Fastspot has always been proud of its close-knit team. We’re growing, but our culture remains a top priority. One of our goals is to make sure that everyone at Fastspot has an opportunity to contribute in a way that feels inclusive and encouraging. But as many have learned before us, that’s easier said than done. It turns out the answer for Fastspot was a solid foundation and a couple of robots.

Getting to the Core

As part of an initiative to formalize a structure for growth at the company, a Fastspot team spent several meetings focused on developing a set of Core Values. They serve as a baseline for the decisions we make, the actions we take, and the people that make up our teams. Our Core Values don’t dictate behavior; rather, they are an organic and natural articulation of who we are as a team and what innately makes up the winning culture we’ve created since the company’s founding.

Fastspot’s team spent several meetings getting ours just so and we are absolutely in love with them and what they mean for our team:

  • Go above and beyond.

  • Do the right thing.

  • Be helpful and caring.

  • Be intellectually nimble.

  • Make the ordinary extraordinary.

We hire, reward, and promote around these key principles (and there are some multifaceted ways in which they are baked into recruitment and review processes now, as well). However, what we really latched onto culturally was the idea of rewarding around them.

Taco-bout Appreciation

We had already seen a lot of success integrating a simple, free app called HeyTaco into our Slack channels. HeyTaco is a team recognition bot that provides you with a stash of five “tacos” per day to award to your team members. The app keeps track of how many tacos each person sends and/or is awarded. Tacos can then be redeemed for real rewards: in our case, Amazon gift cards. Whenever anyone at Fastspot wants to add a little happiness to someone's day, they need only mention their username in a Slack message with a taco emoji (?) included.

Our employees jumped on this the instant we introduced it and have been going strong for the past six months. We’ve had 2,570 tacos rewarded amongst 24 users since then.

“? for being the best”

“for all the useful Mac tips ?”

“? great hair ? great scarves ? adorable child ? fluffy dog”

This gave us the idea: What if we attached more foundational value to those tacos? What if a well-crafted peer shout-out came with tacos—and was also attached to a Core Value?

We’d reinforce knowledge and appreciation of the Fastspot Core Values, create context for the great things our team was already doing that were in keeping with our culture, amass a ton of great examples of the “right way” to contribute at Fastspot, and also have another opportunity to reward the team. The reward, we decided, would come in the form of our first-ever Employee of the Month contest.

Along Came Fastbot

We created our own Slack bot, unsurprisingly named Fastbot. (You probably already pronounce our name this way most of the time anyway.)

Fastbot “listens” for the mention any of five custom hashtags based on our Core Values when posted in the same Slack channel where HeyTaco also lives. The bot keeps a tally of all recognitions per person and per Core Value. Tim Buckingham, our director of development, created the bot and integrated a custom module into our CMS to allow the Operations team to pull monthly reports on Fastbot’s data. The stats for the month are pulled as the month closes to determine a winner. The Employee of the Month is recognized at our daily all-hands meeting on/around the first of each month.

“?? for jumping in to help with client calls repeatedly today #helpfulandcaring”

“? for being a great leader and collaborator! #aboveandbeyond #intellectuallynimble #helpfulandcaring”

“thanks for jumping in to help. ? #helpfulandcaring”

Having this data has been incredible. Once things truly took off, we were able to award our Employees of the Month based on a variety of stellar criteria. One individual was not only recognized the most times by their peers, but also across all five Fastspot Core Values. Most recently, we were able to award an individual for the most recognitions in a single Core Value category. And we plan to continue to change up the metrics we use to keep things interesting—and so no one will try to game the system or ruin the surprise! (Come on, we’re talking about developers with a competitive spirit here!)

The True Reward

It was only recently, though, that we realized what an uplifting and positive impact these simple mechanisms of appreciation had on our team.

In fact, the shift was so seamless that we really didn’t notice it at all—that was, until an employee returned from a three-month leave and inquired after a few weeks back, “Is there still a snarky, sarcastic channel?” (Which was followed quickly with a playfully snarky, “Um. This one?” in response, naturally.)

That’s when it hit us: Gone were the days of Slack being used as an outlet for grousing and complaining when having a “bad” day. Without any policies or mandates, or really even noticing, the behavioral pattern just changed. We saw that everyone would much rather send someone (fake!) tacos and a few hashtags than pile on the commiseration via sarcastic banter.

We see our team turning challenging conversations with clients into congratulations to the project manager for a great job reaching a collaborative solution. They’re turning frustrating creative roadblocks into appreciation for a teammate for staying late to work through the problem. They’re actively seeking opportunities to recognize teammates who may not receive praise as often as others.

It’s impossible to force adherence to Core Values, to dictate the shape culture will take, or to demand participation in an initiative like this one. But our adventures with HeyTaco, enhanced by Fastbot, have shown us just how effective it can be to give a tight-knit team a simple, fun tool to let their appreciation and respect for one another shine through.

Share on Twitter or Facebook Published June 16th 2017