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Ikigai|Thank You Points

This contribution can be applied internally for colleagues to express gratitude, in a genuine and authentic manner, using a HR system.

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In a recent Gratitude in the Workplace Webinar, I learnt from Dr Ryan Fehr's research that the top barriers at work are:

1) employees feels isolated;

2) employees are disengaged, and;

3) management lacks care for their employees

All of these impact on happiness and well being of individuals at work, especially when we spend the majority of our waking lives in this environment. It is also known that gratitude shown to one another could lead to organisational bonding and resilience, as trust is developed amongst staff/employees. The proposal here is to implement a reward system via the HR platform, which is linked in to the annual leave system (many companies may already have a software or platform that allows one to book annual leave, and many system host an online community function where colleagues can leave messages for one another. This can be extended to 'giving thanks': as tokens/badges/thank you points to any colleagues listed in the system. 

This way, each individual has their own 'thank you points' built up through the thanks given by colleagues. Once the 'thank you points' build up to more than six, for instance, the additional points will only be visible to the individual in question and/or HR manager, thus there is someone (HR manager) who is tracking the points accumulated by an individual in any given time. Hence, no one will feel they are competing with one another. However, they can continue to give thank you points and give thanks on the online community message board, for instance. At any point, the individual could convert these 'thank you points' into actual gifts/prizes: it could be as simple as a free cup of coffee on the company, gift cards or anything as determined by the HR policy. 

Concurrently, on the online community side, colleagues will also have a 'skills swap' board whereby one person could post the skill they wish to gain and anyone from the company could offer to fulfil that request. For instance, someone may wish to have 121 tutorial on excel that is relevant to his/her work and would benefit from someone who is from the same company to provide that bespoke training - it could be an hour of someone's time in exchange for another skills, such as putting together a power point. It could also be extended to skillset beyond the immediate work requirements, as long as HR/Senior Management can accept this. For instance, some one may wish to exchange his/her excel skill for French tuition. This satisfies our wish to help others, allow others to help us and also build skills! (what the expert would say as the key ingredients to foster gratitude culture at work.)  

Once a month, HR manager or a systems lead, could print off the gratitude expressed on the online community board and have them displayed in the work breakout areas or meeting rooms. The idea is through reading about one another giving thanks will provide a positive sentiment to show how colleagues genuinely give thanks to one another. This further reinforces the notion of giving thanks and extend it from the online realm into the social realm.

There should also be 'bonus' points given to new starters/interns/apprentices, so that they can quickly feel they are integrated into their new environment. They should also be targeted by senior management team to have some 121 time to find out what is the new person's work interest and personal interest too for that matter. 

In my current workplace, we have a HR platform already and it could be easily adapted to provide the rewards function and tracking of points. Overtime, the HR manager may agree with the individual's line manager that their reward points can be added to the annual appraisal as an additional element of consideration but no one will be penalised if they do not receive enough points (and in any case the public profile of these points is limited up to a level, and the rest will only be visible to the individual and HR manager, as aforementioned) 

Idea Title

Ikigai: Work Reward Loop & Thank You Points

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

This idea ensures that gratitude is shared in an online community setting (for instance, a HR system that allows you to book annual leave also hosts a public space for people to share information/exchange ideas). However, there is asymmetry of visibility to the 'reward points' that's being build up - so up to a point, say 6 points, this is viewable by all, any points received after that can only be viewed by the individual and HR. This way the tool is used to foster the spirit of giving thanks but it does not put any one in direct competition with another.

Who are you innovating for?

Employees across the organisation: this idea fosters the community spirit which is enabled via an existing online system (in this case annual leave/HR system) where people give thanks to one another and reward others with 'points' which can be converted to physical gifts of any nominal value

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

This can be applied to organisations of any size. However, it is probably more easily implemented with an organisation where there is an exiting HR system for booking leave or an internal communication platform

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

Each team across the organisation or directorate (or a 'functional group' of the company) could nominate a 'gratitude champion' to work with the HR department to develop and extend this concept further. It is then HR's responsibility to acquiring sign off form the Senior Management Team/Board, then include it in the staff handbook, and maintaining the overall system.

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

Initially, colleagues/employees may be resistant to the idea of an 'online community space' or reward points centre if they have never experienced something like it before. It is important that people are shown how to use the system & by selecting a 'gratitude champion' from each team will help to propagate the ideas of 'posting' a note of thanks and/or give out reward points. The 'asymmetry visibility' element is important, so that employees know this is about personal thanks-giving.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

As mentioned, there is a HR system used by my company, so I would approach the HR manager about this idea and work with her to device a roll out/implementation plan, starting with recruitment of 'gratitude champions'.

