Here is the story of Kick Ass Awards that take place weekly at Pepper Group:
When you walk into the office, there are three poster-size corkboards plastered with dozens of previous nominations for the Kick Ass Award. In between two of the corkboards is a list of the company’s core values. Some of them are pretty interesting such as:
- Initiative Has No Boundaries
- Work & Play with Passion
- Scraped Knees Teach Us to Dance
- Face to Face with Grace
The premise is very simple: throughout the week you can at any time take a preprinted nomination form, select a person to nominate, give a brief description of their extraordinary action, select one (or more) of the company’s core values that act is most associated with and you’re done. Each entry is put into a little can and then opened like a weekly time capsule at the Monday morning all-company meeting. Each is read aloud. The winning of the actual traveling trophy is actually arbitrary—the public reading of the actions is the key.
How has this affected the culture at Pepper? Well, since the company is a marketing firm, the nature of the work is being creative. Being creative requires a lot of risk-taking, exploring boundaries, and shooting in the dark. For instance, designers may put together three concepts and offer them to a client who, to no fault of the designer, sharply criticizes some of the concepts—it’s a subjective thing to the client, but that designer put a lot of time into each concept.
The Kick Ass Award lets everyone know that their peers appreciate all their efforts—that ‘they have their back.’ It has resulted in a cohesive culture where collaboration, initiative, and support can thrive even in the midst of rejection from clients.
For those of you that want tangible proof of impact and speaking in terms of ROI, Tim can point to three ways this effort has returned.
- Recruiting: The culture becomes a central value proposition for the company to attract high quality talent. It’s the difference between going out and seeking the right candidate and having the right candidate knocking on your door.
- Clients: Customers that come through the office see all the Kick Ass Award nominations. They see that while they are buying something invisible (marketing strategy), the product is coming from something that is deeply personal. The culture will help everyone create something tremendously valuable.
- Employee Engagement: The little things really do count when creating culture. Even a tough day can be washed away with the satisfaction knowing that your work is truly appreciated and valued. Research has consistently replicated that meaning and purpose of one’s job is positively related to engagement.
The last and most important piece of information is that the Kick Ass Award isn’t tied to anything. It has no impact on performance reviews. Can you imagine the conversation that would sound like, “Well, you only got 8 Kick Ass Awards this year…”? It serves to be a mechanism or system for recognizing fellow coworkers. The giving of recognition is just as important as the receiving. And it turns out that people really enjoy recognizing their coworkers. Over the course of 4 years, or 208 weeks, 207 of those weeks had at least one Kick Ass nomination. That’s pretty Kick Ass.