Changing corporate culture one thank you at a time

Tom Short of Kudos talks about why employee engagement is so crucial to business success and how his company helps

Tom Short is founder and chief customer officer of Kudos.

Tom Short

What is Kudos and what does it do?

Short: Kudos supports organizations that want to improve team morale and enhance their corporate culture with the power of recognition and communication. Our system is a private social network that allows everyone to recognize and appreciate anyone on their team.

Our software as a service (SaaS) solution is changing the way organizations approach employee engagement while helping reinforce their core values to reduce employee turnover.

We service clients that range from 100 to 20,000 users in over 80 countries and 30 verticals, and in eight languages.

Kudos is a leader in the social recognition space and we’re changing the world one thank you at a time.

Tell me how and why this company was established?

Short: We developed Kudos in my previous agency (Rare Method) in 2007. We had experienced several years of rapid growth, and we were struggling to maintain our desired culture, share our core values and build connections with all of our team members. We searched for a solution that would allow us to improve communication and show our appreciation for our team’s efforts and contributions, but all we found were traditional recognition companies, and they were all about rewards and incentives.

We didn’t want to create a competitive, unfair environment, add expense or create new entitlements; we felt strongly that recognition and communication was the correct path forward. So we built our own system.

Our team loved it, morale soared, and our agency clients started to ask about the system, expressing the same concerns and challenges around culture and engagement that we had.

Based on the positive feedback and our own internal success, we launched Kudos in 2012 as a standalone product. Our solution was so unique in the HR space that it created a new category, which is referred to as “social recognition and casual rewards.”

Since we launched Kudos, we’ve seen the momentum increase year over year for peer-to-peer recognition and it’s accelerating.

What has been Kudos’ reach in terms of clients?

Short: Global employee engagement and more specifically disengagement is a major concern for organizations all over the world. Disengaged employees cost the global economy billions of dollars in lost productivity. Combine that with the changing demographics at work, where millennials will make up the majority of the workforce globally by 2020, and organizations everywhere and at all sizes are looking for new and more effective ways to engage their teams.

Combined with low unemployment in many countries, we have seen a steady increase in inbound leads and signups for Kudos globally as the competition for talent increases. Clients are finding us from all over the world. Small to medium business to major global brands have chosen to work with Kudos such as Calgary Parking Authority and World Health locally to international organizations such as MTN Telcom, Lego, and, to name a few.

You’ve been a successful entrepreneur. What are the key challenges you’ve overcome on your journey?

Short: Being a SaaS HR tech startup in a predominately energy-based province was challenging on two fronts: first convincing investors that the world needed a new way to thank and appreciate their employees was an uphill battle with the venture capitalists and angel investors in Calgary. They didn’t get Kudos or appreciate it – no pun intended – at first.

Angels who were more familiar with oil and gas operations (that often engage their teams with handsome pay and lavish perks to attract and keep talent) didn’t see the need for our product. Corporate culture wasn’t perceived as a critical driver for sustained success.

So selling Kudos in Calgary and getting investors proved challenging but we overcame this and found a small group of believers as investors and clients.

Internationally, the adoption of our system has been much better. It seems the idea of peer-to-peer recognition has moved from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have solution globally.

A second challenge then and now is finding talent, specifically solution-minded developers who have skills in javascript, nodeJS and react. But that seems to be getting better, too.

Last but not least, we need to keep our competitive edge and leadership position by continuing to innovate and improve our solution as more competition enters the market.

What are the key characteristics an entrepreneur needs to be successful?

Short: Perseverance and resilience, a strong work ethic, a good plan and a solid product. Focus and do the work step by step. There are no shortcuts. Bootstrap your idea and build a compelling minimal viable product (MVP) that can generate revenue and demonstrate there’s a demand for your solution.

Best case, you can find the investors and team members who believe in your vision and product; worse case, you can sustain yourself until you can win over hearts and minds to take your company to the next level.

One of my favourite sayings is, “It only takes seven years to become an overnight success.”

Also, find good partners who complement your skills. It’s better to have a smaller piece of a bigger pie versus 100 per cent of a small pie or worse to have a good idea that fails. A good accountant and lawyer are also helpful.

– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business

kudos culture employee engagement

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