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4 Employee Recognition Tips That Don’t Involve a Paybump

4 Employee Recognition Tips That Don’t Involve a Paybump

Editor’s Note: This is a geust post by Adnan Shaffi, the co-founder of His opinions are his own.

Startups don’t scale on their own. Once past the initial stage, the founders need to hire other people to take care of their business for them. Successful entrepreneurs understand the fact that their employees are the backbone of their startup. If you take good care of them, they’ll take good care of your product and your customers.

A few years ago, Kelly Services (one of the world’s largest staffing agencies) surveyed 120,000 employees from all over the world. A shocking 48% said they were unhappy at their current jobs. Unhappiness at work comes from many demotivating factors: limited growth, lack of interest, and poor leadership to name a few. However, being underpaid is often cited as the primary demotivator.

So, what do entrepreneurs need to do to keep their employees happy and motivated?

If you look at the above studies, you would instantly think, “Okay. I just need to reward them with better pay.” That wouldn’t be such a bad first choice, I agree. After all, money is a big motivator for a lot of people!

However, what if you recently launched your business? What if you simply can’t afford pay greater salaries?

Thankfully, you can reward your employees in a number of ways that don’t involve more cash upfront. You’ll be surprised to know many employees actually prefer such rewards over monetary compensation.

Here are four of the most powerful rewards for keeping your employees happy and engaged at work without raising their pay, or giving regular bonuses.

1. Offer flexible work timings and optional remote work

In today’s connected world, forcing your method of work on creative employees is counter-productive. Employees don’t need to start work at the office at 9:00am every single day.

When you do force this, employees have to spend precious willpower on unpleasant everyday activities. Things like waking up before their preferred time, taking public transport during rush hour, and dreading the idea of working from the same, uninspiring place everyday. All this is before they even arrive at work!

As the founder of the company, you want all that precious willpower to be spent solving your deepest business problems!

Advancements in remote collaboration tech allows businesses to let employees work from where they feel their best. It has been proven time and time again that employees feel happier, and enjoy greater productivity when given flexible work hours and the freedom to work remotely. There’s a reason why work no longer happens at work!

Now now… I understand your concerns of “face-time” and “face-to-face collaboration”. These do indeed have their place. This is why flexible work timings are often offered with “core hours” – usually between 11:00am and 3:00pm – when employees are expected to be available for collaborative work. Combine this with optional remote work and you have a winning formula!

2. Give the gift of personalized perks

When designing their perks program, most companies end up offering generic perks like free lunch, coffee, and gym memberships. While that is great, and no one is complaining about them, it would be prudent to offer more personalized perks. After all, not everyone likes coffee or working out in the gym!

I love the example set by US-based startup New hires are required to fill a questionnaire asking about their favorite things – restaurants, cafes, movies etc. Then, when the time comes for a reward, they gift customized items. Movie fans get IMAX tickets to film premieres. Golfers get a free round of golf at the best golf course. Foodies get gift cards to spend at their favorite local restaurants and more. This clever reward system was featured on

It’s a great way to instil loyalty in your employees. I know I wouldn’t leave a decent job if the company offered me a $60 gift card to buy a new video game every month! It doesn’t cost them much, but it sure means a lot to me!

3. Creatively acknowledge their best work

When employees meet, supervisors are expected to personally appreciate their work. Sharing positive feedback personally is all well and good, but it pays well to acknowledge employee achievement with their peers in creative, memorable ways.

Take inspiration from HP’s Golden Banana Award. Employees receive this award when they offer inventive solutions to the company’s most difficult problems. It all started when an HP employee burst into their supervisor’s office after successfully solving a problem they had been working on for weeks. In the confusion of the moment, the supervisor rewarded the employee with a banana from their lunchbox. Initially confused, the employee gleefully accepted the reward and celebrated their success with the team.

The point of the story here is to understand the value of appreciation – even if it comes from scrappy methods. Employees will appreciate your gesture more than the explicit value of the reward itself.

To make it memorable, you simply need to do something out of the ordinary. If you use Slack, email the entire team highlighting an exceptional individual performance. Take the team out for coffee to celebrate a small victory. Let your best employee use the founder’s office for a day, maybe.

Such publicly delivered rewards will drive other employees to give it their best, too!

4. Facilitate growth with training opportunities

Growth-oriented employees absolutely love it when you offer them new ways to fast-track their personal growth. Such opportunities are generally more costly than the above-mentioned rewards, but chances are they’re still cheaper than a pay-bump.

Facilitate employee’s participation in local workshops, seminars, and online courses. If they’re a regular book reader, gift them the best books from their field of interest. As an employer, remember to consider training as an investment which will pay back with more skilled, satisfied employees that serve your business forever.

The future of your company’s growth depends on the happiness of your employees. As a founder, it’s easy to forget this in all the chaos of running a startup. Choose now to reward your best employees, and you will reap the benefits for many years to come!

Entrepreneur at heart | Social Media Strategist | Loves to write on the Internet.