Insights

What Recognition Apps like KARMA Can Teach Us about Teamwork

What Recognition Apps like KARMA Can Teach Us about Teamwork

To start a virtuous circle, you need a virtuous act.

Our consultants at Vero are thoughtful people, but in the current era of hybrid work, social distancing, and looming uncertainties, they may forget to express their appreciation of others’ good work. To make up for the reduction in face time, we set up Karma, a plugin for Microsoft Teams (as well as Slack and Telegram) that makes recognizing people’s efforts fun and rewarding. Then we conducted a one-month pilot in Vietnam before rolling it out across all our teams in ASEAN. Here are some things we learned from the pilot:

Digital activation benefits from physical interaction

While our teams are highly communicative in general, the rapid adoption of Karma in Vietnam was supported by their presence in the office during the pilot, thanks to our Covid-free honeymoon period prior to May 2021. Team members learned to use the app (mainly how to give points and redeem rewards) from each other, which is always more enjoyable than following written instructions.

In addition, our rewards were based on the team’s pre-existing habit of ordering drinks as a group (bubble tea being the favorite – this is Southeast Asia after all), which probably helped to spark extra interest in taking part in the social experiment.

In our other offices around the region, everyone has been working remotely for months. As a result, the hype around the app has been lower and adoption has been slower, though we’ve still seen positive results and good feedback on how it can foster a sense of camaraderie that bridges physical distance.

It’s a social tool, so apply social campaign tactics

Here’s a common situation we see: for whatever reason, the Karma app sits idle for a few days with low engagement. Then one team member awards a peer some karma points in recognition, and soon others start pouring in over the rest of the day. This chain reaction stems from the fact Karma is essentially a social app that is subject to social reinforcement behaviors.

It’s also helped along by the rhythms of office life. During shared lunch breaks, people tend to chat with colleagues and look back on what they have done so far in the day and forward to the tasks that remain. It’s a good time to recognize the contributions of others, and as a result, lunch hours are the biggest peak time for Karma points. Naturally, the second peak is at the end of the day when people are winding down – or after they’ve scrambled to finish something together before they go home.

With this in mind, it’s helpful for us to think like a communications team running a social campaign. We should consider the structure of the community and ask ourselves questions like “Who are the key activists connecting a lot with their peers?” and “Who are the unsung beneficiaries?”

It’s a good way to emphasize core values

The strategic approach behind the app involves using it as an opportunity to communicate our core values – trust, kindness, and curiosity – which the agency has long emphasized but only recently articulated in our brand & culture book. It lets us recognize those team members who best exemplify these values.

First, we set up Karma’s algorithm to identify the “core value at play” within each recognition message. For example, if you send the message “Thanks for always being helpful”, Karma would probably assign it to the “Trust” value – because “always” and “helpful” were both keywords in the lexicon of “Trust”. Or if you said “Thanks for dealing with all my requests calmly”, Karma would identify it as “Kindness” – because “calm” is related to keywords in the Kindness lexicon.

This can lead to intriguing insights about the behaviors our team members tend to be recognized for, which are made even clearer by Karma’s reports – pie charts showing how much an individual has been recognized for each core value. These reports can then help guide management to provide qualitative feedback as a form of positive reinforcement.

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