How Yesware Defined their Values at the Grassroots

How Yesware Defined their Values at the Grassroots

A few months ago, we spoke to Zoe Silverman, the Director of Talent at Yesware and a long-time customer of Disco. Yesware’s mission is to serve as a co-pilot for professional relationship builders, providing a suite of features to help salespeople create and build lasting business relationships. Zoe came with a request to use Disco, which plugs directly into Slack, to help define their new core values through a company-wide gratitude spree. Through 3,092 moments of gratitude, known as “kudos” in Disco, Yesware defined their new values by identifying trends in the recognition.

“Companies evolve, they change and go through different stages,” Zoe said. “We wanted to refresh our company core values to be relevant, to resonate with our people. We had also gone through some hardships together and wanted to challenge ourselves around a company-wide goal that was completely in our control.”

Yesware has been using Disco since 2016, the year we launched. That same year, Zoe was promoted to Director of Talent. At the end of 2018, Matthew Bellows, the founding CEO of Yesware, left on good terms to start a new company. His departure was the flint that ignited a collective effort to rewrite Yesware’s values.

“We wanted the new values to be the official going away present to our CEO,” Zoe said. “We wanted to say, ‘Here’s what we stand for, we’ve got this, you go do your next thing.’”

After six years of working together, Zoe wanted to send Matthew off with the confidence that the team would carry on a vision he had helped create. “The culture at Yesware is Matthew’s greatest legacy and it is my absolute mission to carry it forward with the help of dozens of other dedicated, hard-working, talented ‘Yetis’ (A ‘Yeti’ is an internal nickname for a Yesware employee),” Zoe said.

Zoe giving Matthew a plaque of the new Yesware values.

When they were just a 20 person company, Yesware hired a consultant to help them define their initial values. The consultant split them into groups, held multiple sessions to identify themes, and then arranged the results into their first official core values. As a smaller company, interrupting work for batches of people at a time was not a problem.

Years later, as a much larger company, Zoe searched for an approach that would collect everyone’s input without pulling them into daylong meetings—sacrificing participation for speed was not an option. The best solution for the job turned out to be Disco, which was a surprise.

Disco helps companies live their values daily through recognition in Slack or Microsoft Teams. We haven’t directly solved for defining company values but we keep an open-mind when unplanned use-cases like this cross our path. Unplanned use-cases lead to insights about the customer’s need and are the reason we spend hours each week talking to our customers.

“Originally, our new CEO wanted the goal to be 6,000 kudos (recognition in Disco) for the quarter, which meant two kudos per person per day,” Zoe said. “We decided that was too high and eventually landed on 3,000 kudos as the goal. Everyone on the executive team thought it’d be a layup.”

In 2018—before the initiative—there was an average of 15 people giving 24 kudos per month. In the first month of the program, 61 people gave 521 kudos. By the end of March, 3,092 kudos had been given, surpassing the 3,000 kudos goal.

A chart tracking progress towards the 3,000 kudos goal

Each moment of gratitude is a core value on display—a moment when someone lent a hand, learned something new, hit a goal, consoled another, or shared a disagreement. At the two month mark, the task turned from collecting data to gleaning insights from 1,500 kudos.

To uncover themes in the kudos, Zoe used a multi-pronged approach that combined a mix of team communication and a left-brained search for meaning in the data.

At the start, she had asked employees to propose candidate values at times of inspiration—people tended to make suggestions just after giving kudos—in a dedicated Slack channel. She scoured through the nominations to find the candidates that people identified with most.

To pick out themes in the kudos, she used two strategies. First, she created a visualization that counts the words used in kudos and displays the most mentioned words largest (known as a word cloud). She searched for words that literally popped out. Second, she used Disco’s dashboard to find the most popular kudos based on points. Points in Disco are granted whenever someone adds an emoji reaction to a kudos message in Slack. Kudos that resonate the most bubble to the top, which gave Zoe another input to identify the new values.

Bringing the search back to the people, she facilitated discussions, iterations, and leadership team reviews. The Disco data helped them objectively, but it was equally important to talk about things face to face.

“There are two months of data talking about what people thought was most important,” Zoe said. “While people were giving kudos throughout their day to day, they were organically identifying the values they thought were relevant to the company. Part of my job was to make it data-driven, I had to prove to them that what we would end up with was based on what they were really saying.”

A word cloud built from 1,500 moments of gratitude

With this grassroots approach, employees felt a sense of ownership over the final product. They also created a sense of camaraderie for building it together, and a sense of pride when they live those values now. Zoe met her goal by ensuring that everyone's words were taken into account.

At the end of the three months, Yesware threw a going away party for Matthew. On stage, he unwrapped the present Zoe handed him only to find it covered with sticky notes, an effect reminiscent of opening a Russian doll only to find more dolls inside, a symbol for family, Matthew peeled off each sticky note to reveal a new value, a symbol of what the Yesware family stood for. Employees were validated and unsurprised by the five new values revealed that day.

Months after the challenge, Yesware's dedicated recognition channel continues to light up with moments of gratitude that represent their core values.

Yesware’s values

Here are Yesware’s updated values with some example kudos.