Merit Increase in a self-managed group. Experiment 2: Most Complete Employee

If you read our Experiment 1 for the merit increase, you would know that the system, even though it brought a lot of good things to the group, it had some room for improvement.

With a little bit more time we decided to work on an improved version of the “Best Employee” and we created the “Most Complete Employee”.

Very similar format to the previous voting but this time we made a few changed to cover some of the feedback shared by the employees:


With the help of everyone, we defined 5 different categories: Teamwork, Stakeholder Accountability, Knowledge Spreading, Passion and Expertise in Relevant Field.


With this, we intend to provide clear guidelines for the behaviour we want to reward, as well as shaping our culture at the same time.

Up to 15 different people

Although you could leave blanks and vote for the same person in different categories, having the possibility to vote for 15 different people would allow to include more profiles and recognise different aspects, like those teammates that aren’t rockstar programmers but great team players.


Votes wouldn’t be anonymous. Everybody would see who voted for whom. Employees could still vote for themselves but everyone would see it. This would increase transparency and trust in the system and end results.

Online Survey

Instead of ballots and a box, we would use an online survey, this way we would avoid bad handwriting, human errors when counting and made easier to draw all sorts of statistics. The fact that all entries were 100% public made any tampering with this system very difficult.

Regatta System

Final results were based on the “regatta system”. This system rewards those who rather than scoring very high on a single category, scored nicely in several or all categories, showing that this employee was embracing the company values.

How it works:

  • As in the previous system, 3 names are entered for each category, the 1st name gets 3 votes, the 2nd gets 2 votes and the 3rd gets 1.
  • After the count, each category is sorted by highest number of votes, leaving everyone with a ranking position in each category. The one with more votes gets position 1, the second most gets position 2, etc.
  • Once you have all 5 categories ranked, you convert the ranking position into points. The 1st position would give you 1 point, second 2, third 3, etc. For example, if somebody is ranked 1st in Expertise, 9th in Knowledge Sharing, 22nd in Teamwork, 38th in Stakeholder accountability and 3rd in Passion, the total score for that person would be 1+9+22+38+3 = 73 points.
  • Finally, you put everyone in a single ranking and sort from least to most points. Those who got good positions on every category would be at the top of the ranking.

To illustrate it better, here a more complete example:


Those 3 tables represent 3 different categories, sorted by the number of votes received by each employee. Then based on their position in the rank, they get that number of points from each category. Once you add up the points from each category you end up with a consolidated final score that we sort from lowest to highest.


In the final ranking, you can see how Goku ended up first, even though he has fewer votes than Spiderman. The regatta system rewards Goku for scoring high in several categories. Even though Spiderman is the best in category 1, is not as good in categories 2 and 3.

Again, we ran a retrospective after this exercise and these are some things that came up:

What worked

  • People liked the categories, they represent the values of the office and they allowed to recognise different skills and profiles as well as a more homogeneous criterion.
  • Transparency was appreciated and even some voting was commented or challenged which helped shape a common understanding of the behaviour and aspects that we want to reward in our office.
  • It was great to have the opportunity to recognise a lot of different people.
  • People were mostly happy with the results and recognised that in such system people who deserve recognition make it to the top and vice-versa.

What didn’t work so well

  • People working with many different departments, such as a Product Owner, are more exposed and in a better position to be known and be evaluated by others, on the other hand, people working in teams like sales or finance are less likely to be recognised by others, since they work more isolated and often out of the office.
  • Same as in the previous method, all feedback is positive, employees don’t get feedback on what to improve and have to use alternative methods for this. This is especially rough for the only person that didn’t get any vote.
  • Again, this system is somehow time-consuming, involving everyone in the office which makes it heavy and not spontaneous. As shared before is less than ideal to run this only once or twice a year. Recognition is always better right after the fact and is hard to think of events that happened several months ago. We tend to unconsciously focus on more recent interactions with other people.


In conclusion, this method was much better than Experiment 1, we covered some of the gaps and improved significantly. Having to stick to the annual performance review, this is way much better and it allows you to progressively introduce more drastic practices while learning and shaping your culture in the process. For us, the results were no worse, if not better, than the traditional system and on top of that, we engaged everyone in one of the most sensitive decisions, showing trust and continuing in our journey towards more autonomy and self-management.

For the next iteration, we decided to spice things up a bit. Check out the Merit Increase in a self-managed group. Experiment 3: Salary Distribution.


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