Businessman interacting with a chatbot, rendering on a wall
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In the enterprise, as in most places, employee turnover is costly. And according to the Work Institute, typically what drives a lot of that turnover is poor management. In fact, according to their research, eleven percent of turnover stems from "unprofessional or unsupportive managers." The good news they say is that nearly 77 percent of all turnover is preventable.  

That's what Jeremy Vandehey was thinking when he and his brother created Disco, a chatbot company. Their goal was to help employees feel better appreciated. 

Rewarding Kudos

To help supervisors show their support — and hopefully keep those employees engaged — Disco monitors employee conversations, looking for compliments. 

Connect the bot to Slack or Microsoft Teams, explains CEO Vandehey, and "you can basically teach it to listen to certain praise cues" — like "kudos, cheers, [or] props." Staff are then ranked by most-complimented on a community scoreboard; some clients even reference compliment numbers during employee review.

Reinforcing Company Culture

But at Intuit, talent development learning architect Dana Sednek uses the tool in a slightly different way: To make sure employees adhere to culture.

"We've got a lot of words that mean one thing internally," Sednek explains, that "might not mean the same thing kind of outside of our culture." Instead of searching for "props" or Vandehey's other suggested words, Intuit loaded its own vocabulary in Disco's system — a set of key phrases built around corporate values the company wants staff to exemplify: "Things like 'be decisive' or 'learn fast,'" Sednek explains. "When we kind of recognize each other, we use our values as an extension of that recognition." For example, one employee might compliment another by saying "'The decision that we made really represents 'be decisive,'" she explains — "any of our values because it's a natural form of recognition."

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Putting It All Together

That's not to say recognition alone doesn't matter. In fact, for remote workers like Sednek, it's key. That's why Intuit developed Spotlight, an internal tool Sednek says "gives you rewards as part of the recognition." Note this is different from Intuit's external Spotlight tool, a QuickBooks add-on that confusingly has the same name. With the internal tool, employees submit reports bragging on coworkers who demonstrate company values, selecting the trait they represented from the system. Spotlight then sends that employee a gift card.

Unfortunately, this requires action — someone has to go to the system and file a report. Plus, in light of the isolation some remote workers face, a gift card doesn't say 'you're not alone' as well as a compliment. "[Spotlight is] about going above and beyond your work, not about the everyday recognition and reinforcement that we give with each other, especially when we're not in the same location," Sednek explains. "When you're remote or you're not in the same physical location with people, there's risk of being disconnected from the culture."

But chatbots integrate with the online conversations that are already happening — not to mention, Sednek adds, chat forums are the primary place remote workers go to connect: "We're working on ways where we can recognize each other...in our virtual work. So on Slack, for example, being able to give a shout-out or an emoji about something that somebody says is the virtual equivalent of being around a table and side whispering, 'Oh, that was integrity without compromise.' It calls it out and reinforces the currency of culture."