When you're running an early-stage startup, you may not have the funds to afford some of the perks you'd like to offer, including bonuses and salary raises for your employees. While you should expect to do this down the line, there are a few ways you can get creative in how you show your gratitude for their continued dedication.
Nine entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) share how they recognized top-performing team members when they could not afford to raise their salaries.
1. Provide flexible scheduling.
Research has indicated that employees (especially women with young children) value a flexible schedule over the amount they are paid. Consider applying this concept to your own organization by allowing employees to work from home or leave early during the summer. Other employees don't need to hear you sing their praises; they will see them leaving early and naturally take notice. --Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now
2. Praise them publicly.
Being given more autonomy and responsibility can be very rewarding to a great employee, even if it doesn't always come with an immediate raise. Just be sure to praise the employee for the great job being done in front of his or her peers before you up his or her responsibility. --Erik Huberman, Hawke Media
3. Create incentive programs.
At my company, we have multiple incentive programs in place. We have a monthly scorecard that tracks when our employees go above and beyond, and we give quarterly bonuses based on those points. We also set goals for the company as a whole and give prizes and money to employees through drawings when those goals are reached. I absolutely love rewarding a job well done. --Ginger Jones, Jones Therapy Services
4. Take them to lunch.
It's important that employees receive the recognition they deserve for a job well done. Just because you can't hand out a raise doesn't mean you can't show them appreciation. Taking your star employees out for a special lunch lets them know how invaluable they are to you. It's a way to spend one-on-one time with them and let them know how grateful you are, personally and professionally. --Phil Laboon, Eyeflow Internet Marketing
5. Say thanks.
It is amazing how a simple "thank you" can go a long way with people. The more you get in the habit of providing timely and genuine feedback to your team members, the more satisfied they will become. After this, you can give them some form of leadership responsibility, so they feel in control of their own destinies and have the ability to improve their chances of eventually getting a raise. --Finn Kelly, WE LOVE NUMBERS
6. Give them an extra vacation day.
Many employees are reluctant to use their vacation days or PTO for fear of getting behind or giving off the perception that they aren't hardworking or committed enough. Recognize the individual team member at the company all-hands or via company-wide communication channels, and let it be known that he or she will be taking that Friday off in order to recharge--no ifs, ands, or buts. --Sean Kelly, SnackNation
7. Offer thoughtful, one-time expenses.
Raises are expensive because they cause a continued increase in funds out of the company. If you can't afford raises, see if you can afford a one-time expense to reward your star employees based on need. Look into weekend getaways, small gadgets they can use for work, an equipment upgrade, or even food rewards. You can also offer your star employees a work-from-home day once a week for a month. --Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com
8. Give them a new title.
Especially in our startup's first year, we did not have the ability to necessarily give financial raises to recognize our A-players. We have successfully recognized key team members by giving them a new title with additional responsibilities. This elevation showcases their leadership and growth within our company. --Jennifer Mellon, Trustify
9. Hand out trophies.
Use an accolade system to foster healthy competition amongst employees. Even if it is just a simple plaque, a tangible reward can push your team to maximize performance. Alternatively, items offered by partner companies or vendors can incentivize staff to pursue excellence. By using your creativity, you can find inexpensive ways to reward exceptional performance. --Luigi Wewege, Vivier Group