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Kudos: Employee Appreciation in 2022 [Complete Guide]

November 5, 2021
9 Min Read
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Shakuro Graphics

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Your employee has been working his tail off for the company, and his creativity, hard work and dedication have finally won an achievement you've been coveting -- inching you past all your competitors and making you stand out in your industry. You're pleased as punch, but you know that's what comes with the territory. He did it because it was his job; he gets a paycheck, right? Tomorrow is business as usual, and you don't have time for thanks, recognition, or any of that new-fangled Kudos.

Or do you?

Maybe it's time to rethink your business decisions, so you don't have to rethink them when your big achievement melts away into nothingness and your star employee decides to go over to the competition. It turns out that every minute spent in employee appreciation and recognition has a higher ROI than the hours you spend pouring over the ledgers. And Kudos? There's a reason they've been around since ancient times. Kudos are inextricably linked to motivation, recognition and reward. 

They're more than just fun kiddie awards you get for gold stars; Kudos are tools used by businesses of all kinds to encourage their employees' good behavior. They're the secret ingredient that can take that one-time success and turn it into continual, overarching successes from an employee who would never dream of leaving the company.

Definition of Kudos

Okay, Kudos is k-u-d-o-s. It's an ancient Greek word meaning "glory" or "praise." It has been adapted to English as a noun and a verb- gaining popularity from companies around the world because it fits right into the overarching goal of workplace productivity: Kudos represents recognition, appreciation, respect and honor for your fellow employees. In short? Kudos is awesome. Why should you bother with Kudos at work? Put plainly: Kudos is the only rewards strategy you'll need.

All work and no Kudos make Jill a dull girl, so don't be afraid to let Kudos into your office. There are Kudos for every occasion and Kudos that can be awarded even on a daily basis, just for showing up at work or going above and beyond in their tasks. Kudos might end up being the single biggest motivator for employee engagement, and can drive your employee retention numbers up as well: it's been known that people with positive feelings about themselves tend not to quit their jobs. Award Kudos for everyday work-not just when you need them the most-- and make intrinsic motivation your secret weapon.

Where does Kudos come from?

Kudos has been around for quite some time now. It was first recorded as used by Homer, an ancient Greek poet who introduced Kudos into his epic works as a word of praise, renown and honor. He actually attributed Kudos to the goddess Aphrodite who inspired him to use Kudos in his work. The Kudos you're awarding at work is a modern version of Kudos from ancient Greece, but its meaning remains more or less constant throughout generations. Today, it is primarily used in a workplace setting, but you can give Kudos to your roommate, spouse, or hairdresser if you really appreciate them for something that they've done.

Why Kudos are important

Introducing Kudos is the best way to make your company more successful because it provides an incentive structure that encourages employees to do their jobs well without resorting to free food and massages as bribe tactics.

Here are some reasons why Kudos shouldn't be left out of an office strategy:

1. Kudos creates appreciation in the workplace

There's something to that old saying: if you want to grow apples, plant apples! If you'd like to grow appreciation, plant appreciation, and do it by giving Kudos liberally to everyone who half-deserves it. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be sincere sincerity is actually key to successful Kudos. But you'll find sincere appreciation is easier than you anticipated once you start realizing all the hard work that goes into just another day at the office.

2. Kudos boosts morale and motivation

Research shows that Kudos boosts morale and motivation. It shouldn't come as a surprise that Kudos is the greatest morale booster in any company, and it's also something that can be given to remote teams. Meaningful recognition in the form of Kudos makes for an excellent motivator across all kinds of work structures.

3. Kudos is inexpensive

Kudos don’t need to break the bank, either- you can give Kudos for free with praise alone! Give Kudos liberally even if there isn't time for Kudos-related activities, or try emailing out Kudoses or passing out physical awards at lunchtime with no formal ceremony at all! You can also Kudos with free Kudos software like the Slack app Matter (more on that later).

4. Kudos encourages competitive behavior

Kudo rewards can be a fierce motivator and competition creates a more dynamic, productive workplace. If your employees are kudded out one way or the other, they'll repay this effort by kudding everyone else up too :D! It's like an avalanche of Kudosity! Everyone will be doing their part to earn company Kudos at all times simply because it feels so great to do something nice every day. And then the workplace magic that ensues is second only to employee appreciation itself.

