The war for talent still rages and aside from financial incentives, what non-monetary benefits can SMEs offer to attract and retain staff? John Cradden finds out.
Providing a competitive salary and monetary benefits like a pension scheme, health insurance, and promotions and raises over time are obviously important incentives to keep your employees happy.
But at a time when the fight to find and keep the best talent is heating up, focusing on non-monetary benefits can be just as effective in terms of motivation and engagement.
“Employees who are motivated will usually expect to have avenues along which they can progress their career, otherwise they may look elsewhere eventually for these opportunities”
Indeed, according to a 2014 study by IT consultancy System Dynamics (since acquired by Deloitte), employers in Ireland can actually end up draining employee motivation and damage productivity by focusing too much attention on purely financial incentives and not enough on the psychological needs of their employees.
The following are some popular non-monetary incentives that will make your employees become more engaged, loyal, and productive at your company.
The simple joy of feeling appreciated is a really simple and effective workplace motivator.
In turn, workers who feel that they matter and play an important role to the company they work for are likely to remain on the team.
Recognising employees could be as simple as adopting an employee of the month initiative, rewarding employees with gift cards to reputable restaurants, or simply giving an employee a pat on the back for a good job. You could also write a blog on your website or post on social media about employees you feel have gone the extra mile for customers, have done something for charity, or have achieved a significant milestone.
This kind of thing could be really critical for remote employees, who may be working additional hours or taking on more responsibilities, but for whom the line between working hours and personal time might be a bit blurred.
As a small business, it’s likely you already appreciate the worth of employees who can take full responsibility for their work and see tasks through to the end without someone having to look over their shoulder or micromanage them. With employees like these, you can go further by giving them the space and power to arrange their workday on their own and prioritise projects as they see fit.
Of course, it’s important to keep the chain of communication open and be sure that your employees understand their overall weekly objectives. Encourage your teams to keep their calendars up to date for visibility and scheduling purposes.
3 Flexible working schedules
Flexible working has emerged in recent years as one of the most popular employee incentives, whether paid or otherwise, particularly with the rise of remote working over the past couple of years.
Working remotely reduces expenses such as gas and child care, and enables your employee to spend additional time with their loved ones.
As well as being able to work from home, flexible working means allowing them to work outside of the usual business hours of 9 to 5 when it suits them.
4 Career progression/personal development/training
Employees who are motivated will usually expect to have avenues along which they can progress their career, otherwise they may look elsewhere eventually for these opportunities.
Part of this, naturally, is creating opportunities for them to develop and learn new skills, such as through assigning their new responsibilities or projects, providing relevant training or even assigning a senior mentor to guide them in the right direction.
5 One-on-one time
Investing in one-on-one time with employees, as opposed to doing things as a group, can be more meaningful and significant to them. It helps keeps an open dialogue between you and your employees, which helps to build trust amongst your team and ensures no one feels out of the loop.
Such meetings are an opportunity to ask what you can do to help them improve and grow, and get some constructive feedback on the way the business operates.
You may be already having meetings like these, but instead of making it feel like a performance review, one way to embrace the spirit of it is to get senior people in the business to bring them to lunch.
6 Volunteer work
Sometimes working in one place can seem to be self-serving when you and your employees are the only people benefiting from your efforts.
Allowing your employees time to engage in breaks from the office through volunteer work gives them a boost of morale – knowing that they are giving back to the community in a meaningful way.
7 Time to work on own projects
Some bigger companies offer this as a standard part of employment. Google employees, for example, are encouraged to use 20% of their time on personal projects.
But it’s well worth embracing it as a small business, and may help lead to innovation, as some employees may spend the time developing solutions to support their work or the business.
8 Extra leave
Additional time off is another very popular non-monetary benefit. This is time you offer to employees over and above their accrued holiday days and sick days.
This could be in many forms, such as an extra day or half-day’s annual leave, a longer lunch break, an earlier finish on a Friday or a late start or a Monday. One increasingly popular and simple one is to offer them their birthday off, and is a great gesture.
As well as reducing the instances of employees calling in sick, these free days can allow your employee more time to spend with family or to unwind and relax.