3 Tips for Employee Recognition, from YouEarnedIt

May 29, 2012

11:00 am

YouEarnedIt, a tool for employees to appreciate and recognize each other, launched publicly this month. Using YouEarnedIt, companies give their employees a certain number of points per month, employees award points to their coworkers for great performance or extra effort, and everyone can redeem points for gift certificates, tickets, and other rewards.

The YouEarnedIt team believes employee recognition doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Here are a few employee recognition tips for startups that I gleaned from their experience:

1. Be serious about it. According to Kenny Tomlin, the founder and CEO of YouEarnedIt creator Rockfish Interactive, research has shown that recognizing employees for recent, relevant actions leads to more job satisfaction and less turnover. This is particularly crucial for startups because they’re often competing for top talent and can be destabilized when a core team member leaves. Plus, founders sometimes forget to say thanks amidst all the hustle and bustle.

“It’s very easy to get so busy that you just take it for granted that people know you appreciate them,” says Tomlin.

On top of that, using a platform like YouEarnedIt gives founders a quick picture of what employees think of each other, he says, like a “real-time 360 eval.”

2. Start right away. To show your commitment to employee recognition, start early and build it into the culture. “Rolling out something like this from day 1 says, ‘Hey, this is going to be who we are. This is going to be an important part of how we grow and how we recognize each other,’” explains Tomlin.

YouEarnedIt actually started when Rockfish managers asked if they could reward employees for extra work or late hours by buying gift cards. That turned into an informal points system, tracked through spreadsheets and email. Now, with YouEarnedIt spun off into a separate product, it’s an integral part of the 180-person company. “If I were to turn off YouEarnedIt tomorrow, there would be an uprising,” jokes Tomlin.

3. A little goes a long way. YouEarnedIt gives companies the flexibility to decide their own rewards; 1,000 points might score you a happy hour gift card, while 10,000 might mean an iPod Touch. According to Tomlin, the fact that your coworkers appreciate you can be even more important and motivating than the actual reward.

If you’re a startup strapped for cash, buying $10 and $15 gift cards can still make a big difference. You can also offer non-monetary rewards; one school, for example, uses YouEarnedIt to offer students free mentorship time with local businessmen. Competitor Kudos also offers rewards, but focuses even more heavily on just saying thanks.

The bottom line? Thanking your employees should be a priority, but it doesn’t have to be a burden.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact