How to Boost Team Recognition with Slack: PanDa Bot

in Backend, Frontend by Michał, on January 25th, 2018

Knowledge and experience sharing, helping out, and consultation  — all of those aspects are crucial if you want to develop an efficient and successful team and maintain good atmosphere along the way.

It is also important to encourage these practices between team members. How do we do that? By team recognition! It’s only a cliché because it’s true – but recognition really is the key to long-lasting relationships and rich working culture.

People want to be appreciated

When someone helps you out with an SQL problem, shares some neat trick in Laravel, or shows you an IDE feature that you didn’t know, a simple “thank you” is usually enough But at Desmart, we wanted to go one step further and build a recognition-rich culture. What is that exactly?

Well, simply speaking, it is a working culture where you can be appreciated and recognized for being helpful to the organisation in any way and, at the same time, get some gratification. Let’s be honest, people want to be recognized and appreciated for what they do.

In order to develop such culture at Desmart, we were thinking of some tool that will help us with the task. We decided to use a small micro-bonus platform called Bonusly. At that time, it was almost the perfect fit for us  —  free-of-charge and simple in use. Then, Bonusly announced they were introducing paid plans for all users. We hesitated.

Bonusly was doing its job and we were satisfied with them — and a couple of bucks every month was not a big deal. Before we decided what to do, a few devs (me included) had come up with another solution — our own internal micro-bonuses platform integrated with Slack, a communication tool that we use on a daily basis (Bonusly didn’t have a full Slack integration then). We decided to give it a go. We called it PanDa.

*** On a side note, PanDa is a word-play in Polish. It can be translated as “gimme”. ***

Hi, I’m PanDa

During PanDa development, buzzwords like cqrs and event sourcing were getting the hype, so the dev team made a decision to experiment with those approaches and check their usability for the company. We used Laravel for API and Node.js for bot integrated with Slack. After a few weeks of work, done mainly after hours, PanDa was ready. 

The key concepts of PanDa are following:

  • renewable amount of points available to spend every month,
  • ability to recognize colleagues by giving them points (called bonus),
  • ability to “bump up” recognition (add more points to the given bonus).
.

How PanDa works

Using PanDa, you have a fixed number of PanDa-points, renewable every month. You can spend them by giving bonuses to other colleagues for anything you want. All of this is done via Slack — we have a dedicated user, PanDa, to communicate with the bonus platform.

List of available commands within Slack
List of available commands within Slack

If you see someone has just received a bonus, you bump it up with your points. For that, we’ve used Slack reactions.

Slack message
An example Slack message about new bonus and available reactions to bump up that bonus

Each bonus has two parts: a receiver and a reason. I’ve seen a lot of different reason descriptions, from those straight-to-the-point through funny, or inspiring to poetic ones. It is really amazing to see how many ways and forms people can say “thanks, dude!” It is also a very nice feeling when you can read why people appreciate you — it motivates you, builds self-esteem, and increases confidence.

At the end of every month, we check who received how many points. Then, we monetize them. Every employee that received any number of points will get a small financial gratification, according to the percentage share of the whole received points bank.

As time goes by…

It’s been almost a year and a half since PanDa came into use. It can be seen as a work in progress, but all main functionalities are there. We’re happy with it, and we’re using it quite a lot. However, we’re constantly thinking how to improve our platform.

From the technical point of view, PanDa is also our sandbox to try new technologies, approaches, patterns (hey, we even tried to write PanDa on a blockchain!). Technology can change, but the idea of PanDa will always stay the same — promoting recognition.

Right now, there are about 30 people at Desmart. Everyone has 1000 points at their disposal each month. Our statistics show that people spend monthly over 2/3 of their points bank. I think it is quite impressive and shows that we, as a company, are going in the right direction to develop recognition-rich environment.

Empower your team!

If you’re thinking about building a recognition-rich organisation, wait no more— it’s totally worth it. It helps building a healthy working culture and more efficient teams, and gives insight into people’s values and strengths.

Note: during PanDa requirement analysis, we used the event storming technique. It is a creative and clean approach that focuses on the business and helps define ubiquitous language within the team. Try it — you may be amazed how many details it reveals from the start.

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