What immediate next steps will you take if you receive an implementation grant.

Having a mentoring organisation like Greater Good Science Centre at UC Berkeley means we would contribute to their impact research of the gratitude, which is for the greater good of the society, not just in the UK! We would welcome the opportunity to link up with other organisations in California or the US to share our gratitude project and maybe develop organisation-to-organisation mentoring systems, so that we can learn how other companies foster a thanks-giving culture.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.
  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.
  • Piloting: You have started to implement your solution as a whole with a first set of real users. You may have started to develop a business model for your idea, including identifying key customer segments, relevant partnerships, go-to-market strategy, and draft financials.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

I have previously worked in an organisation where the director, at every Christmas, without fail, will write a thank you note to everyone in her department, and she would also make up a goody bag for each of us. In my current work place there is a Project Manager who is the same, except she does that whenever someone has helped her out, whether that be carrying a box of learning resources or supporting her in being the interviewers at our local events, as a part of our evaluation programme.

Tell us about yourself

I am an analyst working for a UK charity that helps young people to go further and faster through our programmes. It is all about giving young people the best start in their careers irrespective of their backgrounds. My team is naturally a group of empathetic and nurturing Project Managers, Operation and Events Managers and Researchers.

Where are you / your team located?

London, Great Britain

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

We are a UK based charity

Tell us about your experience

I have been very fortunate to have worked in a few places where the senior management team and staff are genuinely amazing, capacity building and empathetic individuals who have taught me by example how to share and show one another that you care; after all these are qualities that AI cannot replicate (yet). ***Ikigai is a term introduced to me by a Lebanese friend, who is currently researching and developing an app all about improving our wellbeing and mental health.***

Please describe, in detail, how you will test and get feedback on your concept.

I have held 121 interviews, one feedback session and posted the concept on social media, and asked friends and family to comment on the OpenIDEO platform or on social media. (see UX Map in attachment) This has gathered some useful feedback from individuals and groups. The main concerns broadly falls in three categories: a) competitive pressure: some people may end up feeling they are not as well regarded as others. b) acceptance: will people use it? Will they respond better if this is a paper based system? c) motivation: will people focus too much on the 'prize' and lose motivation if the novelty wears off. Having heard people's concerns of the concept and addressed them in person or via the OpenIDEO platform (please see comments section), we plan to deploy a four-week trial, where W1 follows a paper based system (i.e. write paper thank you notes); W2 will see the same being done online, then W3: group reflections and amendments; and W4: launch of online system.

Please describe specifically how you plan to scale your idea. What are the key next steps you will take, and how will those steps inform the evolution and growth of your concept?

At the moment, we have a HR system which is under utilised: it has a function for colleagues to 'give badges' and leave messages, but not that many of us use this. The idea is to make full use of the system by having a four week trial and then a further feedback session afterwards before launching the 'beta' version. Once launched, we plan to run periodic reviews to gather more thoughts from the users (staff) again. As we are a small organisation with 40 staff, we should be able to deploy this relatively quickly. We will need to spend some money to upgrade the system so that the platform has suitable functionalities; such as the 'asymmetry of information' function, where only the employee and their manager (and possibly HR manager too) could see the number of points one has accumulated. The challenge to scale will come when we roll out the system to our 500 volunteers and 50 Skills Champions (ambassadors), we will need to invest some more in the system to enable mass roll out and also to set aside a modest development budget to make further system adjustments and maintenance as required. Of course, communication about the reward system is important, so that people can ask questions and resolve the concerns accordingly. In addition, we plan to host video tutorials to help users trouble-shoot when using the web-based system.

As we have seen in the Challenge, there is a tension between authentic expressions of gratitude and mandatory gratitude. How does your idea inspire truly authentic expressions of gratitude versus mandated ones?

I believe the four week trial will allow us to see whether the 'online' behaviour influences the 'offline' behaviour and vice versa. We will need to promote the idea of giving thanks to one another, for instance, through our Monday morning briefings, we will start to give thanks to one another then deploying the paper 'thank you' system, before moving on to the web-based thank yous. Later as the reward points are converted into gifts, people may have that 'tangible' feeling of receiving thanks.

Gratitude often thrives when opportunities for connection are created. How will your concept create new opportunities for human connection?

