

Badging rewards certain activities executed within the app. It’s like kudos, but there’s automation and gamification involved. Essentially: badges must be earned by discrete actions, not by subjectively-judged good work. You can customize what conditions the system will reward someone with a badge. Badging is a tool that helps drive adoption via engagement, as it encourages more app use.

Governance and gamification

While kudos and badging mainly work to engage your employees, they also assist with guiding your users to desired behaviors, like answering more questions. As usual, the devil is in the details; the most effective kudos and badging have good guidelines that focus their use effectively while meeting your company’s unique needs and meshing with culture. Here are some key strategies to maximize the effectiveness of these features:

1. Provide managers with guidelines on how to style their own kudos. Make them fit your company culture.

Our SP^CE badge, given when someone exemplifies one of our company values.

Tying kudos to recognizable symbols and messages (like the company values) helps kudos become a tangible and measurable manifestation of those symbols that employees will recognize and value. For example, our values of SP^CE are well-known at our company, so we created a 'SP^CE Astronaut' kudos to recognize when someone deserves recognition for reflecting the values.

What kudos look like counts too – so provide some basic design principles and example images for use (your Customer Success Manager can help out with this, too).

2. Make kudos as specific and relevant as possible to the recipient and their audience of peers.

It’s important to delegate kudos management to the smaller and smaller managed groups – the perfect kudos is highly relevant and specific to the recipient and the peers that it’s visible to.
Managers can mix acknowledging specific tasks and achievements with general recognition of exceptional performance, kindness, or effort. For example: a Quality Assurance professional could achieve a ‘bug-finding’ kudo for finding a defect in a product. If that same QA employee shows a pattern of bug finding over a period of time, they’re probably in line for a more general kudo that recognizes their excellent overall performance. Keep your kudos genuine and relevant and you'll see they'll start to have an impact.

3. Use a hierarchy of badges to signify levels of attainment.

A big part of gamification is incremental rewards for progress towards a goal. This applies to badging. If you've identified a desirable user behavior (like adding comments to the stream), create multiple badges for this behavior around multiple amounts (ie, a badge for 5 comments, 15 comments, etc). The idea is to keep someone interested in achieving a reasonably attainable badge whether they’re just starting out or are an experienced power user. It also subtly stokes the competitive spirit: if you’re currently sporting the Bronze-level Commenter Badge because you’ve added 10 comments to the stream, you know there’s a higher level to unlock – and you want to know how many actions it takes to get there. This makes it fun for beginners and experienced users alike.

A simplified example of tiered badging, culminating with users who share 50 posts being invited into a club.

4. Use reporting to keep track of kudos and badges for further rewards and monitoring engagement.

Once you feel you have a strong culture of recognition, the kudos system can be a bellwether for the health of a team or manager. If a team isn’t meeting normal rates of sending and receiving kudos, it may just be that they don’t like using the tool. Or they may be having some issues. If kudos truly show something about the health of the team is unique to each team; treat it as another datapoint to help determine the engagement of your employees.

Making things fun

Kudos and badging are powerful tools that you can create complex reward structures with real impact. When starting out, remember to keep it simple and fun. Start with a light touch and get more involved as your company culture absorbs the concept of gamifying and tracking rewards.

Employee engagement is tough and requires a holistic approach that involves many aspects of your employee app. A culture of recognition – codified by kudos and badging – is a great start.

James Casagrande


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