The best part? You don't have to settle for anyone's word on why Kudos work; there are tons of studies available online on Kudos and kudo awards. You can see firsthand how Kudos improves morale and motivation on a daily basis and how employees consistently appreciate Kudos, no matter what form they take!

How to gather and give Kudos

Ready to start? First things first: make sure your Kudos is genuine, not merely transactional or meant as a reward for doing something wrong. This will encourage the feeling of appreciation to flow both ways; think of how rewarding it feels when you're kuded by someone, whether they're your employer or roommate. Kuding shows others that they're appreciated and valued as part of your team, company or friendship circle.

Here are some ideas for Kudos giving:

  • Email or handwritten notes of thanks
  • Shoutouts on Kudos software- like the Slack Kudos app Matter!
  • Physical awards, whether they're engraved or not
  • Kudos-points toward a Kudos kitty or Kudos jar
  • Kudo-candy

There are many, many Kudos ideas and yes, you can kudo your Kudos. The more Kudoses they get, the happier everyone will be with Kudos! Ready with Kudos ideas? Now it's time to start passing them out. You can do so immediately after successful work events like projects launched and campaigns pulled off successfully, whatever milestone is most relevant to your business.

The biggest benefit of Kudos is its effectiveness over other reward tactics. Not only does Kudosing provide a sense of appreciation for employees but it also makes them feel part of a community. Kudos aren't just top-down. They're something that can be shared between coworkers or even from staff to their higher-ups.

If you'd like to gather Kudos, here are some hints:

  • Encourage all your team members to send out 3-6 Kudos a day. They're responsible for finding praiseworthy actions to target with their Kudos -- let the hunt begin!
  • Do things that are praiseworthy on a regular basis, so everyone has something to find.
  • Give Kudos yourself, someone who just received positive feedback is most likely to pass it on.
  • If they still don't get the hint, you can always highlight your struggles with status messages throughout the day so your staff knows a Kudos-worthy event is coming up. Here’s an example:
  • Status message #1 - Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel 
  • Status message #2 - Almost got this! #nevergiveup
  • Status message #3 - Victory I can almost taste 
  • Status message #4 - I DID IT #Kudosworthyachievements

Seriously, if you don't want to draw it out, a simply #Kudosworthyachievements tag on the end of a single victory message should let your team know there's someone around ready to be thanked, if they aren't dense.

Benefit of Kudos

Here are a few more reasons Kudos are important in the workplace:

  • If Kudos are written on Kudos cards (which they can be), then kudo giving becomes ceremonial, like handing out diplomas or trophies. Everyone likes receiving an accolade, and your workplace will be full of good vibes
  • Employees who receive Kudos return the favor with Kudosing their teammates; it's kind of like a snowball effect, so you might as well start early!
  • Kudos-giving motivates employees. Internally motivating staff is difficult, but Kudos makes the process easier by letting them know what they're doing is appreciated. Employees will try harder if they know someone is watching.

Kudos employee recognition

That’s why Kudos are important for employee recognition, and many companies, big and small, have implemented the giving (and getting) of Kudos as part of their employee recognition system. Sometimes this is done formally, with a company marking down gratitude stars on a Kudos board that will later be added up to calculate a yearly bonus. 

Other businesses put a Kudos jar in the shared workspace, and raffle off prizes on a month or bi-monthly basis. But even if Kudos at your company is just that a heartfelt thanks and some well-deserved praise.Iit can still be incredibly effective at boosting morale, encouraging strong connection and collaboration, and forming a culture of appreciation at your workplace. 

Remote teams and Kudos

We've covered the benefits of kudo-ing employees you're in contact with every day, but what about those remote workers? It's not always possible to thank your virtual team members in person, but that doesn't make the Kudos culture any less relevant to remote teams. The best way to introduce Kudos to your digital workplace is with Kudos software that allows team members to send and receive digital Kudos from their phones and computer screens, although you can also use a corporate social network or your standard social media.

