How to keep your employees happy when the bottom line isn’t.

When budgets are tight, it can be hard to justify raises as rewards for high-performing employees. But if someone loves their work, takes pride in doing it well and feels valued, there are many other ways besides a bigger paycheck to show your appreciation for a job well done.

Studies have shown that employees with high job satisfaction are generally more productive, engaged and loyal to their companies. Hiring managers, HR experts and business leaders weighed in on the best ways to keep employees satisfied when salary isn’t the driving factor.

1. Be transparent

Feedback and the ability to understand employee concerns is important, but it’s what you do after that’s critical to retention. You should always be transparent by sharing what you’ve learned and a course of action for addressing the issue. For example, have your business fill out a company-wide engagement survey, and share the results with all your employees. This not only allows you to communicate your positive responses but also your negative responses and shows that you are willing to listen and consider possible changes moving forward. Transparent communication and a simple acknowledgement can go a long way.

2. Offer more vacation time

Reward your highest performers with incremental vacation days. These employees are your superstars so you can be confident they will get their work done as well as enjoy a few extra days of well-deserved time off with family and friends.

3. Make work-life balance a priority

To engage the workforce and remain competitive, it’s no longer sufficient to focus solely on benefits. Top employers create an environment where employees feel connected to the organisation and have a positive work experience that’s part of a rich, fulfilling life.

4. Encourage communication in common areas

Businesses should take steps to create spaces where employees can easily communicate and share ideas. Casual conversations in the break room can become collaborative conversations. Make it inviting and effective, with nice furniture, tables, and snacks and beverages, if possible.

5. Create a career pathway

Research has found that not providing developmental support, such as training opportunities and career mentoring, to employees who do believe there are attractive career opportunities for them within the company led to such employees leaving the organisation. It’s critical for businesses to have regular career planning discussions with their employees. As part of training and development, make sure employees are aware of the different types of career paths or job opportunities throughout the company.

6. Build employees up

If you’re looking to keep an employee by giving him/her a raise, it’s already too late. Find people who share the operational values of your organisation from the outset, test for fit early, and allow growth opportunities to express that value.

7. Promote a positive work environment

Happy employees make for a happy company. Within the office, publicly acknowledge accomplishments, provide a group lunch, reserve a prime parking space, or change a title. Also help employees to grow and develop, whether by taking on new desired responsibilities or challenges, taking courses to learn new skills, or furthering knowledge of the company by traveling on company business trips.

8. Set the example

One can’t underestimate the importance of walking into the office as the boss with a smile on my face and making sure you give the same feeling of importance to everyone.

9. Recognise and reward employees

Achievement and recognition are high motivators for employees. If they take risks, reward them. Give them a coupon to go out for dinner, an extra day off, tickets to a show, etc. The small stuff adds up.

10. Always say ‘thank you’

Employees rarely become unhappy or leave solely over money. When they do become disenchanted it is usually because they don’t like their boss, aren’t engaged or feel like they have stopped learning. Having a positive culture and workplace environment helps a lot, as it encourages teamwork and communication which increases engagement and opportunities for teammates to learn from each other. Also do periodic “shout outs” to people at all levels of the organisation for great work or superior effort. These cost nothing but provide important public recognition for a job well done, effectively compensating people in the form of social currency which is highly valued.

11. Make employees part of the big picture

The best benefit you can provide to your employees is the opportunity to make a difference through their work and help guide the course of the company. Benefits such as clear and frequent communication on company happenings, individual and department direction, and big-picture company direction make all the difference in employee happiness.