Thursday, November 1, 2012

Top 3 Ways Companies Use KangoGift to Foster a Thank You Culture

We have some exciting news and insight to share about how companies are embracing KangoGift as a way to make it easy to say thanks at work. 

As a company tapping into the rise of the social and collaborative workplace, we find this to be an amazing time to enhance the way people work. 

There are many, many HR tools out there and we are proud of the way our clients are benefiting from the simple idea that celebrating great work the moment it happens leads to a more engaged and productive workplace. 

Here are the top 3 ways companies are using our recognition platform. Hopefully some of these ideas will spark you and your teams to consider ways these new tools can be embraced. 

1. Reinforcing recognition with something tangible

Informal and frequent praise is important in today's work culture.  Social praise is effective and we are strong proponents of it. However, we also believe in the power of acknowledging someone's effort with a real reward. 

Our approach of micro-rewards such as a dinner or a gift card from Amazon that is sent instantly as digital gift cards and redeemable immediately ensures the recipient feels appreciated and engaged. 

A popular example of this is the co-worker who stays late to finish the big project or who helps a colleague in another department finish a key report. Acknowledging that effort with an instant reward sent to the mobile device or email is a natural way to show appreciation. 

2. Capturing those "Pat on the back moments" 

All clients use KangoGift as a way to align recognition with corporate values. A key insight we've learned is how companies are looking to capture and collect these informal moments within one system. 

The benefit of empowering everyone to give recognition on a social platform is the ability to report on and understand who when and why people are being recognized. 

Our employee recognition statements provides managers and HR with a real-time glimpse into the workforce. This visibility is not possible with traditional offline recognition programs. 

3. Helping managers be more productive 

Many managers say they understand the importance of recognition, but either forget or don't have an easy way to deliver it. And some managers may not know the best way to give recognition. 

Understanding these challenges, companies find that a social platform not only leads to higher quality recognition, but also increases the frequency in which people give recognition. Utilizing a tool with best practices built in ensures recognition is timely and done according to the company's program goals. 

By using our platform, we've seen managers increase the total number of recognitions by as much as 50% on average, with higher adoption and utilization rates from managers. 

The Big Idea

Our vision is to make it easy to say thanks at work. We are working hard to make that possible with the idea that informal frequent recognition reinforced with a real reward sent digitally leads to higher performing organizations. 

Recognition taps into the natural behavior of how managers want to lead and how employees want to be appreciated. 

While there are many trends in the social workplace, offering a social, mobile, and collaborative way to engage is critical. 

Please reach out if you want to talk about these trends. We love this stuff and are happy to share some insights. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

3 Things That Makes Us the Most Proud of the New KangoGift

As many of you know, after watching people use Kango to give small, thoughtful gifts to friends and family we saw an opportunity to bring our concept of "Making it easy to say thanks" into the workplace. 

For those new to KangoGift, we offer a way for companies to standardize and deliver an informal employee recognition program that is aligned with the big company goals. We enjoy working with HR leaders at some pretty amazing companies. 

For employees our platform is a way to celebrate the small wins by sending gifts to peers for doing great work. Immediate and instant recognition coupled with a real gift like $25 from Amazon is much more effective than recognition that is given months later. 

Our key feature is that people send colleagues real gifts instantly from the computer or mobile device and share the recognition within the company. It's cool and we'd love to show you. Who doesn't want to receive a little pick me up for doing a great job?

Here's what we are most proud of now that thousands of employees are using our recognition platform.

1. Being in the Joy business 

One of our fantastic mentors shared his philosophy on the two types of businesses in this world. 

Pain Relief - Businesses that help you do something faster, cheaper

Joy - Businesses that help make your life just a little bit better

We knew from day one that we were a joy business, but hearing this from companies has been a great validation. 

2. Creating an impact

We are fortunate to work with one of the largest companies in the world. We can't name names, but we are thrilled to have the chance to roll out our platform to thousands of employees. 

The best part of this collaboration is that the team that championed our approach of informal recognition won  an internal innovation award for the way saying thanks impacted corporate culture. Now, that's cool! 

