Driving Remote Engagement with Gratitude and Tacos

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Driving Remote Engagement with Gratitude and Tacos

Gratitude is Essential

Team members enjoy recognition for a job well done. People crave honest and meaningful feedback. Learning to master sincere and respectful congratulations is critical. Praise is one of the most regarded motivators in a high-performing team. Recognition can come from a team lead to a team member (or vice versa) or from another teammate. Congratulations can be one-on-one, through email, over online chat, or during a meeting.

The vast majority of feedback in a high-performing team should be positive and come from everyone on the team, not just managers. Expressions of congratulation, encouragement, and gratitude from fellow team members are an essential element to great teamwork. Great teams are built by people who celebrate victories and appreciate their fellow team members.

Encouraging a Distributed Team

Fostering an environment of encouragement can have unique challenges for distributed teams. Without in-person interactions, remote teams need to more deliberately build an engaged atmosphere. The watercooler can be replaced by a virtual hangout. The happy hour can be replaced by video chat meet-ups. Overt signs of encouragement, such as awards, need to be replaced by something that works in the remote domain. It’s not enough to just remind folks to “go tell someone good job.” Engagement needs to be fun and native to our online spaces!

The HeyTaco Experiment

Last fall, Modus Create began to experiment with using HeyTaco to drive engagement of our remote team. Since we operate as a fully distributed team at Modus Create, we wanted to use Hey Taco to encourage gratitude and celebration within our community.

HeyTaco is a simple integration with Slack that allows team members to thank, congratulate and show appreciation for their fellow team members by giving each other virtual tacos. With this neat Slack add-on, team members give Tacos to each other for any reason they want. It’s a fun way to foster an atmosphere of celebration. These tacos have no real-world value and are not prizes given by management. The rules are simple.

  • Anyone can give tacos.
  • Anyone can get tacos.
  • You can only give five tacos a day.

When we started using HeyTaco, we had no idea if it would catch on. Would folks see this as a trivial gimmick? Would they think it was silly or childish? Would they think it was just a weak attempt for managers to placate their teams?

The HeyTaco Results

Shortly after introducing HeyTaco, the results were clear. Our team loved it! Immediately, tacos were flying! People were thanking each other with tacos and singing the praises of their team members with tacos. Taco jokes started to fill Slack and no one voiced a concern that it was corny or unnecessary. Folks that were typically quiet and reserved came out of their shell to give and receive tacos!

We started to see the virtual appreciation being shared on Slack being transferred to our face-to-face meetings. Daily, we would hear folks say on video calls things like “Awesome idea! Here’s a taco on Slack” or “Thanks for helping with this. I owe you a taco.” It became clear very quickly that this little Slack plugin had some very profound impact on the way our team worked.

It’s not about the taco. It’s about the feeling of being appreciated and recognized. Five months into our HeyTaco experiment and it’s still going strong. In total, we’ve had 141 Modites give 3307 tacos to each other. Often times, there is an unspoken competition that drives our team. This competition isn’t about who can get the most tacos, it’s about who can give the most tacos. The stars in our community are the ones who show gratitude, not the ones who get the most tacos.

Here are some past examples from our Slack channels!

Driving Remote Engagement with Gratitude and Tacos


Driving Remote Engagement with Gratitude and Tacos


Driving Remote Engagement with Gratitude and Tacos


A Culture of Gratitude

At Modus, we cherish our company culture and how well we work as a team. We refer frequently to our Modus DNA, our core values. This includes empathy and humility. Gratitude is the visible expression of these values. Our values, combined with our tools, have allowed Modus to grow into a global team of talented individuals, who are always willing to support each other and push the envelope of product development. HeyTaco has become a welcome addition to the toolkit that we use to support our culture. We highly recommend it!


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