The one thing we can now address is the receiving of reward/gratitude via the 'thank you' points. We will be collaborating with HR to introduce: a) experiential rewards: coffee time with another member of staff; b) knowledge transfer rewards: skills swap, e.g. exchange one's excel skills to the art of speaking French; and c) gift rewards: treats in the form of gift vouchers, book tokens and etc. The type a) and b) rewards will foster new conversations and human connection via exchanges.

Who (specifically) will benefit from your concept, and how they will interact with it? What design considerations have you included to ensure easy and intuitive interactions? 

I think junior or newer members of staff will benefit the most from this concept, as it provides a way to give thanks to others and the opportunity to get to know others through the experiential or knowledge exchange kind of reward, as outlined above. Also, when this is scaled up to roll out to volunteers and Skills Champions, the network is widened again to allow those outside of the organisation to interact with one another and with those inside our organisation. At the end of the day, the recipients of gratitude need to feel that who they are thanked or recognised by is authentic and genuine. We can post video tutorials to show people how to access and use the system, which will be shared internally and externally to the organisation. It is also recognised we would need to 'socialise' the system to staff, volunteers and Skills Champions alike. Earlier, we also talked about appointing 'gratitude' champions from each team to help diffuse the concept and the new web-based system.

Please describe how you intend to use the prize funding, if selected as a Top Idea. Be specific.

We wish to use the prize funding to: a) upgrade existing HR platform, so that we can give reward points to one another b) mobilise and deepen interactions with our staff, volunteers and Skills Champions when the reward system is rolled out c) foster & facilitate more experience based and knowledge exchange based rewards, so that we can cultivate better connections & enable positive online behaviours to be extended to thanks giving in the 'offline' ( or the real) world.

Attachments (1)

UX Map_OI.pdf

Combined User Experience Map and Implementation Plan (as part of the Refinement Phase)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Ikigai|Raison d'être: Work Rewards ,

I wanted to remind you the deadline for all challenge materials is less than 4 days away. We encourage you to update your concepts before the final deadline so our community can provide some feedback on your concept. Also, please remember we are into scrappy rapid prototyping, so no pressure to have a "polished pilot" by any means!

Also, don't forget the Refinement Phase questions are mandatory to complete! These can be found by following the link below and clicking "edit contribution" at the top of your page and scrolling down to the additional questions in the post.

Can't wait to see more!

Photo of Jess

Hi @Lauren Ito, I am having trouble uploading my user map. I have tried to shrink the files, but I am still unable to upload it. Is there another way to make the submission of the picture files? I might try and email them to you. Would this be okay? Thanks in advance, Jessica

Photo of Jess

All resolved now @Lauren Ito! Got on to a PC and it has somehow worked! :-)

Photo of Lauren Ito

Amazing to hear Jess!

Excited to see your finalized post!

Photo of Lauren Ito

HI Jess,

A friendly reminder the Gratitude in the Workplace Storytelling Workshop is tomorrow, November 30th at 9:00 a.m. PT! This workshop is designed to help your team present your Refinement Phase work and core concept with clarity. Hope to see you there!

Photo of Jess

Hi @Lauren,
Unfortunately I am at an all-day conference tomorrow that doesn't finish until 17:30 GMT (which will be 9:30 PT), so I won't be able to join the webinar; and because there is networking after the conference too... Is there a way to catch the podcast of the workshop or could I have the powerpoint from the workshop? So sorry about this. I am trying to see if there is another member of the team, who could attend. I have emailed Christopher about this already...

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Jess,

I just sent out an email with all call-in details for the workshop! Please be sure to forward that onto whoever from your team you would want to attend. We will be sending out a recording of the session so you can catch up on the content missed!

Photo of Lindi Hlanze


I love your ideas. I think this is so important in the workplace. I particularly love your sensitivity to privacy, flexibility to different preferences for rewards, supporting new recruits to participate, and the idea of exchanging skills and knowledge.

I imagine that you might need to prompt a few managers to start using the system to encourage others to do so, and that making it as user friendly as possible will help to make it manageable for people when they are very busy.

In terms of the skills exchanges it might be helpful to give people more suggestions to prompt ideas, and perhaps to link this to skills gaps in the organisation.

Very best of luck with it and I really look forward to hearing how it works out!


Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Jess,

Congratulations on advancing to the Refinement Phase of the Challenge! Please tag me in the comments @Lauren Ito with any questions and for feedback on your user experience map, evaluation questions, and prototyping. We recommend updating your post throughout the phase to allow for our community to engage, collaborate, and share feedback on your post.

Excited to see how your idea develops in the coming weeks!

