Implementing Kudo Cards

At our shop, we implemented Kudo Cards this year. I would like to share our experiences so far. Kudo Cards are small gestures of gratitude. I found out what Kudo Cards are through Jurgen Appelo as described on the Management 3.0 website and in his book Management 3.0 Workout.

So, Kudo Cards: some companies call them HERO awards, others Rippas or Hugs, Jurgen calls them Kudos. You can pick your own name if you want. Kudo Cards are a written and public recognition of a colleague for something he or she has contributed to the team. A Kudo is not just given from the top down but can be peer-to-peer, cross department and cross organization. Anyone can publicly recognize someone else’s work. It is a way to break down hierarchical limitations and to encourage everyone to offer instant feedback and to publicly show appreciation. More information can be found in the book or on the website.

If you decide to start with Kudo cards… how do you tackle it, what is your first next step… I don’t know for you but I can describe how we implemented Kudo Cards and what we are running into.

The first step was to discuss the system with the department managers to make sure we have their support and backup. I decided to make it a bottom-up approach: no involvement of the board, HR or others people higher up the scale. Just a local R&D implementation. The R&D managers were totally in favor of the system, until they learnt that there would be money involved. Not a lot of money, but a small web shop gift card for every Kudo someone would receive. Suddenly a lot of questions were asked, including: what if people starting giving Kudo Cards to everyone? What if Jim gives one to Susan, and Susan always gives one back as token of appreciation? How will this impact the budgets that we have for the year-end bonus?

My answer was very simple… if it happens that people start abusing the system we will stop. That would simply indicate the manifestation of a more serious problem and some other things would then need to be worked on in our department’s culture first. I also told them that we could always adjust the system. We could for example set a rule that someone only gets one gift card per month regardless of the number of Kudo Cards he or she received. In my opinion, however, this would dilute the Kudo Card system. Nevertheless, I then would prefer a limited implementation over no implementation at all. We decided to just get started, and then we would inspect and adapt.

Management was OK with it, so we gave it a try to see if it works.

Now, RES Software R&D has three locations, we develop and maintain software in Bucharest (RO), Den Bosch (NL) and Philadelphia (US). Immediately we had three points of attention:
  1. What should be the value of a gift card in every location?
  2. Do they accept gift cards of Netherlands-based bol.com in RO?
  3. How to publicly share Kudo Cards on all locations?

Value of the gift cards

Jurgen talks about a small reward, to make sure the reward itself won’t become the goal. We all know that rewards and bonuses didn’t work that well in some financial companies… I don’t know what small is for you or your employees but we decided to give the award a value of 25 euro in NL.

However… 25 euro in RO has a different value than 25 euro in NL, the same as with 25 euro in US. I used the Big Mac Index to calculate the rewards for US and RO. The value of the gift cards currently in the US is $30 and for RO it is 60 lei.

Is bol.com accepted in RO?

I found out that bol.com has the option for e-vouchers, perfect. I think it is hard to find people in NL who can’t find anything they like on bol.com. But… what about RO and US? Will our team members like a voucher of bol.com, does bol.com deliver in the US, would people mind paying 15 euros for sending a package to RO or the US? Or what would be a matching alternative?

I just asked our colleagues what the biggest bol.com alternative in RO is, it is emag.ro. Emag.ro also has e-vouchers and accepts Dutch credit cards. (Yes, that can be an issue, believe me). The US is easy, they have something called amazon.com. Apparently it seems to be pretty big in the US from what I have heard.

So people in the NL get a voucher from bol.com of 25 euro, people in RO a voucher of 60 lei from emag.ro and people in the US a voucher of $ 30 from amazon.com.

Sharing cards on different locations

 I overall believe that physical is always better than virtual. Giving someone a physical Kudo Card will make more impression than writing an e-mail with a picture of a Kudo Card. I like to travel but to travel to RO for every Kudo Card or to the US is a bit much. I also really wanted to have a physical Kudo Card Wall, you know as a shared wall of fame… Further questions arose: should we collect all Kudo Cards in NL? And one step back, where are we going to put the Kudo Card box itself?

