Have You Thanked Your Employees Lately?

May 30, 2013

5:00 pm

Sometimes, we forget to say thank you.

A friend of mine, who founded a dance school, had a revelation when he discovered that he needed to start showing more appreciation to his employees. “I’m introverted and self-motivated, so I never needed encouragement like that,” he said. “And then I realized: other people did.”

There are so many excuses for startups to neglect employee recognition: there’s no time, it’s a low priority, etc., etc. But – though it’s less true for some people than for others – the need to be thanked and recognized is very human. Imagine if you went through life getting no feedback on anything you did or created.

YouEarnedIt wants to convince startups and other companies to appreciate and recognize their employees. 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 company recently moved from Arkansas to Austin, where Steve Semelsberger was appointed as the new CEO.

For employee recognition skeptics, Semelsberger suggests looking at the effects on group dynamics, not just individuals. In other words, teams can become closer when they tell each other, “Good job on the app!” or, “Great marketing idea.” Developers, a chronically under-appreciated bunch, can recognize each other for their technical prowess.

“At its foremost, it’s about offering happiness at work,” says Semelsberger.

Employee recognition is just one part of a larger trend of focusing on culture and happiness, exemplified by companies like Zappos and Github. It’s especially crucial now, as millennials demand more from their employers and the job market improves.

If that’s still unconvincing, says Semelsberger, you can think of employee recognition like a real-time performance review: the record of all your thank-yous and appreciations will add up to a record of someone’s performance, so you don’t have to scour your memory at the end of the year for an annual evaluation.

Semelsberger recommends customizing your employee recognition to your own style and culture. In Austin, he says, companies tend to focus on “liberal, Texas niceties” – offering compliments and gratitude. New York City employees tend to recognize each other for achievements and accomplishments.

And rewards can differ, too. On YouEarnedIt, rewards range from mentorship sessions to contributing to charity to trips to Hawaii, motorcycles, and $800 Louis Vuitton bags. And that’s certainly a nice way to say thank you.

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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 kira@tech.co.

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