What I Learned from Building a Kudos Product



At Emtropy, we were building products that solved the problem of workplace culture. That included products centered around conversations, feedback, and recognition.
We were piloting a continuous feedback system at one company but we later realized that feedback requires more of a culture change than recognition.
So at another company, we decided to pilot a recognition product called Kudos, which was easier to introduce.
My hypothesis is that recognition touches the basic desire to be appreciated and accepted by one's tribe at work. It's a profound social need. Additionally, giving Kudos is rewarding to both the sender (gratitude) and the recipient (getting their contributions acknowledged). Gratitude at the workplace also predicted better sleep, fewer headaches, and healthier eating.
The company we were piloting had a total strength of 50 employees from the US and India. As a way to engage them, I would schedule weekly calls with the HR rep at the company. She was our designated "champion" at the company. Her goals were aligned with ours – to improve the morale and engagement of the team.
In the initial few months of launching Kudos, the product usage was low.
35 Kudos were shared by 15 unique users
We realized that usage still depended on the heads of departments on how accepting they were of the product and the behavior change. We had to improve this to show our value.
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How did we overcome it?

In one conversation, she suggested incentivizing the people giving a reward to the people who receive the most kudos and who gave the most kudos.
At the face of it, it sounded fair – no features needed to be added. We didn’t delay the process and first built a leaderboard feature – to get this started. We knew that the initial momentum of usage would be required to generate sustained usage.
As a product person, the best ideas come from anywhere. You don’t have to come up with the ideas yourself. There will be other people who understand the pulse better.
So we kick-started the rewarding of top Kudos givers and receivers. All that was required was to keep a count of the people giving kudos and generating a report, which I could easily do by using SQL.
We ran this for a month, and I sent weekly updates to the CEO and the champion of the top users. This was communicated throughout the team.
Few things I learnt about this was that people were happy while giving and receiving, but the happiest when they received from their manager. This, in turn, validated the hypothesis.
What was interesting was that some people were re-reading the kudos to feel better.
It also made it easier for introverts to give kudos on the platform rather than in-person, equalizing the equation between introverts and extroverts.


At the end of the month, the result was that the kudos went up to 318 shares in just a month by 38 unique users, that is, 8 per person in a month.
Both, the person who gave and the one who received the most were recognized in a monthly town hall and were given a book as a reward.
The next few months had sustained usage that was lower than the peak, but it was instrumental in helping set a good culture.
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