One of the Zendesk company goals (or ABZs) for 2015 was “Zendesk should feel like Zendesk”. Which is both a really cool goal (for those that like working at Zendesk) and completely vague and subjective. We all know what it means intuitively but if we tried to write it down we’d end up with a giant wall of post-its. Defining what the word culture even means, let alone defining a company culture, is a difficult thing.
Luckily we aren’t the first rapid-growth technology company trying to define and maintain a culture that has served us well. And while there is definitely a place for writing down a list of goals or values or visions or missions etc I’ve always been more interested in how those goals translate into human actions. One of the biggest hurdles of the transition from 10 employees to 1000 is how to maintain humanness in the face of bureaucratic process that accretes along the way like a hoarder collecting junk mail. So the definition and reinforcement of culture should be done by people, for other people, and with a minimum of fuss.
One of the ways we are attempting to do this is the Melbourne office of Zendesk is with a Kudos Wall. This is where you mark out a bit of wall space (or get a shoebox if you’re British), print out some Kudos Cards and get started.
When a co-worker does something kind, clever or otherwise remarkable we take a card, write down the kudos and blue-tac it to the wall.
Once a month at our Town Hall we take down the cards and hand them out with honourable mentions to employees that received the most or did something particularly noteworthy. We contemplated giving out gift vouchers or some other kind of prize but decided that the intrinsic reward of kudos from one’s co-workers was the point of the exercise, not goodies. We are keeping track of the themes represented on the Wall as they will help inform what Zendesk is — the list of behaviours and attitudes we want to reward and reinforce as defined by the people who work here. After two weeks this was the #ZenLove wall:
We have now finished our first month with the Wall. The initial results of the experiment are positive. A large number of staff engaged by either writing and/or receiving kudos. The other departments in the company want to try it out for themselves. Recipients have kept the cards as a reminder that they are doing good things. And a few of us found that if we were having a slow or grumpy day if we stood in front of the Wall and read kudos for a minute we couldn’t help but cheer right up. There was unanimous support to continue. Which reminds me, someone I work with was totally awesome today…