We are proud to have developed a tool for the workplace that people find meaningful and enjoy using. 

3. Changing the way people work

The HR technology world is full new tools with buzzwords like mobile, social, cloud, collaboration, etc. While we check off all those boxes, the most important thing is that we have developed technology that people enjoy using and use to increase employee satisfaction. 

Thanks for everyone who has been part of KangoGift!

Monday, August 6, 2012

KangoGift Named a Finalist for Mobile Innovation of the Year

A few weeks ago we were pleasantly surprised to learn that MassTLC named KangoGift a finalist in the category of Mobile Innovation of the Year! Go Team! 

What makes this award nomination particularly sweet is that the award is based on our newest employee recognition product which is now used by thousands of employees! It's very exciting to be highlighted for a product that is only months old. 

As many Kango followers know, we recently extended our micro-gift concept into companies where co-workers can give informal recognition and small gifts instantly from their mobile devices or desktop. For example, after a colleague nails a client presentation, the manager can give a small reward like a cup of coffee from her phone, deliver the gift instantly to the recipient's mobile device, and then share the recognition within the company. 

The idea is to make it easy to say thanks and make sure people get the recognition they deserve for going above and beyond. 

There is a lot of talk about social HR these days. For us, the important thing is to provide companies a platform that makes it easy to give informal and frequent praise with the benefit of sending a tangible gift. 

With our team's HR background, we find the ability for companies to offer a standardized way to deliver employee recognition very attractive. Not only are the pat on the back moments captured in one system, managers now have a tool to give informal recognition on the go. And for employees, it's always a morale boost to feel appreciated and receive a small thank you gift. 

We could go on and on, but we have to get back to work. 

Thanks to our corporate customers and the Kango team for working together to develop what some are calling the "Mobile Innovation of the Year"!

Todd, Founder/CEO

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Panel on Entrepreneurship at the French American Chamber of Commerce

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel called "Entrepreneurship - Myth and Reality" sponsored by the French American Chamber of Commerce

It was a fun lively evening with lots of stories of starting a company from the heart. 

Perhaps it was the European setting or the fabulous wine and cheese spread, but this talk went beyond the normal discussions on entrepreneurship where people discuss finding the product-market fit, fundraising, etc. 

This was a more thoughtful discussion on what it means to start a company and the impact we can have on the people around us. 

The panel included...

Olivier Ceberio - COO at Resolute Marine Energy
Tara Cousineau - Founder of BodiMojo
And Myself 
Enjoying a laugh
Samuel Gosselin Director of Operational Alliances at Novartis moderated our discussion.

We don't have video, but there were three recurring themes of the night which are worth sharing. 

1. Who are your people 
Each of us on the panel discussed "our people". 

For Olivier it is people who represent communities in need of clean energy. For Tara it is teenage girls and at Kango we aim to make it easy for you to say thanks and celebrate the small moments either at work or in your personal life.

Who are your people? 

2. Focus on bringing joy, not reducing pain
Tara and I share a mentor and he always reminds us that it is much better to be in the "joy business" than the "pain relief" business. 

The idea is that many companies offer a way to do something faster, better, cheaper. In some ways they are making something less painful like filling out forms or helping you be more productive. Microsoft traditionally has been in the business of doing things this way and has done an amazing job in building one of the largest companies in the world. 

In comparison, Apple has created products that do many of the same things yet they create an emotional response from people. This abstract notion of joy while hard to capture is one reason why Apple is one of the largest companies on the planet. 

This is a simple example, but the spirit of our discussion was that by focusing on your people and ways to bring joy to them, a new endeavor has the potential to create an emotional connection in ways you haven't imagined. 

3. The US market doesn't have to be the starting point
An easy point, but an important one. In various types of industries, your earliest customers can come from anywhere. 

In Olivier's case, his company's first customer is a country in Africa! For us at KangoGift, we received an award from the French government to evaluate expanding to France later this year. When starting something new, it's much easier to work with customers who want to work with you rather than have to go out and convince them. 