I decided we should have a dedicated Kudo Card box in all our locations. I believe the action of writing a text on real Kudo Card and putting it in a box is very important. Also, having the box visible in the location for all to see, is much better than just providing the mail address kudocards@ressoftware.com. When people see the box, you are reminded of the Kudo Card system every time you enter the office. I made the some custom handicraft cover for the Kudo Card box in The Netherlands and just asked people in the US and RO to make a local box.

The Kudo Card Wall.

If every location has a Kudo Card box, every location should also have Kudo Card wall. I made the Kudo Card Wall for the NL office and put it on the wall in front of our Scrum Room. Everyone leaving the Scrum Room or entering our offices will see this wall. I asked Alina and Charlie in our other locations to make a Kudo Card Wall for their locations as well and put it up for all to see. What do you want it to be they asked? I said I don’t know… be creative, make it something nice. Charlie, with the help of his kids, was definitely creative. I really like the Kudo Card wall in the US, although the Romanian one turned out nice as well.

I asked Alina and Charlie to monitor the Kudo boxes at their sites, I personally monitor the box in NL. As soon as there is new card, we make a picture of the card and send it to the others. We print it, and put it on all the Kudo Card walls. We give the original card to the person to whom it was addressed. Furthermore, I post the Kudo Card also in our R&D group on Yammer. So everyone in the organization can see we give Kudo Cards and they can see who got one and for what reason.

Informing people

As soon as the Kudo Card boxes were put in their spots, people started to ask questions. What is it?

So we made a small announcement:

This week or the beginning of next week you see will see a Kudo Card box in your R&D office. What is a Kudo Card box? A Kudo box is a box where you can put in a card (they are next to the box) to compliment a colleague. Simple as that. Who decides when someone deserves a compliment? You do! Just take a card, write down your compliment and the name of the person deserving it. Your own name is not mandatory but you can and should be proud when you give a compliment so just write it on the card. Alina, Charlie and I will check the box regularly to see if there are new cards. If so, we will put a copy of the card on the compliment board and give the person the card and a small reward. We trust you all in not abusing the system. Thanks you already for your compliments!

That is it… that was all we communicated. Nothing about vouchers, gift cards, rewards, rules, nothing…

Some interesting cards

First Card

The first card was a compliment for a colleague working part time. The compliment said, thank you for working part time… Er what to think about this? Fortunately, I recognized the handwriting and asked the person who wrote the card if he was serious. No he said, he was just joking and thought the box was just a joke… OK, no problem we had a good talk about it, I explained things and it was OK not to put this card on the wall :).

Card with only names

We then received three cards with only the names for who the card was. What to do with this? We clearly stated we wanted a reason for a card. However, just throwing away these card didn’t feel right. We decided to put the cards on Yammer only and on the box with a yellow sticky. “Thanks for the card, but why?” and we decided not to give gift cards yet. A few days later, the person added reasons for writing the cards. We then put the updated cards on Yammer and put them on the Kudo Card wall in the other locations and also gave three vouchers.

Someone was really doing a great job

We had one colleague who got two cards for different reasons in one week. Er, are we going to give this person multiple vouchers? We already agreed upfront that we will only will give one voucher for something someone has done. But these were two different things… We decided to give only one voucher and we informed the colleague he would only get one voucher because we keep a 3 to 4 weeks interval before you can get a new voucher. He was totally OK with it, and understood.

I got a card myself

One day, there was a card for me in the box. That made me feel good, I am also human ;). Should I give myself a voucher? Should management be allowed to get a voucher? Yes of course why not? After discussing with some peers I decided to give myself a voucher. A few weeks later another manager also received a Kudo Card.

So pretty easy?

No, implementing a Kudo box is very difficult. At least it was for me. Why? As a manager, are not allowed to judge the cards… you have to trust the people who give a Kudo card that it is for a valid reason. Sometimes you read a new Kudo Card and you think well, does this really deserve mentioning? Is it really worth a gift card or is that overdone… Then again, who are you to judge how someone perceives somebody else and their actions?

We started May 1st and people gave 18 Kudo Cards. You can calculate yourself how much it cost. In our opinion, it was not that much, and it proves to be a great way to get people engaged and motivated.

Is the Kudo Card box successful? I would say yes because people gave the feedback they really liked it. People are continuing to use and we haven’t had to tune the system. That makes me quite proud to be part of a group of people who can be trusted in using a Kudo Card box.

One Comment on “Implementing Kudo Cards

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