A team of satisfied employees is a worthy goal for every business, no matter your size. A satisfied workforce may be more motivated, productive and loyal… all of which are essential to your success. Of course, paying your employees well is one obvious way to build satisfaction and loyalty, but when raises and bonuses aren’t in the immediate budget, there are plenty of options that won’t damage your bottom line.
Naturally, the role of financial compensation looms large in the minds of employees. And while money is important, it is by no means the entire story.All businesses, particularly those of medium and small sizes, may struggle with the issue of raises and bonuses. However, there are a handful of low-to no-cost benefits that can go a long way toward building employee satisfaction. Let’s take a look at several, starting with recognition and professional development.
If you haven’t implemented a formal employee recognition program, do so at the earliest opportunity. Such programs elevate the status of high performing employees and motivate the rest of your workforce. You can recognize top performers at a team or company-wide meeting or reception, and reward them with such perks as a paid day off or preferred parking.
You can also offer valued or high-performing employees the chance to engage in professional development. This may be something as simple as sending them to a computer class or management seminar, or paying for an online course. If your business participates in a trade association, consider registering your employee for an event and allowing him or her to select lectures and seminars to attend.
Flexible work hours are another huge motivator, because they help employees address their work/life balance. Flex hours can include everything from telecommuting, where an employee works from home during specific periods, to flexible hours at the office or workplace. If your business allows for flex time, consider offering it. Of course, you may need to get creative…possibly allowing employees to split the early or late shifts to ensure coverage. Certain industries, particularly in the creative fields, may also lend themselves to seasonal flexibility, such as arrangements where the office is open longer Monday through Thursday with a shortened workday on Fridays, business permitting of course. If you are considering this type of arrangement, just be sure that you comply with any applicable federal and state laws relating to hours of work and overtime pay.
Three more benefits that can directly impact employee quality of life are wellness programs, paid sick days, and employee assistance programs. Wellness efforts can encompass everything from in-office programs for exercise and weight-loss, to at-work flu shots, to subsidized memberships at a fitness facility. Depending on the type of wellness program you sponsor, the program may be subject to specific requirements under federal law, so be sure to consult with your legal counsel before implementing any such program. Remember: even if you must pay a bit for these types of programs, they are a smart investment, as they may potentially reduce illness and absenteeism.
The same can be said for paid sick time. Provided it is not abused, paid sick time alleviates employees’ having to choose between recuperating from an illness and getting paid. Used judiciously, paid sick time may encourage sick employees to stay home and get well, and not expose others in the workplace to sickness. In certain states and cities, employers are required to provide paid sick leave, so be sure to check the law for requirements that apply to your business.
Finally, employee assistance programs can also reduce absenteeism by helping employees manage and access resources to address a range of personal issues. Like wellness programs, depending on the type of employee assistance program you offer, you may need to comply with specific requirements under federal law. Ask your legal counsel to review any program to ensure compliance.
You might also think about offering your employees discount programs to help their own dollars go farther. These range from discounts on your own products and services, to formal programs at other businesses, to discounts offered via trade associations or barter networks. Some businesses even allow employees to participate in their own corporate buying programs to get discounts on items for their personal use…for example, by adding an employee to your membership at one of the big box discount stores.
Also, remember that a paid holiday or floating personal day off is a wonderful reward that will likely more than pay you back in increased productivity when the employee is on site.
Finally, take a look at setting up programs that enable employees to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for certain IRS-allowed expenses such as commuting, or to contribute to retirement accounts on a pre-tax basis. You may choose to offer a match for their contributions, but even if you don’t, such programs are relatively affordable to administer and can result in significant savings for your employees.
As always, it's a good idea to consult with reliable legal counsel before implementing any type of benefit program to identify any potential legal compliance and tax issues. And remember to treat employees equally and administer your program fairly and consistently to avoid claims of discrimination.
Thank you for joining us today for HR Over Coffee. To learn more about employee benefit programs or a variety of HR and benefits issues, please visit us online at HR360.com.