#04: Automating Engagement and Recognition Efforts

Jul 26, 2023
7 Min Read

Hey there!

Welcome back to The Automated Growth Blueprint! I'm your host…wait…do they call newsletter authors hosts? Whatever, gonna roll with it - I’m your HOST, Travis Steffen.

On my quest to build a fully automated, 7-figure business with zero employees, it might sound strange to write about company culture because that would imply you have employees.

However, I’ve had hundreds of employees in the past, and I’ve realized that culture extends outside W2 employees to contractors, freelancers, and agencies, which then can heavily impact customers.

Also, before you can fully automate any business motion, you typically have to establish and refine it first - which often requires team members, even if they’re freelance or fractional.

You may also not be on the same quest for solopreneur superstardom like I am and instead are just trying to inject some growth-related automation into your biz.

Regardless, I firmly believe in the value of what I’m about to walk you through.

A Bit of Backstory…

Most seasoned founders will agree that culture and engagement are the lifeblood of any organization. Attracting and retaining talent, fostering innovation - all of this can catalyze growth.

In one of my previous companies, GrowFlow, we conducted monthly employee engagement surveys via CultureAmp. They were a goldmine for how we could become the best possible place to work.

Screenshot 2023-07-23 at 11.49.14 AM

We had nearly 100 people working for us when we were acquired, so this motion was critical.

Every month, we ran one of CultureAmp’s stock employee engagement surveys.

We used the stock versions rather than something custom because they have benchmarks, allowing you to see how your team’s answers compared to companies at similar stages, which was super helpful.

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Every month, we rotated surveys on…

  • Employee engagement

  • Wellness

  • Benefits

  • DEI

  • Culture and core values

  • 360-degree reviews


From the insights we got from these surveys, we picked out the top 2-3 concerns and brainstormed solutions. We then tracked our progress toward addressing these concerns and shared updates during monthly all-hands meetings.

We’d rerun this cadence every 6 months to see how our new results compared with our prior results and the benchmarks.

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Here's where we faced a challenge…

Not all our team members filled out these surveys every month, so our culture was only being shaped by SOME of our team.

Incentivizing Engagement Surveys

On any given month, we often had a 65-70% submission rate on our surveys. To tackle this trend, we decided to assign certain rewards to incentivize the completion of surveys.

The good news was we already had a lightweight tool we used to incentivize certain behaviors - HeyTaco.

Screenshot 2023-07-23 at 11.48.58 AM

Other teams used tools like Bonusly, which is admittedly more flexible and more easily automated - but the team really loved HeyTaco’s Slack integration.

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Tacos became our unofficial company mascot. You could send your team member a taco emoji on Slack and eventually cash your tacos in for real-world rewards.

You can give up to 5 tacos to a team member per day for anything you’re thankful for that they did, so you typically want to make those tacos count.

Because of that, giving all 5 tacos in one shot is a big deal. We called those “taco trays,” which eventually became “trays.”

Some of our teams didn’t need an added incentive, so their managers would give each person who submitted their engagement survey a taco.

For stragglers who were legitimately busy and needed a push, we’d give them a whole tray. Rarely did they need a whole tray the next time those surveys came around because they eventually realized how valuable their responses were for the company.

Automating this sort of thing is pretty simple. Even if you’re a solopreneur, doing this for your vendors, contractors, freelancers, and agencies can lead to unexpected results.

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You’d be shocked at how much more vendors and agencies will go above and beyond for you when you become their legitimate favorite client - which is easy to do when you solicit feedback from them and put it to use.

Automating Incentivized Engagement:

It can take a bit more legwork to set this sort of thing up than a few of these I’ve gone over in the past, but it’s worth it if you have even a few employees, contractors, agencies, or freelancers you work with.

  1. Select your engagement survey provider. Sign up for CultureAmp or a similar tool like 15Five or Lattice that offers engagement surveys, and follow their onboarding wizard to configure it for your needs. If you want to save a buck and don’t care about benchmarking, see if a friend can export their stock surveys for you and load them into a Google Form.

  2. Set your survey cadence. I’d recommend setting each engagement survey to automatically get sent out on the first of each month, so your team begins to expect them.

  3. Set up your Slack integration. If you’re using CultureAmp, get their Slackbot that notifies each team member that a survey is ready (they’ll also receive it via email). If a different tool doesn’t have one but they have an API, you can use Zapier to send them a link to the form every month right from Slack, and make sure the same is true for an email if that’s not a standard feature within your selected tool.

  4. Set up a Zap when a new survey is about to send. That automation should use a “@here” tag in your #general channel in Slack, or the channel that’s most relevant, such as #hr. Have this automation post a message from your CEO or HR leader with a quick reminder that you’ll incentivize each survey completion with a taco.

  5. Set up another automation with your trigger as a survey submission. If you’re using CultureAmp, use webhooks to set the trigger as a survey submission. If you’re using another survey tool, they’ll likely have native Zapier integrations. (I like the benchmarking from CultureAmp, so working with the webhooks is worth it.)

  6. Set your action as the actual grant of the incentive. If you like HeyTaco, you’ll also need to use webhooks for this one. If you use Bonusly or something similar that’s *less fun*, they have a native Zapier integration - so lean on that.

  7. Set a reminder for yourself to check-in. Unless you have a small team, it’s unlikely that you’ll have a 100% submission rate a few days before the surveys close. You could get clever and set up another Slack automation to automatically check for you and send reminders. Still, I like sending these messages myself, as often I get value by asking them what’s in the way of their submission. Sometimes it’s an issue I didn’t know existed.

Once you have all the results, take an hour to analyze them and select a few actions you can take to address the top issues. Socialize those in your next all-hands meeting, your next call with a vendor, or your next exchange with your contractor.

At the end of this process, you’ll make your team - even the fractional members of it - feel appreciated and heard. You’ll be shocked how this action can accelerate your growth via higher productivity and workplace satisfaction.

Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

I say culture IS the strategy.

→ Today's action steps: Explore engagement survey tools like CultureAmp, and real-time employee recognition tools like HeyTaco, then use as many automations as you can to cut down on the time it takes to do this well consistently.

That’s all for today.

Stay hungry.

- Travis Steffen


If you’re hungry for more, you can…

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