12 No Cost Ways to Reward Your Employees

12 No Cost Ways to Reward Your Employees

The beginning of a new year and also that time of year when employee thoughts turn to… (well on the East Coast everyone is thinking wistfully of spring) “When am I going to get a pay increase?”

Thanks to 50 years of prosperity and a small dose of influence from union contracts, the American worker has been conditioned into thinking (expecting) that they will get a regularly schedule raise in pay in January. The legacy of 20 years of consistent pay practices lives on.

I don’t need to rehash the economic news of the last 6 years, but pay increases since 2008 have been well below the former 3% standard set by the prosperous years, and wage freezes and 18-24 spans between increases are fairly common.

If you are smaller employer or one who has limited profits to continually raise your payroll budget 3% every year, how will you possibly attract great people and retain your top performers?

The good news is that you actually have 12 non-financial ways to reward your employees. Here is a list with some possible solutions.

1. Voluntary (employee paid) benefits—many employers now offer the option for employees to purchase additional benefits at their own cost. The employee typically receives a lower cost for the coverage and it may have tax advantages.

Solution- insurance plans- dental insurance, long term disability or life insurance

2. Work itself– the number one factor in job satisfaction is a sense of achievement. Ask employees how you can improve their work with more variety, sense of purpose or meaning, and challenging assignments

Solution- give your high potential employee a project to manage

3. Autonomy— show of hands- who likes to be micromanaged? Anyone? If you train someone and give appropriate guidelines you can trust the work will be done as needed.

Solution: consider the last 5 questions that someone “ran by you” – is there nugget of wisdom you can share so that you do not have to be consulted or are you just being the chief problem solver?

4. Work load— are you overloading your best performer because she will always take on more and get it done? Does this sound like a recipe for burnout?

Solution: ask your busiest person what you can take off their plate, and then create a plan to do this immediately

5. Resources one of the top reasons people leave their job is because they do not have the tools to do the job properly

Solution: have a meeting to list out hassles and pick the biggest time waster to that inexpensive resources or tools will improve

6. Reliable coworkers– If you have ever worked with someone is who not pulling their weight, then you know how this can make you hopping mad. People have one of three responses: work harder and put up with the slacker, work less so that you don’t feel taken advantage of, or look for another job. If you allow lower contributions you are actually driving out the good performers. And then you are left with the lowest ones.

Solution: If you know who is your weakest link do not wait to have a crucial conversation (see feedback below). Sometimes you have a sense someone is not doing their best but others cover for that person so you don’t know the full extent of the gap. Also allow confidential opportunities to get this feedback from your team.

7. Performance discussions- Yes everyone hates the “performance review,” but on the flip side employees want the opportunity to talk about their role, aspirations and to be appreciated for all their hard work.

Solution: change up your process- stop focusing so much on putting a numerical rating on last year, and more about how the last year provided insights for how to reach goals for this year. I when I say goals I mean how the employee can reach his/her goals within the job.

8. Feedback- Employees expect you to tell them right away if they are not meeting expectations. And they should expect that you deliver this feedback in a positive and constructive manner.

Solution: If you are not comfortable delivering constructive feedback then I suggest reading a few books (101 Tough Conversations is a good start) and then starting small. Trust me, your other employees will thank you for finally have those crucial conversations.

9. Recognition- Timely and targeted public praise is only the cheapest and most powerful reward tool a manager has. If you don’t know what to recognize then you need to sit down and make a list of what behaviors will reach your organization’s goals this year.

Solution: Be on the lookout for a person that did something terrific that is on your list of things to recognize, and publicly praise in your weekly team meeting (you have one, right?)

10. Training and development– Most people want to feel that we are “good” at our job and will be frustrated or demoralized if something is too difficult. A lack of challenging work is also a main reason people look for another job, so you may want to continually upgrade the knowledge and skills so that people don’t get bored. It’s a win-win- employees feel valued and broaden their knowledge and capability, and now you have an employee who can contribute and perform more.

Solution: employees may not be open about their so you want to ask find out what training would dramatically improve performance or if they want a new challenge.

11. Opportunity for Advancement– Surveys show that about half of employees feel there is not a chance for promotion at their employer. For the generation Y who will comprise almost half the workers in the US, a clear career path and opportunities to advance is the top reason for job engagement.

Solutions: If you want people to be loyal, committed and willing to go above and beyond (aka engaged), identify and share the “next” job (not necessarily in management), the change in duties and responsibility, and a training plan to develop into that role.

12. A great boss (I mean coach)- as the saying goes, people leave supervisors, not companies. If you feel unappreciated, criticized, or just plain frustrated by your direct manager you will consider looking for a new one. Coaches are clear about the goals, deliver feedback and train in a positive supportive and appreciative way, and focus on improvement.

Solution: There are so many books and training on how to be a coach and not a boss, but it might help to ask some of the employees you trust where you should work first. We all have blind spots and perhaps a few key changes will dramatically change how you are perceived and the impact you make.

Want to learn more about how to use Total Rewards to attract, engage and retain your best teammates?


Diana Southall is a fifth generation entrepreneur, and creator of the People Plan toolkit.™ Her firm specializes in coaching small business owners and managers to build, engage and reward a fabulous team!

You can start working with Diana with free members-only access to People coaching resources, including informative video training, articles, time saving documents and templates. Join the FREE membership club here.


Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Quick recognition template

Quick recognition template

Our recent blog post showed that employees desire more appreciation and recognition, so here is a quick template for you to develop your own semi-formal recognition program.

(If you involve your team members in the development process, we will give you bonus points).

•List 3 ABC’s (ABC- attitudes, behaviors and contributions) that would improve your internal team work
•List 3 ABC’s that would improve your customer care
•List 3 ABC’s that support your organization’s core values
•Communicate list of 9 ABC’s to your employees (team meeting? poster on the wall?) and what you plan to do with it
•Make a list of when you can recognize at least one employee publicly for demonstrating one of these ABC’s
•Invite team members to recognize each other when they witness an ABC
•Take one minute to recognize an employee privately if you witness a great ABC
•Schedule and recognize based on your plan


Diana Southall is a fifth generation entrepreneur, and creator of the People Plan toolkit.™ Her firm specializes in coaching small business owners and managers to build, engage and reward a fabulous team!

You can start working with Diana with free members-only access to People coaching resources, including informative video training, articles, time saving documents and templates. Join the FREE membership club here.


Image courtesy of Maggie Smith at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Total Reward #13- Supervisors

Total Reward #13- Supervisors

Supervisors—you can’t fire yours, but you certainly can leave them…

The topic of the supervisor- employee relationship has been researched and written about since “industrial psychology” started as a field. A recent book title summarize the importance of this dynamic in retaining and engaging employees, “People Leave Managers, Not Organizations.”

How many times did you come home from work and shared your frustration with your manager to friends or family? If this continued, was this a factor in a new job search?

Okay, you say, good supervisors are important, but what is the real impact of a great one? Perhaps you have a few good ones, and few okay ones and only one that is really struggling to connect with her staff and/or achieve important results.

Consider these findings from Zenger Folkman group (see charts below):

  • The best leaders had more than twice as many committed and engaged employees
  • The worst leaders had more than four times as many employes thinking about quitting
  • The best leader’s team had almost twice the customer satisfaction levels
  • The best leader’s team in a sales study had almost 10 times (!) the sales compared to the worst leader’s team and about 50% more than the average leader’s team

What makes supervisors “multipliers” or “diminishers”—read Zenger Folkman article that lists the key “fatal flaws” of managers


Diana Southall is a fifth generation entrepreneur and creator of the People Plan toolkit.™ Her firm specializes in coaching small business owners and managers to build, engage and reward a fabulous team!

