July 11, 2020 0 Comment

Guide to Employee Recognition in a Start-up Environment

While it is important for every organization, employee recognition in a start-up environment requires special focus. Working in a start-up is exciting, however, it can be stressful, with its dynamic goals, unclear roles, and overall chaos. The importance of keeping the employees motivated and engaged in a start-up culture, cannot be underestimated. While most large organizations have employee recognition programs, things need to be done differently in a start-ups to get the best results.

Importance of Employee Recognition in a Start-up

Startups today are the most happening workplaces for young professionals. This is primarily due to the learning and growth opportunities; and the exposure to new technologies and business models. However, most start-ups have small teams and employees have to take up multiple responsibilities and massive amounts of workload.

This requires employees to stretch beyond their usual capabilities and working hours in order to drive business growth. This is true for all start-ups whether self-funded, funded by investors or part of a larger organization.

Therefore, in such a start-up environment, recognizing and appreciating the efforts of employees can go a long way in establishing an emotional connect and sense of belonging with the organization.

Effective employee recognition in start-ups cannot be run conventionally, it requires a different mindset, mindful planning and execution.

How to Recognize Employees in a Startup?

One of the key aspects of managing employee recognition is to make it meaningful for the employees individually. In a start-up, the number of employees is usually small. This makes it easier to gain a better understanding of how each employee is likely to respond to recognition. Hence, this enables them to develop a smooth, systematic, timely and fair recognition program for their employees.

The key aspects of every effective employee recognition program in a start-up are as follows:

Guide to Employee Recognition in a Start-up Environment
1. Well Defined Criteria

It is important for a start-up organization to have well-defined criteria that forms the base of its employee recognition program. Employees should be recognized and appreciated not only for their achievements but also for their attitude and behaviour.

The HR should ensure that the employees are well-aware of the criteria for different rewards and recognition. At the same time, the criteria should be flexible to meet the changing needs as the organization grows.

2. Timeliness of Recognition

Recognizing and rewarding the efforts of an employee well in time will ensure the effectiveness of the program. Any delays in the process can have significant negative impact on the employee motivation.

Start-ups address this by designating a specific day of the month for handing out rewards and recognition to eligible employees. This ensures that the employees do not feel disappointed due to the delay in recognition. Alternately, early-stage start-ups can choose to acknowledge and appreciate employees regularly and on the go using a technology platform.

3. Fairness of Recognition

The most important aspect of ensuring the effectiveness of an employee recognition program is to ensure its fairness. This means that the startup leadership should verify whether or not the employees nominated for recognition truly deserve the same.

It is common for some employees to take credit for other’s work to get appreciation from higher-ups. Recognizing such employees is not just unfair but can also negatively impact employee motivation. Hence, it is essential for the HR to ensure complete fairness in the process and reward only deserving employee.

4. Variety in Rewards

Providing variety in the rewards being given to employees is also something that startups should consider. Offering the same rewards to different employees for diverse reasons makes the whole process seem formal and monotonous. By adding a bit of variety, start-ups can keep the whole process innovative and interesting. It would add a bit of surprise and excitement as employees would keep guessing until the very last moment.

5. Individual Meaningfulness

Finally, it is important for the start-ups to ensure that the rewards being given hold some meaning for each employee. They need to understand that every individual is different and perceives appreciation and recognition in a different manner.

While for some employees, true recognition might mean the announcement of their achievements in public. For others it might be a few words of praise by their seniors in private. The same holds true for rewards. For same, cash might hold greater value. For others, it might be a gift voucher or an sponsored training program.

Read 8 Creative Ideas for Startups to Recognize Employees and 5 Low Budget Ideas for Employee Rewards and Recognition


Considering the above points, start-up organizations can develop truly effective and result-oriented employee rewards and recognition programs that can enhance workforce performance and motivation significantly, and accelerate business growth.

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HiFives (https://www.hifives.in) is an employee rewards, recognition and engagement SaaS platform that enables organizations to digitize, automate and transform their employee experience. The platform enables supervisors and co-workers to nominate, recognize and reward employees using a points-based system. Budget management, jury-based evaluation and multi-level approval workflows are built into the platform. HiFives has social features such as a wall of fame and gamification features such as leaderboards, e-certificates and digital badges. It also has a global redemption system with country-specific e-gift card options. HiFives integrates with all leading HRMS systems, Office 365, Google Workspace, MS Teams, Slack and other popular tools used at the workplace. HiFives is used by many large enterprises, small businesses and startups across 25+ countries in the world, in many industries including manufacturing, retail, technology, financial services and media.