Closing Thoughts
This was a fantastic evening and a fun chance to look at entrepreneurship from the human side and share how we are all are focused on bringing some form of joy to our people, no matter where they are. 

Thanks to the Chamber and the CIC for hosting such a great event. I must say that the snacks at the French events are some of the best in Boston. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Self Service Employee Recognition and BYOD

Recently I was fortunate to have a conversation with Brent Skinner from HRO Today. The article "Control Your Own Destiny" discussed the emerging trend in the workplace of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the ways in which people are choosing the tools and technologies that make the most sense for them to be better colleagues. 

To those not familiar, the trend of bring-your-own-device refers to the rise of the smart-phone in the workplace where people are using their own phones and apps to be more productive. 

I want to keep it positive and am not suggesting there is a army of rogue managers out there using whatever tools they deem necessary. Instead we are entering a phase where managers will use the most appropriate tools that ensure they are efficient, timely, and effective.

This trend has encouraged many organizations to recognize that people are becoming their own IT departments and choosing the most appropriate technologies to be productive. This combination of self service and connectedness is really changing the way we work. 

Looking at this trend through the lens of employee recognition there are a few highlights worth noting. 

1. The Instant Workplace - People now crave immediate feedback and managers have embraced the idea of using their phones to give quick, targeted, feedback. 

There is almost a sense in some corporate cultures that if a person doesn't receive immediate feedback something could be amiss. Some people feel like they are playing catch up and others have embraced an instant feedback and praise system. 

Given the challenge instant provides, people are choosing their own methods to offer informal recognition in a timely way. The rise of the smart phone in the workplace means managers and peers now have tools available to them to be accessible and instant. 

2. Convenience - This BYOD movement taps into the ability to have convenient tools right in your pocket. 

It almost seems like the smart-phone has become an "HR, Swiss Army Knife" where all productivity tools are easily accessible. If it's reviewing a candidate, entering time, or giving recognition, people are using their phones and apps to  do their job when and where they want. 

One example we hear of frequently is the manager walking from one meeting to another and giving quick recognition to a co-worker for doing a great job. 

This convenience has also increased the rate of recognition since people may no longer forget or delay recognition until they get back to their desks. 

3. Remote Workforces - Immediate recognition in the hallways and by the water cooler is becoming more difficult as people work remotely and spend time outside of the office. 

New HR self serve tools help remote groups stay connected and updated. News feeds, peer recognition, and collaborative tools are well suited for people to do from their own phone. 

Closing Thought

The following quote from the HRO article brings these abstract trends to life and connects how the rise of self service tools and the BYOD movement can help companies foster a truly engaged and recognized workplace. 

“Immediate recognition tends to improve engagement between both the sender and receiver of the recognition and aligns with McKinsey’s findings that immediate recognition is 70 percent effective in motivating a person,” says Todd Horton, founder and CEO of KangoGift. “This simple act of kindness scored higher than all other forms of motivation including cash and taps into how self-service can be used for aligning instant recognition to company values and goals.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Putting People First - Top 3 HR Trends to Consider When Improving Employee Satisfaction

We think a lot about the idea of making it easy to say thanks at work. For us, celebrating the "small wins" is important and necessary to create a sense of purpose among managers and employees. And yet, it seems like it is not happening enough. 

Recent research published by Right Management suggested only 19% of workers are satisfied. Wow, 81% of workers in the US are not fully satisfied? 

We wanted to share the top 3 HR trends we believe companies should think about as they address this on-going satisfaction gap.

1. Mobile - More workers are either bringing their own smart phone to work or receive one directly from the company. This poses a tremendous opportunity for organizations. 

The first large opportunity is that employees have the chance to choose their own mobile apps that help them do their job better. While not every company may want people using their own tools, the reality is that many people now use their mobile device to increase both their personal and professional productivity. 

The second large opportunity is that organization now have a "2nd screen" to reach employees and develop tools that work better. 