You can start working with Diana with free members-only access to People coaching resources, including informative video training, articles, time saving documents and templates. Join the FREE membership club here.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Total Rewards #1- Pay

Total Rewards #1- Pay

Compensation (base pay) is the most expensive reward you offer employees yet it is not very impactful in retaining or motivating employees. (It is in attracting new employees and a factor in their decision to take your job offer). Your pay practices can also become a major de-motivator if employees feel that they are not paid fairly compared to other workers.

The problem:

  • Surveys find that about half of employees do not know how their compensation is determined.
  • Many organizations say that they “pay for performance” yet a top performer might receive a 4% raise instead of a 3% raise—not exactly providing a meaningful difference to reward extra effort.
  • Incentive plans often create unintended consequences of discouraging teamwork, encouraging behaviors that do not serve the customer, or become an expected entitlement and not a motivator or perceived reward for great performance.

The solution:

Many theories of motivation and business authors (Dan Pink, Brad Ham) share the philosophy of Total Rewards—provide fair and market competitive wages and then provide the other Rewards to engage your staff. (See our series on 13 Total Rewards in the Rewards category of our blog).

As for incentives (variable pay), these plans need to be carefully designed and communicated so that they align individual effort with business goals and then share a reasonable part of the gain. Give employees an upside when they and the organization does well and you protect your bottom line for the lean times.

Contact us to learn more about the WNY Compensation & Benefits Survey to benchmark your organization to others in the region


Diana Southall is a fifth generation entrepreneur, and creator of the People Plan toolkit.™ Her firm specializes in coaching small business owners and managers to build, engage and reward a fabulous team!

You can start working with Diana with free members-only access to People coaching resources, including informative video training, articles, time saving documents and templates. Join the FREE membership club here.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

13 Total Rewards For Employee Satisfaction — It’s More than Pay!

13 Total Rewards For Employee Satisfaction — It’s More than Pay!

If pay were the only reason employees worked, only the highest-paying employer would have staff and no one would work at not for profits!

Employees look at more than just compensation when they consider a job offer or when they consider leaving your organization—they look at “Total Rewards”.
These are all the rewards elements of a job that impact an employee’s satisfaction with the job, and the key to find, keep and motivate more Right People on your staff.

The “Best Places to Work” are rated this way because they provide a Total Rewards package that employees find favorable.

A flexible and customized Total Rewards package allows your organization to attract, retain and reward top performers – which provides a competitive advantage for your organization.

Don’t just take our word for it!

According to Aon Hewitt’s global Best Employer report “research reveals how organizations differentiate and achieve a competitive advantage through their people. The benefits of being a Best Employer are well documented, from improved retention to increased productivity. Best Employers are distinguished by high levels of employee engagement, which results in lower turnover, larger talent pools, and better financial performance.

Organizations with high levels of engagement to outperform the stock market index with returns 22% higher than average; companies with low engagement had returns 28% lower than average.”

Link to full Aon Hewitt report on Employee Engagement

Consider more than your base pay:

Employers often look at compensation as the main (and most expensive) element to achieve employee satisfaction—but there is a multitude of research that the quality of manager- employee interaction is far more important to employee satisfaction and retention (among 11 other rewards).

For example, according to a recent study by the Total Rewards organization World at Work, recent college graduates rate pay as #5 in importance, behind opportunity, flexible work hours and a friendly work environment.

How do you find out if employees are satisfied with your Rewards—you ask them! The best way to measure changes in employee satisfaction and engagement is to conduct an annual Total Rewards survey. If you have different locations or shifts the results can be summarized to if there are any meaningful differences among groups of workers (there usually are).  This allows you to provide a flexible Total Rewards package that appeals to different types of workers with different interests.

Contact us to receive a free article on the Total Rewards model, and process to identify employee needs and develop a custom and flexible Total Reward program for your unique organization.


Diana Southall is a fifth generation entrepreneur, and creator of the People Plan toolkit.™ Her firm specializes in coaching small business owners and managers to build, engage and reward a fabulous team!

You can start working with Diana with free members-only access to People coaching resources, including informative video training, articles, time saving documents and templates. Join the FREE membership club here.


Image courtesy of scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net