By Natalie Burg
When it comes to truly great employees, it's tough for any business to pay them what they're worth. Retaining staff is an especially steep challenge for small businesses, who rely so heavily on their best employees, but can't always afford to pay them what a bigger firm might offer.
How can you keep valuable employees happy and committed, even when a raise may not be on the horizon? Some entrepreneurs have found ways to delight their staff in unique ways that build loyalty and job satisfaction—without tapping out their payroll.
Surf off some steam
Taking the expression "When in Rome..." to a whole new level, mobile expense report company ExpenseCloud began offering free surf lessons to employees after relocating one block from the beach in Santa Monica, California.
"Although ExpenseCloud is now a division of human resources firm TriNet, [CEO Eric Sikola] says employees still contend with the stress and long hours typical of a start-up," according to a story in Time Business. "Surfing seemed like the perfect antidote."
Sikola began the practice to keep his staff healthy and happy, but he found that it helps them stay focused as well. “If you go out for an hour and surf," Sikola said in the article, "you’re going to come back here with a clear head and ability to solve problems better.”
Pay staff to pay it forward
Anyone can give an employee a day off. Michael Tope, founder of Creative Business Resources in Phoenix, decided to give his employees the gift of time in a different way. According to a story on Entrepreneur.com, Tope began a volunteer program, allowing employees to earn paid time off to do their own volunteer work.
Tope also provides a holiday savings program in which "employees can request to have a portion of their paychecks withheld throughout the year until October 31. CBR matches 25 percent of the first $1,000 each employee saves," the article said. For Tope, the power of these incentives are that they are personalized, making employees feel his company values what they value.
Large-scale thank you
Nothing beats saying "thank you." Except saying "thank you" in a really big way, that is.
At RockYou, good ideas from the social game and advertising company's 200 employees are recognized every six weeks with the YouRock awards, according to a story in Mashable. The awards are instigated by peer nominations, and employees can recognize each other for a variety of positive things. "YouRock nominees spin a wheel to choose an award such as cash, concert tickets, an extra day off or an iPad," according to the story. "All YouRock recipients also receive a golden bobblehead cow trophy, offering them desktop bragging rights."
The art of employee retention is one that requires healthy doses of appreciation and fun. While the best employees at a small company might be able to find higher pay somewhere else, there are few substitutes for feeling valued and loving your job. What is something you can do today to make you employees feel appreciated?