Your employees are your lifeblood. They are the workforce that creates new opportunities, overcomes unanticipated problems, and manages the day-to-day activities that allow your company to maintain a consistent direction over time. Keeping your employees happy and motivated is the key to your business's success; without satisfied employees, your productivity can erode away and the team-based elements of your company can collapse.
To keep positive morale flowing in the office, you need to reward your employees regularly, or at least when they've done something exemplary. It not only reinforces a positive behavior for the individual, it also sets an example for the whole group and demonstrates your appreciation for the team. The problem is that rewarding your employees through monetary means--such as raises or bonuses--is not always economically feasible, especially for new and developing businesses. Fortunately, there are a number of strategies you can use to reward your employees without monetary compensation.
1. Buy Lunch
Buying lunch for your team, or for an individual who's performed outstanding work can be a small gesture that goes a long way. It's relatively inexpensive compared to a raise or a bonus, but provides something tangible and nice for the employee or employees being rewarded. What's more, you'll get a chance to get them out of the office, which can be a reward in and of itself. You'll also have the opportunity to talk over lunch--giving you a casual, personal means of congratulating the team, and going over the factors that made the accomplishments possible.
2. Offer Flexible Hours
For the most valuable members of your team, consider offering alternative work schedules. If your sales team hits a monthly goal with a few days to spare, let them go home early the last few days. If your marketing team finishes work on a big campaign with no hiccups, let them come in late for a half day later in the week. You can also let your most valuable employees work from home occasionally, or offer other types of flexible scheduling. Just be sure to tie the benefits to a real-world accomplishment so it proves your appreciation.
3. Offer More Amenities at Work
This type of reward is best saved for your entire workforce, rather than one specific team. Create a challenge for your company that every individual can contribute to, and if that challenge is met, reward your employees with a new amenity at work. For example, if your company earns a specific amount of revenue for the year, you can put a pool table in the break room. If you increase your total site traffic by 25 percent over the course of six months, you can offer free snacks on a daily basis. These amenities will likely cost less than distributing raises on an individual basis, and they'll do their job of making your employees feel rewarded and satisfied with their work.
4. Add More Benefits
Increasing healthcare coverage or increasing the match for your 401(k) will both cost money, so if you can't afford to give a raise, you may not be able to expand your employee benefits. However, most employee benefits are a tax deductible expense for businesses, meaning they're going to cost you less in the long-term even if they require a bit of money up front. Rewarding your employees across the board with greater benefits can also function as a sign of good faith--that you appreciate all your employees, and that the company is doing well enough to afford the extra coverage.
5. Recognize Individual Accomplishments--and Encourage Others to Do the Same
A kind word can sometimes do more than any amount of money you invest in a person. When one of your workers accomplishes something significant, take a moment to congratulate him/her and express your appreciation. It even goes beyond accomplishments and triumphs; if you see one of your employees working hard and struggling, take him/her aside and let him/her know that you appreciate his/her efforts. In many cases, those words are all the motivation and appreciation they'll need to keep working diligently and happily.
As an extension, it's important to create an environment where people congratulate and appreciate each other. Tell your supervisors to offer praise whenever it's appropriate, and foster good relations between your workers. Eventually, you'll cultivate an environment of positivity, and the rewards will perpetuate themselves.
Money doesn't buy happiness, and it can't buy employee satisfaction, either. Even if you can afford to give a raise or a bonus as a reward for a job well done, it may be worth your while to consider at least one of these alternative rewarding strategies. The more appreciated your employees feel, the more committed they'll be to your company, the harder they'll work, and the more benefits your entire team will be able to collectively enjoy.