Why it is vital for start-ups, consumer internet companies to engage in R&R


– Prashant John, Co-founder – Kwench

In the book Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices, authors Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria, outline the four drives that guide human behaviour. These drives, a consequence of the evolutionary heritage all human beings share, are: (a) The drive to acquire, (b) The drive to bond, (c) The drive to comprehend and (d) the drive to defend.

  • The drive to acquire: the emotional need to acquire scarce goods – like social status. In a technology company the social status arises from recognition. Acknowledgement of a task done well, of a high degree to competence, of skill – especially from peers is highly valued and motivating.
  • The drive to bond: the need for people to form connections – both with individuals and with groups. This drive explains the boost in motivation that employees feel when they are proud of belonging to an organization.
  • The drive to comprehend: the need of people to do meaningful work. Employees are motivated when they are assigned tasks that play to their strengths and challenge them at the same time.
  • The drive to defend: this need leads to a resistance to change. A lack of recognition can in some cases lead to fear of irrelevance. It might even lead to a behaviour of irrationally protecting one’s ‘turf’ and this ends up hurting the organization.

These drives manifest in the workplace every single day – be it a start-up working on a solution they believe will change the world, or an established company looking for new avenues to grow. Irrespective of the size or the situation of the company, it is clear that people are everything. And motivating people to give their best makes the difference between the company becoming a thriving innovative market-leader or a follower, struggling to respond to market changes.

It’s war!

In today’s ultra-competitive world, HR professionals and managers constantly talk about war – the war for talent. In order to attract and retain the best talent, companies no matter how small or large, have to look beyond monetary compensation. The good old concept of a ‘stable well paying job’ not longer makes the cut.

The situation is made even more challenging by the fact that there is a generational shift taking place in the workforce. Gen-Y is now starting to dominate with Gen-X increasingly moving up to senior roles. In start-ups, it is often Gen-Y all the way these days. The Millenials are not only more demanding of what value systems their employers have, they are more mobile, they are ‘digital-natives’, who are connected and ‘always-on’. The definition of Recognition (and consequently rewards) is changing dramatically.

Recognition as a strategic weapon:

The smart companies are already responding to the challenge, by building a strong culture of Rewards and Recognition at the workplace. A well thought out policy on recognition not only recognizes the preferences of various cohorts it also makes employees feel valued and supported not only at work but also in their personal lives.

Research has shown that when employees receive more frequent and more public recognition of their work their engagement levels at work increase. Increase engagement has been seen to have an impact on innovation, higher levels of customer engagement and even increased cost savings. Companies that are seen as having a culture of valuing their employees have a better standing with employees and clients – which helps to attract and retain top talent.

Making it count:

With the demographic shifts happening in the workforce, and the rapid adoption of new technology, the avenues to provide relevant and timely recognition to employees are increasing by the day. Now waiting for a whole year to receive acknowledgement for a job well done is considered archaic. Also no longer is recognition restricted to being given only by immediate superiors or even from just people in the same team.

Cloud based Recognition and Rewards platforms enable companies to acknowledge their employees’ contribution instantly, publicly and in innovative ways. Recognition can now be peer-peer, across teams and even across countries. Even the very nature of rewards has changed. Its no longer a coffee-mug or a plaque. The rewards recognize the that each individual has a choice and preference and empower them to choose their own rewards – be it a voucher of their favourite brand or a product. Companies are now going the next step and investing in employee’s health and wellness by giving pedometers and gym-memberships as rewards. It’s a perfect win-win situation – where the reward value far exceeds just the monetary cost!

When a company has a good rewards and recognition policy and implements it well, it acquires a tremendous advantage over its competitors in the constant battle for talent, innovation, market dominance and future growth.

At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter whether you are a start-up or a global MNC – if you want the best talent, you better take a good look at your Recognition and Rewards strategy. As Pink Floyd put it so well in their song ‘Lost for Words’, “Because there’ll be no safety in numbers, when the right one walks out of the door”


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“Thinking Aloud” reflects the emerging trends and varied outlook of the rapidly evolving internet and communication sector. An IAMAI publication, this is a part of the market education initiative of the association.

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