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Earning Employee Love

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What's your approach to attracting top talent and keeping your employees? Sure, you could just pay them a bundle and buy their loyalty. But, sometimes, it's better to think outside the box and focus on other ways to compensate your employees that don't involve simply offering a higher salary and bumping up your payroll bill.

In my last article, I discussed the idea that compensation is more than just cash.

I mentioned one perk we offer at SurePayroll -- company-paid trips abroad for long-serving employees -- and promised to follow up with a laundry list of non-cash compensation ideas that you might consider using at your business.

So, without further adieu, here are 20 perks that just might make your employees love working for you.

Free Food and Drinks. Having free sodas in the fridge and free snacks on the break room counter are tried and true techniques. Keep the snacks healthy and you'll win a few extra points for being concerned about employee wellness.

Movie Afternoons. All work and no play makes for a dull workforce. Fire up the conference room projector every Thursday at 2:00 PM and show a movie. Don't forget the popcorn!

Great Parties. Companies that party together stay together. Take time out to celebrate and do it in style.

Ownership. Give employees a piece of the equity pie and everybody's interests are suddenly aligned.

Dinner for Two. Don't forget to pamper spouses and partners too. Treat employees to a night out with their loved ones and you'll earn twice the love.

The Game Lounge. Foosball, billiards, air hockey, your favorite game console, or even something as low tech as Checkers or Monopoly -- let the games begin!

Beer. One reader wrote me that he has a keg tapped in his office every Friday afternoon and that employees love it. I'll drink to that!

Office Ambiance. Dingy walls and cramped quarters don't do much for employee love. On the other hand, employees love to work in an office that is stylishly designed with ample room and great furniture.

Tickets to the Big Game. Surprise your employees with an outing to the local ballgame.

Call In the Ice Cream Truck. When the ice cream truck pulls up in front of your business and gives your employees free ice cream, you're sure to earn a few employee loyalty points.

Proximity to Public Transportation. Location, location, location! Most folks will trade salary for a shorter, easier commute. If you have a convenient location, you can count on a broader selection of employees.

Flu Shots for Everyone. I wasn't so sure about this one, but after two years of providing flu shots, I'm sure our winters are more productive with happier, healthier employees.

The Latte Machine. Throw out the cheap coffee maker and invest in a high-end coffee heaven maker.

Surprise Holidays. Everybody loves a day off, especially if it's not on the holiday schedule. Want to put smiles on the employees' faces? Announce a day off out of the blue.

Learn, Baby, Learn. For many people, it's not just what they earn, it's what they learn. Invest in employee training and you'll soon have a more loyal, not to mention more skilled, workforce.

Friends. People who don't have friends at work are more likely to quit. Those who have friends are more engaged at work. So do something that encourages friendships'¶start an office book club, for example.

Casual Dress Codes. If I had a dollar for every employee that's quit a job because the dress code was too formal, I'd be a rich man indeed. At SurePayroll, we are very carefree when it comes to dress codes and our employees appreciate that very much.

Positive Words and Opportunity to Succeed. Studies show that workers who receive regular praise and are given an opportunity to do what they do best every day are more loyal and more productive workers. As if we needed a study to realize that!

Free Parking and Transportation Reimbursement. Instead of raising salaries, offer to pay for parking or train passes instead. It's a small gesture but employees will appreciate it. And it's tax deductible.

Bring in the Masseuse. Last but not least, when the going gets tough, the tough get a massage. Make your office stress-free by bring in a masseuse once a month — or during your busier, more stressful times.

Sure, all of these things cost money, but it's a pittance compared to salary costs.

The idea is to invest in things that make your workplace so attractive that you win employees' hearts, so they see working in your business as more than just a way to earn more money.

There's a reason large corporations spend millions of dollars on non-cash sales and employee incentive programs. It's because cash will always be directed toward necessities, while other perks are remembered and appreciated -- they evoke an emotional response instead of merely a logical, financial one.

The bottom line? High salaries are an expensive burden to bear. You need to be competitive but you can manage your salary costs through other creative forms of compensation.

You'll always do better by compensating employees with a highly enjoyable, fun atmosphere filled with small perks that don't cost too much money.

Last updated: May 21, 2008

MICHAEL ALTER | Columnist | President of SurePayroll

Michael Alter is president of SurePayroll, America?s leading online payroll service. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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