When you walk into Button's largest meeting room, you find most of what you might expect at a New York City tech startup: auditorium-style seating, television screens for projecting presentations, laptop chargers, sticky notes and markers. The one object that you might not expect to find stands out in bright orange: Nemo. The fish. You know the guy.
Nemo is known for venturing far from home, but what is he doing at Button HQ? It's a question every new hire learns the answer to when they attend their first "Demos." Demos take place at the end of every Friday, when the organization comes together for a fun, casual meeting where we showcase our work and celebrate our wins— and this is where Nemo comes into the picture.
The final portion of Demos is dedicated to the awarding of "Nemos." During this ritual, Buttonians stand up in front of the company to "Nemo-nate" (or nominate) their peers. They say a few words to recognize someone who has gone above and beyond, demonstrated our values, or done something especially kind, creative, or impactful that week. The ritual ends by tossing Nemo to the recipient. It's a way to say "Hey, thanks for that thing you did— it didn't go unnoticed, and others should know just how impactful it was."
Research tells us that timely and meaningful recognition can be a tremendous motivational boost for employees, which in turn impacts employee engagement. According to a 2017 study by Gallup, "Employees who feel adequately recognized are half as likely as those who don't to say they'll quit in the next year." When employees are more engaged and more likely to stick around, it reduces the costly process that is recruiting, hiring, and onboarding a replacement. What's more, research also shows that 78% of employees would work harder if their efforts were better recognized and appreciated.
So why do we stand up, say a few words of thanks, and toss a stuffed fish around the room every week? On the surface, the concept of Nemos is a lighthearted tradition, but more importantly, it sets an example for (and fosters) a culture of empathy and appreciation, and we see that come through in how Buttonians interact with one another day-to-day.
The practice filters throughout the organization and impacts the day-to-day interactions people have with one another. It keeps us in the habit of readily expressing gratitude and showing our appreciation of the work of our peers. Fostering a culture of recognition is important because it makes for happier, more engaged and collaborative employees, which makes for a richer culture, better products, and increased retention.
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