From our vantage point, mobile is perfectly suited for recognition. If a co-worker just nailed the client presentation, why not use your phone to send a small recognition reward and then share it with all team members. Informal, timely recognition is always best. 

As with many mobile tools, simple reigns and focus each mobile tool on one simple thing. 

2. Social - There is no escaping this one, the workplace is becoming more social and virtual. Teams are talking on internal and external social networks like crazy. 

The implication for HR departments that these networks present tons of potential to share informal and on-going employee recognition. Rather than have recognition one-on-one, co-workers can now share recognition and create a rich recognition profile for each team member. 

Collaboration is well suited for reducing the satisfaction gap on virtual teams since there is one central place to view what's going on. 

Tapping into this trend will yield unique results in helping employees feel more "in the loop" and engaged with their peers. 

3. Big Data - We admit it's a buzzword, but the spirit has been true forever. If mobile and collaborative tools make communication and recognition more instant, the systems that process these functions generate an amazing knowledge base of data insight ready to be mined. 

Of course, we are fans of the way we made the "pat on the back" digital since it presents an opportunity to track and standardize a traditional offline process. That said, understanding how to collect, organize, and make sense of  HR data poses a clear way to close the satisfaction gap.  

Closing Idea

As your company thinks about the best way to increase employee engagement  and satisfaction, we really encourage you to incorporate elements of these three trends. They won't be going away anytime soon and you will be pleased with the results. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

MITX Innovation Award Nomination!

This week we learned that KangoGift was named a Finalist for an Innovation Award sponsored by the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX). This is very exciting news since our nomination is based on our "soon-to-be-released" instant recognition tool where we are looking to make it easy to thanks at work. 

Thank you MITX and everyone who has helped shape this new product. We have our fingers crossed for the June 12th ceremony. 

Our philosophy as you know has always been about the celebrating the small things and just saying thanks can go a very long way in making someone feel appreciated. It turns out that many employees don't feel like they are getting the recognition they deserve and we want to change that. Consider this our shift from instant gifts to instant recognition in the workplace. 

Saying thanks just works and if done in a timely way, both the recognizer and recipient will feel a little more engaged in their work. Of course we will be adding the Kango touch to make recognition instant, mobile, and a little fun. 

In the coming days we will share more about the product and how you can check it out. For now, here are the 4 guiding principles we used when designing the tool. These guidelines are rooted in recognition theory shared by the major HR thought leaders. We are simply posting what many already know on a gut level.

In order for recognition to be effective, many say that it must be...

1. Immediate
2. Specific
3. Public
4. Repeated regularly 

We thought deeply about each component and believe we've put something together that many will enjoy using including executives, managers, and employees. 

More to come, but we wanted to celebrate the MITX nomination and share it with you all! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vegas, Social Recognition, and Being Named "The Next Big Thing"

Celebrating the small things in life shouldn't be hard. Yet, we all get busy, forget, or can't find the right way to say thanks to those close to us. 

This is an occasion where we definitely won't forget to celebrate the opportunity we had last week to unveil our newest social recognition product at the Prepaid Expo in Las Vegas. 

As many of you know, we have recently turned our attention to helping companies ensure people get the recognition they deserve the moment they do something awesome. 

Let's say a colleague worked extra hard finishing up a project. With our new platform you can send her a cup of coffee instantly to her phone and then share the recognition internally and on social media to celebrate the moment. It's all about celebrating great work "in the moment" and amplifying it. 

The big idea is to make it easy to say thanks. 

We even put together a new video summarizing what we've been up to these past few months. It's not just the normal KangoGift website, it's an entirely new recognition platform geared for companies of all sizes. 

And here are a few pics from the launch... 

What made this launch even sweeter was that the expo team selected KangoGift to be featured as a "Next Big Thing" in digital gifting. 

All Great Companies

Plus it didn't hurt to have the chance to go on a big stage and present in front of our industry peers. 

