How do you celebrate success and keep people connected at work? How do you do this when you aren’t used to working remotely? Both are good questions!
In this post I’m going to tell you how I created a #kudos Slack channel and the accompanying Slack bot that helps us celebrate and share success at Rightmove. This all started way back in 2020 and it continues to have a positive impact today.
Why celebrate success?
Working in software engineering we focus a lot on continuous improvement, what went wrong and how we can improve it for next time. That’s great, but we should also remember to celebrate success and appreciate all the good that has happened.
Kudos has been a valuable tool to start building a culture of recognition and breaking down barriers between teams. Is a #kudos Slack channel going to be your silver bullet for all your problems? No, but it’s definitely an effective tool that will help.
What stopped people from saying kudos and celebrating success?
What kick-started this kudos journey for me was the first lockdown in 2020. Rightmove like the rest of the UK went into lockdown and, like a lot of companies, we didn’t have an existing culture of remote working. Rightmove is a very sociable company, where you can just visit someone’s desk or have a chat in the kitchen. A lot of these casual ways of saying “thanks” and “kudos” were being lost in remote working during these early lockdown days.
“It’s too small to say thanks”
I get help from people every day. Most of the time these things are pretty small e.g. covering for me in an interview, pairing with me to fix a bug. In my opinion, these are the things we should give people kudos for, rather than waiting for something big to happen like the end of a project.
“I feel awkward giving kudos”
This is a thing! For many reasons, I have sometimes felt awkward giving feedback. This could be because I don’t know the other person very well, I could just be feeling very introverted that day or sometimes I just find it hard to articulate my thoughts out loud.
Most of us use some form of Instant Message app, be it Slack or Teams or something else and chances are we use it dozens of times a day (whether we like it or not!). Instead of switching context to a separate Google Form we can give kudos directly from our instant messaging app. It feels natural because we can give kudos in natural language rather than needing to fill in mandatory fields in a form.
At its heart, the idea is a simple two-step process:
- Create a Slack channel called #kudos (Easy!)
- Encourage people to use the channel consistently (Not as easy!)
That second point is what I’m going to focus on.
There were some initial reservations about a new idea like this where the content is 100% community driven. There’s a concern of “what will I do if no one uses the channel?” or “we’ve tried something like this before and it hasn’t worked, how is this different?”.
Both are fair questions and probably familiar if you have tried to introduce a new idea or a change. What I found helped is coming to the table with a solid plan of action and a clear list of reasons why I felt it had the potential to succeed.
Establishing a culture and a habit
There were two questions I felt I needed to answer:
- How do you get people to use the channel?
- Once they’ve used the channel, how do you encourage them to use the channel enough that it becomes a habit?
Marketing and Finding your Early Adopters!
In the early stages, I found this to be really important. Creating a Slack channel is easy, now I needed to let people know it exists!
The first thing I did was send a message out on Slack and email to explain the concept and also link back to the #kudos channel. By doing this I got the keenest early adopters onboard. These were the people, I’ve found, who were going to be using the channel the most.
Word of mouth was also a powerful tool. Do you know people who are really influential at work or who are most likely to use your channel? Building that network of early power users helped promote the idea while everyone else was still working on building the habit.
Giving people Kudos
I’ve found giving kudos to actually be one of the best ways to get more people to give kudos. Giving someone kudos makes it more likely that they will then send someone else a kudos message! My theory on this is that when someone does something nice for you, you will inevitably want to pay it forward 🙂.
I have also really enjoyed seeing people who have recently joined Rightmove giving kudos messages. They have joined with the #kudos channel already in place, to them, kudos is just part of Rightmove and our culture. This is both amazing and mind-boggling in the best way. What I’ve found helps give new joiners that awareness is giving them kudos. It could be as simple as:
“Kudos to Jill for completing all of her onboarding material as a new joiner in the Evaluate team! 👊👌”
Last but not least, to get consistent usage I also needed a consistent, but not annoying, way of promoting kudos. My solution for this was a Slack bot which sends a weekly roundup of kudos messages to the #general Slack channel every Monday morning:
Nowadays I have this fully automated and running on the cloud. So even when I am on holiday, someone (or something) is still advocating for kudos 😎.
How is it doing?
In my opinion, it’s doing great! In 2020 the average number of kudos messages per week was just over 5. In recent times, as we’ve moved to a hybrid way of working, the average weekly kudos count has expectedly gone down.
I don’t see this as a bad thing since it just means that some of these conversations are now happening in person, which I don’t mind! What’s nice for me to see is that the #kudos channel is still being used consistently.
All in all, #kudos has helped to fill a gap for sharing gratitude at Rightmove and has proven to be useful even in a hybrid workplace. I don’t think it replaces face-to-face communication but is another medium for people to communicate with each other. Especially for people like me who can sometimes find text a better way of expressing my thoughts.
Lastly, if this post has made you curious about adding a #kudos Slack channel to your own company, then I would say go for it! I’ve so far found very few downsides with kudos and it’s a very low-effort but high-impact thing to try.
That’s all and kudos for making it to the end of this post!
PS – If you’re wondering, forty-seven! Forty-seven is how many times the word kudos is used in this blog post. (forty-eight now 😉)