Way back when, a crown of laurel leaves would be enough to acknowledge great accomplishments.  Now, you may still do that at your place of business, but here in San Diego we decided to try something different.

The KellyPoint Program

We have a game here that involves spotting great work and reporting it up to HR. Points are then assigned to that great work.  Points are awarded liberally to increase the fun of playing, and a running total is announced every morning at our daily staff meeting.

Instead of the traditional he said/she said finger pointing process that leads to “disciplinary action,” this points reward system is about looking for ways to reward co-workers for “doing the right thing,” for handling a difficult situation, for pitching in to help a colleague, for getting praised by name on a comment card. KellyPoints are awarded for all kinds of good work – more than just public services work, points go to dealing with that thorny vendor issue, resolving a complex research issue using advanced techniques in the ILS, making that printer or photocopier do its thing, helping another library sort out an ILL problem.  Heck, you can get KellyPoints for putting up with JohnnyZ’s last minute panic attacks when he blows a deadline.

Why KellyPoints?  Kelly is the lead reference librarian here at the downtown branch. He directs the iDesk traffic and provides super customer service. His example is a good one by which to measure other people’s contributions. His approach is gentle, respectful and helpful.  Doesn’t hurt that he is a very humble and likeable guy, either.

What does the KP Program do?  Celebrate the work and awesome customer service attitude of our staff, for sure. Do we really need something like this to ensure that staff work hard and do good work?  Of course not. But they aren’t robots. Everyone deserves to enjoy the fruits of their own labor and be recognized by their colleagues for doing good work.

What’s in it for them? I recently took the highest scorer to a fancy lunch to celebrate her reaching 300 KPs. For each person who reaches the 300 KP pinnacle, I have three questions:

1) why/how are you so good at pleasing customers?

2) what special technique do you have for providing good service in challenging situations?

3) what would you do to increase/ensure/assure customer service-ready staff at the library?

Human nature dictates that altruism goes only so far. You can ask people to work extra hard with absolutely no chance of ever getting a pay increase.  Yes, you can. We have done that for four years. But 100% guaranteed those same people will suffer burnout, discouragement, and loss of respect for management after years of working harder without some sort of compensation. It isn’t enough to just say “good job” and crown them with laurel leaves.

The KellyPoints Experiment is fun, keeps people motivated, and gives people something to strive for. But before you think this place is somehow managed differently than any other, let me tell you…this project has an end point that serves the library’s bottom line.

The staff’s customer service data will be fed into a proprietary database created by local start-up IQ-U-Not. They make robots. Once fully locked and loaded with all that staff know-how, robots will replace staff and there will be no need for a KellyPoint Program or anything remotely resembling it ever again. Evil shivers of delight!

Come to think of it, we can even dispense with salaries.  Robots should be perfectly satisfied with a crown of laurel leaves.