Have the team tell you who is important - with an incentive

We wanted our 25 person team tell us who delivered value to them.  The one-time exercise was totally opened to being gamed and manipulated as are all systems.  We attempted to limit risk by keeping the stakes low.  

The gift card experiment

We had a pile of $10 gift cards targeted to be used for incentives.  We gave everyone two cards.  They were to keep one as a reward and give away the other as a thank you to someone else for their help.  

  1. Every person was given two gift cards.
  2. Each person kept one. This meant no one walked away empty handed.
  3. Each person had 7 days to give one away as a thank you for that person's help during the year. Supervisors and team leads were excluded.
  4. I did an informal survey to find out who people gave their thank you card to.
  5. No records were kept
  1. A couple people kept there give away cards.  This was disappointing but not a surprise.
  2. About 1/3 of the earmarked cards went to one of our team's introverts. The person was shocked and gratified that others appreciated their contribution.  It was a real confidence builder.
  3. About 1/3 of people gave away both cards.  This was awesome because it increased the number of thank you events.
  4. Cards were to people not on their team, typically our DB or Operations support folks. They appreciated being thought of for this.
  5. Our after-event survey showed high satisfaction. 


Would this pass today's bias tests?  I hope so but don't know. Others are smarter about that than me.

Companies struggle with how to determine who adds value to the company and their team. It is a hard problem that can dis-incentive as much as it motivates. Companies implement processes like group level calibration that dis-proportionally reward those on projects that are broadly visible. Everyone knows this which creates talent depletion and resulting punishment for the rest of the org.


Change log

Created 2019/11/30
Last Modified 2019/11/30 


  1. that's interesting, some folks kept both cards to themselves.


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