Budgets are being slashed, small businesses are having difficulty surviving, and it’s that time of year when raises and bonuses are decided at many companies. These days it seems most employees should just consider themselves lucky if they have a job, never mind actually getting a raise or a bonus.
Wise business owners know that keeping their employees happy makes it much easier to stay within budget and keep the bottom line happy. The question is, how can you keep your employees happy without breaking the budget and the bottom line? What if you have little money for bonuses & raises? Here are 10 things you can do:
- Let them work from home. It doesn’t have to be full-time telecommuting, but let them know you understand that this work/life balance thing is hard and as long as they get the work done, it’s okay to work at home (at least when it’s really necessary).
- Potluck – Who doesn’t like a good potluck lunch or breakfast once in a while? Build it into your calendar. The last Friday of every month is Potluck. If you can budget it, buy a company grill and do some grilling in the summer or fry a turkey in the fall.
- Espresso Machine – For less than $1,000 you can get a fully automatic espresso machine for the office. Sure, you’ll buy more coffee too, but your employees are saving their Starbucks money and since they aren’t leaving the office to get coffee, they’re going to be back at their desks a lot faster (more productivity…what did I say about happy employees and the bottom line?).
- Performance Based Bonuses – Create a new bonus system. Make it based on team performance and tie it directly to the bottom line. Every month, review how the team is doing and what their projected bonus is (an actual chart on the wall would be great). When done correctly, you increase teamwork, the bottom line, and motivation. (Think this one through carefully, this can have negative impacts if not implemented properly).
- Flexible Time Off – Loosen up your vacation policies. Don’t force a half day of vacation if someone needs 2 hours to go to the dentist. Let them make that up another day. Also, don’t force people into lying about being sick to get a day off. Yes, set parameters around how it can be used, but make it easy. Again, let them know you understand their personal life is important.
- Cafeteria Plans – Medical, dependent care, and transportation flex spending plans are inexpensive to operate and they save you and your employees money (via tax savings).
- LISTEN – Everyone wants to be heard. Establish an open door policy and actively encourage feedback from your employees. Encourage them to bring you solutions (not problems). You’ll be amazed at the creative things your employees can come up with to solve problems that you didn’t even know existed.
- Extra Time Off – For hourly employees, this could hurt your budget, so be careful. Salaried employees usually do the work either before or after their time away, so it really doesn’t cost you much for them. If an employee has worked exceptionally hard or gone above & beyond in some way, why not reward them with a paid day off?
- Training & Workshops – If you can, try to budget in some training or seminars for your employees. You’ll increase their skills which helps them and you. When I work with companies to write a budget, I recommend setting a per person “professional development” budget. It’s important to find ways to help all of your employees develop their skills.
- Flexible Work Hours – Why does everyone have to work 8 – 5? Create a core set of hours that are mandatory, but let the rest be flexible. Some people are more productive in the morning, others in the afternoon. Some have kids to get off to school, others have night classes to get to. Give your employees a little flexibility in how they schedule their days. Watch productivity, not the clock.
Most of the ideas here are based upon building a culture that is flexible, respectful of the work/life balance, and creates a team environment (of course there are many more). Showing your employees they are valued doesn’t have to be a monetary endeavor.