Employee Recognition as a Competitive Advantage

As you sat down to a plentiful Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family last week, did you think of giving thanks to your employees and colleagues? You know, the folks you spend 8-10 hours every weekday with? Otherwise known as the crew you’re trying to make a dent in the universe with, and without whom you would absolutely no chance of succeeding? When was the last time you let them know you were thankful for them?
In the startup world (and beyond), it’s widely acknowledged that your people are everything. But as research studies point out, in order to attract and retain those people it’s becoming increasingly necessary to go above and beyond offering compelling monetary compensation and benefits packages.
As my colleague Katelyn Lagarde wrote about last week, a recent report by LinkedIn has identified not high compensation demand, but competition from other companies as the biggest recruitment challenge for 2015. The market for skilled, versatile workers is becoming more highly mobile and competitive, and as a result startups and established corporations alike are finding themselves vying for top talent whose ideal employment is very different from the traditional stable well-paying job of the past.
So with the stakes raised and the competition for both hiring and retaining top talent heating up, what can a growing software company do to set itself apart?

The Case for Investing in Employee Recognition

Companies are responding to this new competitive reality by making their workplace environments more enticing. By this point it’s become common for startups to offer amazing perks for employees, emphasize the uniqueness of the company culture, and organize fun retreats (in some extreme cases, taking the entire company out of the country like Expensify does every year with their well known offshoring expeditions).
Those are all great ways to keep employees happy, but for them to be even more effective, they should be backed up by an overall strategy and focus on making all employees feel special, valued, and supported in their work and personal development. Company leaders need to learn how to be more proactive and systematic in recognizing individual employees’ achievement, and they need to be more public in their appreciation and respect for their best employees.
When employees receive more frequent and more public recognition of their good work, they will be more engaged, more inspired to innovate to improve their output, more eager to accelerate their development, and more excited to share their optimism and energy when interacting with colleagues, customers, and their network. All of these things can help accelerate a company’s growth by cultivating a better culture, not to mention making a more positive impression with customers as well as potential employees. When a company does employee motivation well, it has a competitive talent advantage that goes beyond the typical monetary rewards, equities, and office perks. In fact, it could just be your winning edge in the war for talent.

Employee Recognition Tools

As you think of ways to recognize and motivate your employees try not to limit yourself to the most standard channels/processes, and remember that it pays to be creative. Employee recognition doesn’t just have to happen between manager and team member; it can be peer to peer, or across teams and divisions. You also shouldn’t wait until annual reviews to recognize achievements. Work on providing instant recognition for a task well done, a customer’s satisfied feedback, or a new opportunity won.
At each of these levels, there are appropriate tools and mediums to deliver employee recognition. For example, it can be as simple as a monthly “Employee of the Month” program that encourages managers and peers to nominate outstanding workers. To take this further, there are software platforms such as YouEarnedIt, SnowFly, and Bunchball that help HR teams implement the process across the whole company, and that scale up as the company grows. They even build tried and true game mechanics into the employee motivation and rewards program to encourage engagement to better results, as in this case study at Rockfish Digital shows.
But there are also other ways to show employees that the company appreciates them that do not include rewards or company-wide recognition. Making more resources available to support their projects and initiatives, providing them with new education and personal development opportunities, or simply allowing employees to publish or make public their work are all things that can be just as effective, if used appropriately.

Employee Recognition Experts to Follow

There is a growing movement in the HR world that speaks to the importance of employee recognition and motivation. I would strongly encourage you to check out the following blogs and publications by some of the experts in the field below:

Rajat Paharia, CTO at Bunchball

Read Rajat’s thoughts on the Bunchball Blog. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Dr. Bob Nelson, Employee Motivation Expert

Read Dr. Nelson’s insights at his site www.drbobnelson.com. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Ira Ozer, Engagement Partners

For Ira’s tips and advice, visit www.engagementpartners.com. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Image courtesy of Gratisography

Tien-Anh Nguyen
Tien-Anh Nguyen
Chief Business Officer at UserTesting

Tien Anh joined UserTesting in 2015 after extensive financial and strategic experiences at OpenView, where he was an investor and advisor to a global portfolio of fast-growing enterprise SaaS companies. Until 2021, he led the Finance, IT, and Business Intelligence team as CFO of UserTesting. He currently leads initiatives for long term growth investments as Chief Business Officer at UserTesting.
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