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?
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