How to Reward an Employee When You Can’t Afford a Raise
Small businesses have small budgets — but that does not stop small business leaders from having big dreams. When an employee at a small business performs with excellence, achieves a goal or impresses the management in another way, many small business leaders want to show their profound appreciation with lavish celebrations and generous gifts. Unfortunately, few small businesses can afford to offer any kind of expensive reward, not even a simple pay raise.
Fortunately, most employees do not need or want monetary rewards for high performance. There are plenty of effective ways to show gratitude for good work without breaking the business budget. Small business leaders can use low-cost strategies to keep their best workers satisfied, like the following:
High-performing employees always know that they are going above and beyond to reach individual and shared goals. They do so not because they are greedy but because they are ambitious — eager to reach the next step of their careers, which they hope will eventually take them to the highest levels of an organization.
A small business that cannot afford to reward a top performer with a raise can provide plenty of satisfaction with career opportunities that help these workers gain the experience or position title that will help them in their career ambitions. Some examples of inexpensive or free career opportunities include:
- Changing their position title, removing “junior” or adding “senior”
- Allowing them to shadow business leaders within the organization, giving them access to the day-to-day responsibilities of higher professionals in different fields
- Offering coaching or mentorship programs, allowing one-on-one career guidance from a trusted business leader
- Bringing them to industry conferences, introducing them to other important business leaders in their field
Public and Private Praise
Praise is much more impactful than many business leaders expect, especially when praise is delivered in an unconventional way. Using praise in lieu of other types of rewards can take some practice; when business leaders offer praise too liberally, employees might lose a sense of internal motivation or lose any sense of satisfaction from the attention. Then again, business leaders who are stingy with their praise might not cultivate a positive and productive workforce.
Business leaders should offer praise when an employee achieves something noteworthy or something that the leader would like workers to do more often. Leaders can take advantage of employee recognition programs to track the distribution of praise and ensure that all workers feel appropriately acknowledged. Praise can be either public or private, as determined by the scope of the achievement or the preferences of the worker. Some meaningful ways to deliver praise without a gift include:
- A shoutout in the company newsletter
- A mention on the brand’s social media account
- A handwritten note
- A post on the office wall of fame
- A handshake at the beginning of a meeting
More than half of the current workforce is bored. Even when a worker enjoys the work they do, after a few months of managing the same daily tasks, any employee is going to feel fed up with their routine; some might even start looking for a new position with another employer just for the opportunity to experience something different.
Thus, one of the easiest ways to reward a high-achieving employee is with a new responsibility. Business leaders at startups might offload some of their own tasks onto the most eager and ambitious top performers, which offers the dual benefits of freeing up a leader’s to-do list while keeping the best employees engaged and happy.
There are a few perks that cost an organization essentially nothing but bring a significant amount of comfort to employees. Non-monetary perks can be provided to all employees upon hiring, or they can be provided to workers who show diligence and commitment. Some examples of appropriate non-monetary perks include:
- Greater flexibility in work schedules
- Work-from-home opportunities
- Pets in the workplace
- Additional paid time off
A small business with a small budget should not skimp on employee satisfaction. There are plenty of ways to keep morale and productivity high without wasting money on expensive rewards. By strategically implementing any of these forms of recognition, business leaders can keep their workers happy and engaged into the future.
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