Todd presenting social recognition

Thanks again to the team at the Prepaid Expo and to the companies piloting our newest product!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The power of thanks… and using mobile gifting to reinforce it

Guest post by an HR leader from Boston

I love receiving positive feedback and thanks. It usually doesn’t matter what it’s for, who it’s from, or how I received it; I like knowing the work I do is appreciated. It puts a spring in my step, a smile on my face, and motivates me to do more. Not to mention the warm fuzzy feeling you get when someone, especially your boss, takes the time to say “Thank You.”

While the above is true for me, I wanted to know if it’s true for everyone else. Even though the answer seems obvious, I’m a data and numbers guy so I decided to research what empirical evidence I could find to prove it.

Shortly into my search, I found a ton of content from HR professionals or software companies telling me thanking someone will motivate them, increase the bottom line, and other great things. However, none of them provided any real data to back up their assumptions! I was disappointed but not deterred.  

So, I began researching psychological studies on the impact of thanks and gratitude and finally found proof that I’m not alone in my love of receiving thanks! Here is some of what I learned:

Paying it forward

Did you know that when you say thank you to someone they’re more inclined to help you or a stranger?  Adam Grant and Francesca Gino completed a study in 2010 where they demonstrated this. 

In their experiment, they started with 69 participants and asked them to provide feedback to Eric (a fictional person) on his cover letter. Eric then responded to everyone asking for additional feedback on his cover letter. In these responses, he thanked half the group for feedback already given and sent a neutral response to everyone else. 66% of those who received a thankful reply offered additional feedback compared to 32% of those who received the neutral reply. 

Pretty impressive to see that simply saying thank you increased people’s willingness to help by 100%!

In their next study, they had the same set-up with one exception.  One day after helping Eric the participants received an email from another fictional person (Steven) asking for help with his cover letter. 25% of those who received a neutral response from Eric also helped Steven. 55% of those who received a thankful response from Eric also helped Steven. 

Again, simply thanking people increased their willingness to help by over 100%.

I found this study to be fascinating. While I think we all know that when you thank someone they’re more inclined to help you again, I was surprised to see they were almost just as willing to help a complete stranger!

Now imagine this at your company.  If your employees regularly thank each other then think of the benefit you’ll receive when your employees pay it forward to your prospects and customers.

Improving your image

In 2007, Louisiana State University professors (Randle Raggio & Judith Folse) completed a study on nationwide advertisements run by the state of Louisiana thanking the country for their support in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. There were two rounds of surveys asking participants about their attitude towards Louisiana, including how greedy and ungrateful they thought Louisianans are. In total they had over 4000 completed surveys across all 50 states.

They learned that many things, like gender, residence, and so on impacted people’s perception of the state; however the greatest impact came from people who witnessed the thank you ads!  In every metric they were measuring, respondents who saw the ads were always more favorable towards the state than those who didn’t.  

Additionally, the more times participants saw those ads, the more favorable they were!

So, not only does thanking someone increase the chances they’ll pay it forward, it also improves your personal image!

Again, tying this to the work place, think about the positive image you can build by thanking people, both internal and external to your company.  You’ll not only increase your personal brand, but by thanking customers and prospects you’ll also improve your company’s image!

Reinforcing through mobile gifting

Professors Robert Emmons & Michael McCullough conducted a study in 2003 where several sample populations, from healthy people to those with neuromuscular disorders, kept journals of their mood, coping behaviors, health, life appraisals, and so on. 

Additionally, the populations were split into 3 groups where they would log in their journal one of the following: 

  •  Gratitude – this group regularly updated their journal with things they were grateful for
  •  Hassles – this group updated their journal with things that bothered or hassled them
  •  Neutral – this group updated their journal with a list of events that impacted them – could be positive or negative

In all populations, those in the gratitude group exhibited a heightened sense of well-being.  This was determined by looking at the other data logged in their journal, like mood and life appraisal.  In other words, these researchers showed that those who are regularly reminded of what they’re grateful for are generally happier and healthier!

So, what does this have to do with telling someone thanks?  Well, if you send a mobile gift, like a cupcake or gift card, then think what will happen when the recipient uses their gift.   It will remind them of the thanks you gave them.