Photo of Jess

HI Lauren (@Lauren Ito)! Thanks for this - lovely and encouraging to see that my idea has been shortlisted :-)
Is there another form we need to use to update on the experience map, evaluation questions and prototyping or are we expected to use the form as stated above?

Thanks in advance!

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Jess,

Did you receive an email from with all the Refinement Phase requirements? You should have received it last week. Please email if you did not receive the Refinement Phase instructions!

Photo of Frank

Hi Jess. A great idea. I particularly like how you thought about removing the direct competition aspect to it which sometimes put people off.

Having worked in HR and now i'm in comms, I understand and appreciate the importance of a system in place to help support and grow a positive feedback culture. Linking this back into the culture of the org, department, team and individuals is important as well as linking it to the values of the business.

In my workplace we currently use paper based gratitude forms that anyone from our department can use. These work quite well and are an alternative to a digital based one. Maybe something to consider to add to your idea that you can also have a printable toolkit of material to help promote.

Just two questions: 1. I know there are various other types out there, who would be the main competition to your idea and is your idea different? 2. What type of HR systems are you aware of that businesses use and how can your idea be integrated into these platforms?

Photo of Jess

Hi Frank,
Thanks for your thoughts. A quick review of the responses on this call reveal that there are plenty of (positive) competitions(!) I haven't had a chance to review them all...but from what I can gather most of the digital solutions mentioned are about making giving thanks a lot easier. This is particularly useful and necessary when you work in an organisation with a cast of hundreds and thousands. My organisation is fairly small with 40 or so permanent staff and around 5 temporary staff at particular times of the year. We also have a growing network of volunteers and ambassadors working with us. 

I think my idea is different because it links the act of giving thanks online to a physical prize at quarter/year end. I think there is flexibility in the prize itself, so that those can be designed to further enhance the positive offline experience - such as converting your points to coffee and you might be prompted by the system to take a colleague out for a coffee and etc...I also think that we can be a good example to other similar sized organisation that the digital solution can work for smaller organisations too. I hope this addresses your first question.

As for question 2: Yes, I am aware of one or two 'off the shelf' systems, but the one we already have in place is 'People HR', which has some of these features I have described in the call, but needs to be tweaked to do more (asymmetrical view of reward points and prompt messages, for instance), which means talking to the platform provider to see if they can create the 'add on' module for the suggested functions.

Oh and as for the paper based gratitude form, again, as we are quite small, we can 'leap frog' and use the online system without losing that personal touch, and also that we are trying to cultivate a 'leading by doing' stance of not using as much paper in the office. Hope that answers your questions.

Photo of Kevin Van

Hi Jess,

What an interesting read! 

Undoubtedly a compelling solution you have suggested. We know that management levels across all industries are currently undergoing restructuring and change — with recent studies putting an emphasis on the demand for increased employee wellbeing. The new generation is spearheading change in the workforce — and they’ll switch jobs until they find what they want. So how do we attract and retain talent within our company? That is the essential question. The spectrum on which different defining characteristics within new generational behaviour is very broad - so I will try to stick with the idea implementation and effect:

As I am working closely together with the new generation, it is great to see that your idea is building on digital employee engagement.

One of the main elements such system should be strongly aware of is the rising numbers of workplace bullying. Research from University of Phoenix, has proven that almost 75% of employees surveyed had been affected by workplace bullying, whether as a target or a witness. The numbers are absolutely staggering.

If not implemented correctly, such work rewards system can potentially be aggravating for people targeted bullying and pressure introverts and shy people into uncomfortable situations. Such behaviour does not necessarily have to be face to face. Bullying can occur in many forms, often through deliberate exclusion and avoidance. Thus, contradicting the initial intent of the system and instead rewarding people that are already favoured in the workplace — resulting in the possibility of the creation of social hierarchies within the working environment.

However, if the right teachings were available prior to the implementation of the system, the positive impact of such system might be even greater than anticipated. On one hand, it can empower employees making them feel a part of a community and a part of a positive working environment. Thus, addressing your aforementioned concerns:

1) employees feeling isolated;

2) employees disengagement, and;

3) lack of understanding of care in the management ranks

On the other hand, the idea has the potential to become a strong tool to mitigate and detect workplace bullying through data. It can allow HR managers to learn the underlying behaviours in the respective workplace without direct confrontation. There are patterns of strong social and psychological behaviour that can be analysed to secure and increase workplace happiness.

A really interesting system that you have proposed with great potential of tackling one of the hardest issues in the workplace (and potentially across schools as well!). Definitely worth further researching, testing and analysing. This could potentially be a system contributing to the greater good of societies!