How Culture Amp uses technology for recognition

A growing number of companies are turning to internal communication tool, Slack, for employee recognition. A quick search shows integrations like Growbot and Propsboard, specifically built for recognizing employees with the use of technology.

At Culture Amp, Customer Success Coach, Chris Barrell came up with the idea of creating a Slack “props bot” from scratch. He says, “The idea for the Props Bot arose from wanting to publicly thank and recognize some of my colleagues. They were doing great work that I wanted to give them recognition for publicly. We already had a public slack channel for #kudos but it was more customer orientated. When you wanted to give thanks and recognition to a fellow CAmper, where did you do it?” He realized that there was an opportunity to create a system for documenting and sharing recognition and praise.

Barrell had also been reading about slack bots during this time. “They were everywhere and they were cool! I wanted to make one, and this was the perfect opportunity. It also meant I’d get to do some programming for work, which is definitely outside of my role in Customer Success,” says Barrell. The idea was considered amongst friendly colleagues. Barrell and others talked through barriers to use, and who would be the early adopters. Concern was raised about the potential for the Props Bot be abused. The group knew that in other organizations, people would game these recognition schemes - giving credit to a colleague to win something, rather than truly recognizing someone. These factors were all considered in the creation of the Culture Amp Props Bot.

Why “props”?

The phrase “props” had been in use at Culture Amp before the bot was created. Barrell says, “It has an interesting etymology for a phrase that's used casually. Alternatives were ‘Thanks for…’ and ‘Cheers to…’ but none had the fun-factor of ‘props.” However, Barrell didn’t want to assume that everyone knew what “props” meant, or what it implied to give them to someone. He asked French colleague Alexis Prades, an Account Executive in our London office, if he knew what the phrase meant. Prades replied, “To be honest, I have never heard this word before, especially in the sense of rewarding someone. My english is limited compared to someone native-speaking but I guess that is also why you asked me.”

Barrell says that after checking with Alexis, it made sense to define what “props” meant for Culture Amp. It was important to make sure the “props” term was inclusive and everyone could use it. When the bot was released, Barrell gave a presentation on the tool and terminology. Props or “mad props” were defined as: proper respect or proper recognition for another person; an expression of approval or a special acknowledgement; accolade or accolades; praise.

How it works

After a conversation with resident security guru, Daniel Bertram, Barrell settled on Google sheets, Google Script and Webhooks as a neat and secure solution for hosting the Bot. He also found a helpful tutorial that linked Slack and Google Sheets, setting the process in motion. “With a fair amount of tailoring it suited our purpose just fine,” Barrell says. Webhooks triggered via Slack only occur when using “props” or “mad props”. Necessary information is sent to the Google Sheets app such as the User, Message and Channel.

When someone on Slack begins a sentence with “props” or “mad props,” the props bot is triggered. The Google Sheets app logs the message and responds in Slack through The CAmper Props Digest, thanking that person for their props. The response is randomly generated from a list of phrases that Barrel and other CAmpers brainstormed, like “Thanks [user], love your work!” and “[user], props to you for your props!”, and includes a random set of emojis. Barrell says, “We added plenty of jokes and puns too, so the result can be pretty funny. You never know what it’s going to come up with, which is an extra motivation to use it.”

A ‘Weekly CAmper Props Digest’ is compiled of the previous weeks props that are then shared via email (and slack too).

Why it works

Developer Seb Pearce says the props bot provides public recognition to those who’ve gone out of their way to help, or have done something extraordinary. When a contribution is directed towards the group rather than a particular person, recognition isn’t always prompt. Others won’t feel an instinctive urge to say “thanks” as they might if it was a personal favor. He explains, “Someone might make extra effort to help with cleaning a communal area and this could go unnoticed. Or, if it is noticed by someone who’s busy, they might forget to thank the person face-to-face. The props bot makes it easy to make our appreciation public.” As an added bonus, it also encourages people to contribute more, knowing that their contribution will be valued.

The Props Bot has been live since March 2015 and recently we’ve been seeing between 20 and 35 props given each week all across Culture Amp. Over 500 props have been logged so far, and the general trend increases per month, as shown on the graph below.

Open for contributions

The Props Bot isn’t a one man show and Barrell feels lucky to have people who contribute to its development and provide feedback. Many other CAmpers have contributed to the Props Bot with ideas and code from Seb Pearce, to encouragement and suggestions from Chloe Hamman, Insights Strategist, and even a “What are you waiting for? Just do it :)” from CEO Didier Elzinga.

The Props bot got its start during one of Culture Amp’s Project Days. It has been successful and useful for us as a company, but there is still room to grow. In the future, Barrell aims to get the Props Bot integrated into the onboarding process and get other people involved on a regular basis. There’s even an effort underway by other colleagues to integrate videos as props. London Account Executive James Lovell says, “The theory here is that the reinforcement (ie. the feedback and recognition) associated with the prop will be more powerful when the recipient can see and hear the person delivering the props.”

The props bot is a purposefully altruistic tool, with no opportunities for personal gain. It also aligns with one of our company values, learn faster through feedback, by allowing us to give real-time feedback and recognition.