Billy — motivation bot for Slack and Microsoft Teams

Once I stood in a line for coffee at our office and watched the barista of our company, which skillfully and quickly prepared all orders. Satisfied colleagues got their drink, saying “Thank you!” and left. The question came up to mind — how to make “Thank yous” more tangible and use it for the benefit of the team. You’ll find an answer below.

I began to think about how to incentivize horizontal communications in the team using appreciation and recognition. During discussions with my co-founder Elena Kaminskaia, we came up with the idea of creating an internal team economy with the help of Billy.

We started as a fun project, but it got excellent traction among the employees of my company. And now, it is developing into a full-fledged product that can help improve the microclimate in the team, optimize and improve the corporate culture, and help to build stronger teams. First things first.

MVP

We wanted to find a solution that would increase the level of politeness among all team members, as well as facilitate their regular communication, mutual assistance, and recognition.

For example, a colleague from another department comes up with a task, which is not in your direct responsibility. What do you get for helping him? Or you helped him and how your manager can know about it? That was a good starting point.

We use Slack for communications in our team, so we decided to create a bot as a prototype for rewarding teammates. We issued a token called “Thanks” on Waves Protocol for a team, and our bot created a wallet for every Slack user in our workspace. The bot twice a month tops up every users’ wallet with 250 tokens.

Users could send tokens to their colleagues by sending a simple command to the bot in Slack, for example, “10 thanks to Elena Kaminskaia for your help with the presentation”, and Elena immediately receives a notification:

Unused coins (out of 500 credit per month) at the end of the month are burned out 🔥, which additionally motivates spending tokens and saying “Thank you” since you can only save and use coins received from colleagues.

Immediately after the launch, the team began to use tokens actively and thank each other for help. In the first week, more than half of the company’s employees used the bot, and in the first 2 weeks, there was an average of 46 transactions per day from 40 users.

The experiment was successful, and product feedback and suggestions for improvement rained down on us.

Traction

As we expected, non-financial incentives improved teamwork and knowledge-sharing within the team.

Most of all, we were approached by engineering managers and team leaders who got a new motivation tool. Thanks to their feedback, we introduced several simple functions that increased the average number of transactions per day by almost 2 times, up to 88.

For example, we made it possible to send tokens using reactions to messages. Everyone loves emojis, right? Different emojis — a different number of tokens is transferred from the user’s balance to the balance of the author of the message.

But much better positive feedback from managers was caused by integration with Jira. It became possible to assign a reward in tokens for completing a task. Any user can add to the task description or comment with the number of coins and under what condition to transfer them. For example, “@billy 100 thanks when Done”, and the bot will do everything when the task is done.

Mandatory and important tasks will be done without additional encouragement, of course, but integration with Jira allowed motivating teammates to do not the most interesting tasks.

The tool, not a toy

Understanding the importance of non-financial motivation and building a corporate culture, we turned to HR in our company with the idea of making Billy tokens more tangible for employees.

They eagerly responded and offered to make an internal marketplace where tokens could be used to buy goods both from the company and from other employees. There are 16 products of varying degrees of severity in our store. Unfortunately, I can’t show all of them, but the store can have anything from sweatshirts and T-shirts to discounts and training certificates:

That was only the beginning! Based on the data accumulated by Billy, we built analytical reports for managers and team leaders, which showed the relationship of people in the team as a whole and each group individually:

There are reports about every employee and department:

The collected data and reports allow managers to reach the next things:

  • Daily improvement of microclimate and communications between departments. Thanks to the automatic independent data analysis, managers can understand who needs support, who has undeveloped potential, and who just drinks the most coffee :)
  • Increasing the objectivity of the performance review process. Now managers can see the employee’s interactions with all colleagues, and performance review forms can be sent to all of them.
  • The motivation for proactivity. Employees also have access to the dashboard with reports and see the activity of their colleagues, which adds a gamification element to the work and leads to the better results.

Economics

Billy tokens are now being used to create a team-economy based on recognition, appreciation, and help.

From the very beginning, we wanted this “recognition economy” to be transparent; therefore we use tokens on the blockchain. The openness of the data (within a team) has only advantages because employees can be sure that managers have no “favorites”, and everyone receives rewards according to their openness, and C-level managers can see who is most active and helps colleagues.

Every organization decides how exactly to use coins and what to allow employees to do in exchange for them. In our team with Billy:

  • Internal learning is developing through crowdfunding. For example, an internal meetup will take place if a topic gains more than 2000 tokens. At the end of the event, the speaker gets the donations.
  • Employees are involved in corporate decision-making, where the tokens are the votes, and each employee decides how much he is willing to spend on a specific topic. Technically, voting was implemented using smart contracts, which makes the process as honest and transparent as even possible.
  • People are motivated not only by work activity but also hobbies. For example, an employee may put up for sale their products or services.

Efficiency

Speaking of the efficiency of the project, I can refer to a couple of researches [1, 2, 3], but numbers are here:

  • a happy workforce raises business productivity by more than 30%
  • peer-to-peer recognition is more powerful than manager-only recognition
  • around 7% of employees would leave their current company they work for in the next 12 months due to the lack of appreciation. An average company in Technology with 100 employees will spend $7,000 per year to hire and train new employees.

Billy reduces hiring and training costs and increases productivity

What’s next?

Recently, we launched Billy for public use, so you can add a bot to your Slack or Microsoft Teams for free with 2 clicks on the website — https://iambilly.app.

Several organizations are already using Billy, so join them or schedule a demo on the website to get the most of the integration.

Recently, one large international corporation has become interested in integrating Billy into its processes. They do have a motivation system, but it is not personalized, opaque, with insufficient analytics. So using Billy, they want to personalize incentives, motivate people better, and get insights about employees.

We’re working on lots of new integrations (Jira and Github are in beta now, and it will be public soon). We also work on new features, which also will help teams to engage employees better. In the future, we’ll also partner with different companies and launch a global marketplace for all teams.

If you use Slack or Microsoft Teams and want to try Billy for your team, just add the link below:

Co-founder & CTO of Billy. Software engineer. Blockchain, ML&AI developer. All opinions are my own.