You could go even further by giving gifts with more staying power (like a certificate, coffee mug, or a decoration for their desk) and when used it will continually remind the recipient of the thanks you gave them and the gratitude they felt.  So, something as small as a $5 gift could greatly increase the staying power of the benefits you get by saying those magical words…. “Thank You.”

So, let me end this post by thanking all of you for reading it! And let me say a big “THANK YOU” in advance for sharing this article with all your friends and co-workers J.

As always, I welcome any comments or feedback!  Let us know if you agree, disagree, have read other interesting studies, or anything else thanks related that you want to discuss.  Also, feel free to get in touch if you’re interested in learning more about social gifting software.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Three ways to keep Social Recognition meaningful

Social Recognition is a powerful way to promote culture, reward performance, provide real-time feedback, and more.  But what happens when people start recognizing their coworkers for minor or nonsensical things like “Your hair looks great today”?  Chances are you’ll find your employees stop paying attention, or even worse, stop participating all together!

Social Recognition can function like any currency, the more you put in the system, the less valuable it becomes.

Hopefully you won’t run into this problem, but if you do, here are 3 ways to fight back.

Educate your employees

One of the best ways to prevent or reduce overuse of recognition is to simply educate everyone. Clear up any confusion and make it clear what kind of recognition is useful and what is not.

To make the training effective, show examples of both good and bad recognition. Try to use real recognition given at your company or at least provide very relevant examples. The important thing here is that you’re providing very clear examples in order to remove confusion.  

You should also have guidelines to follow. Don’t make them hard and fast rules, but offer guidance to help people know what to recognize others for. The most common examples would be when someone embodies your company culture, goes above and beyond the call of duty, meets a difficult goal, helps out at a company event, assists someone outside their job function, and so on. Posting these guidelines in a visible spot can help show what people should give recognition for.

Lastly, reinforce this over time by highlighting some great recognition on a regular basis. You could share some real examples at company meetings, through an internal newsletter, or whatever channel you use to communicate to your employees. You may also want to consider recognizing people who give effective recognition!  

Have different levels of recognition

If you have a culture where people want to give recognition for every little thing, fighting it may not be wise, especially if it was difficult to gain adoption of a social recognition system across your organization.  Rather than try to introduce guidelines or require additional education, which could dampen everyone’s enthusiasm for the system, try introducing different levels of recognition.

The easiest way to do this is to keep the recognition digital – so it’s just a badge on a profile, or a publicly posted message.  Then when someone gets recognized for something more significant, give something tangible for it – like a certificate or cupcakes.  This tangible gift will make the recognition stand out more for the person receiving it and make it more visible to others.

You can go even further if you want, by giving big gifts (steak dinner for hitting a very difficult goal), small gifts (cupcakes for embodying company culture), and then keeping the minor recognition digital.  It’s up to you based on your budget and preference.  The key here is that you’re rewarding people for the real behavior you want while at the same time letting people have fun with your social recognition software.  

Recognition should have a real impact

In some corporate cultures, if social recognition doesn’t have a real impact on their job, then employees won’t take it seriously.  Fortunately there is a relatively simple fix – tie recognition into performance reviews!  If someone knows that the recognition they get will be visible to their manager and referenced during performance reviews, then it has a real impact on them.  

Please note, this does not mean you should look at the kind of recognition someone gives. Instead, focus on the recognition your employees get. Mention it in reviews and let the employee know that they’re getting a slightly bigger raise because multiple coworkers have consistently given them positive recognition.  

By giving social recognition this kind of attention, you’re demonstrating that it’s important, so people will participate. You’re also reinforcing the kind of behavior you want by reviewing recognition during reviews and making it clear what influenced their raise. Combined with a little education (as described above), it can go a long way in getting your employees to give real and useful recognition.

While we presented 3 ways to keep social recognition meaningful, there are definitely other strategies. Please feel free leave a comments and share other strategies you think will work or that you’ve actually implemented.

If you’re interested in learning more about social recognition or want to see what a social recognition system looks like then let us know!