Kudos are helpful for remote teams because remote workers tend to be more isolated than their in-office counterparts, but no one can feel lonely with a constant stream of relevant, authentic, real-life praise! Make a point of recognizing your virtual employees even when nothing spectacular is going on, consistent drudgery deserves as much praise as do those exciting moments when everyone can see something grand and big has just happened.

Kudos ideas

You can give Kudos for anything! The important thing is that your Kudos is genuine and not just an HR gesture.

Here are some Kudos ideas you can try out or use as inspiration:

  • Kudos for being proactive in asking questions -- the sign of a great team member
  • Kudos for showing integrity in dealings with the public at large
  • Kudos for successfully executing on a task. even if it doesn't seem super visible to outsiders, it was noticed!
  • Kudos for being flexible and showing up to a meeting even though the information was sent out too late

Be super specific when giving your Kudos so the recipient knows it was earned -- you’re not just being phony and pretend and passing off fake Kudos to everyone. You can give Kudos online, in an email, or written on a Kudos card, or be old-fashioned and use word of mouth! Since we’re focused on fame and recognition here, though, best practices suggest you should be loud about it and let the whole office know that employee X did something wonderful. 

Kudos examples

The following list of Kudos examples covers a variety of ways Kudos giving can make your team more awesome:

  • "I liked how you handled client X yesterday!" 
  • "You got client X's account? I'm totally impressed." 
  • "Wow, it was really nice of you to come in this weekend." 
  • "You saved the day! Thank you" 
  • "Nice job keeping up with that information, I knew I could count on you!" 
  • "I'm glad you were there today to help me out." 
  • "Thank you for being so patient with customer Y."
  • "WOW! Kudos for your exceptionally organized meeting notes. They are so helpful!"
  • "Good job on that report! I could never have sorted out those tables on my own."
  • "Thanks for staying up late to finish Y. You're a life saver!"
  • "I love how enthusiastic everyone is about roll-out Z. Let's have an informal kudo party, k?"

Kudos images/gifs

When you need some Kudos inspiration or even just a pick-me-up -- Kudos images and Kudos gifs can be very helpful. It's like searching the grocery store card aisle for that perfect Thank you card. Except that these gifs are funnier, they're free, and you've got a much bigger selection to choose from. A few favorite sources for Kudos images:

Gify: All the gifs, and a few besides. Don’t pick randomly from this collection, you’ve got an even chance of offending your recipient, or clocking a violation against team culture, but if you pick well you can find more than a few Kudos gifs that can express your gratitude toward that hard-working employee in a way that just words can’t measure up to. 

Adobe Stock: A good source for non-moving images. This repository boasts 16,492 Kudos-related images last I checked, and though they aren’t gifs, some of them are pretty cunning. Admission: no-one has checked down to the thousandths page to see if they're really just as good at the bottom of the barrel.

123rf: This is where you go for the vector art you need to make up your custom Kudos cards or Kudos posters. They’ve got card templates and illustrations suitable for stickers, stamps, or full-size printouts. 

Kudos software

Kudos software allows employees to Kudos each other with Kudos cards via a platform, Kudos apps, Kudos software, or Kudos dashboards. They're designed to help Kudos culture survive in virtual workplaces by allowing team members from around the world to kudize one another and share kudo-able moments without ever leaving their screens. But they're not just about remote work, Kudos software can be extremely effective in a traditional workplace as well, and can save you money on traditional thank you cards.

The free Slack app Matter is a natural choice for Kudos software because it fits seamlessly into the workplace software you're probably already using: Slack. If someone gets a Kudos, they know who it came from and can feel that encouragement all day long. If you want a summary of all the amazing things going on in your company, just display the complete docket of all Kudos given out by everyone in Slack. It's like magic! The app also has some handy feedback options where team members can both request and give constructive feedback; there’s nothing like knowing exactly where you’ve gone wrong and how to fix it. 

Remember, it’s not how you give Kudos, it’s that you give them. Whether you choose to introduce Kudos-culture to your team with software, a Kudos jar, or daily shout-outs in the lunchroom, the important thing is that you’re recognizing your team for their whole-hearted contributions to your company and the goals you have at heart. When you do that, you’ll find everything changes.

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