Employee boosts that won't break the budget

Inc. Magazine

As the economy moves forward and e-commerce and software-as-a-service companies grow at a rapid pace, businesses are looking for ways to make operations more efficient and to reduce expenses while also providing a pleasant work environment.

Striving toward greater cost-effectiveness sometimes conflicts with the development of a company's culture. Solely focusing on employees' productivity in a high-pressure environment can have some short-term benefits, but in the long run there might be more negative consequences if you create a bare-bones, cutthroat environment within your company.

There's proof that positive work cultures with employee investment lead to more productive employees. Small investments in employees can have huge returns down the road. Studies show that engaged employees are 38 percent more likely to have above-average productivity, and even just a 10 percent increase in employee investment can increase your revenue by as much as $2,400 per employee, per year.

There are dozens of employee perks you can offer to keep employees engaged and motivated, but many may seem out of reach from a budget standpoint. Here are some simple, affordable ways you can invest in employee perks that work.

1. Remote work

Unless you must have your employees in the office and punching the clock, then allow them to work remotely. Remote work tells employees you trust them, but make sure you don’t expect them to be on call at all times. They need to be able to call a halt to work at a set point and enjoy their off time.

“By allowing employees to work remotely, you can hire the best of the best while not limiting yourself by geographical restrictions,” says Simon Slade, CEO and co-founder of Affilorama. “Nineteen of our 28 employees work remotely, and I have seen no difference in job satisfaction or work performance. If anything, my remote employees' production rate is higher because they are better equipped to avoid distractions.”

2. Community outreach

Employees often want to be active in their communities and pitch in where they can and where their passions and talents lie. A good way to help them achieve this is to make time for those activities and even compensate employees for volunteer work.

Southwest Airlines is doing this, with their employees working to support Ronald McDonald House Charities. It’s also a great PR move for companies.

3. Simple concierge services

Employees lead busy lives outside the workplace, and anything you can do to make their lives a little easier is going to be appreciated. It doesn’t cost much to lighten their loads by making simple concierge services available to employees. This can include picking up dry cleaning, getting cars washed, grabbing grocery items and dropping off paperwork. The less your employees stress about their personal lives, the more they can focus on their work.

Dustyn Shroff, COO of One Concierge in Boca Raton, Florida, says: “We're providing services to employees that don't have time to fulfill them. ... Basically whatever an individual doesn't have time to do themselves, we do it.”

Taking a little bit of the load off their shoulders might be just what your employees need to focus and help you achieve consistent and sustainable growth.

4. Employee discounts

If your company sells products, then give your employees a larger discount than they might expect. Many companies provide a 10-15 percent discount. Give them 50 percent or more. You could even provide employees with free products and extend a large discount to their families.

Your employees can show off and tout products and this can bring in new business. Employees also love it.

5. Tab for employees

Want to foster bonding time for more meaningful workplace connections? Open a tab at the local watering hole or restaurant. Set a policy so that if three or more employees are together, then drinks are on the tab.

You can set whatever limitations you like on frequency, but it's best to leave it open for when your team members want to get together. This promotes socialization among team members and can foster a more casual environment in which your employees are more open with each other.

6. Hiring recommendation incentives

Some companies offer sizable bonuses for recommending a new hire who works out and stays with the company past a certain point. It's a great way to source talent. If you don't have the ability to offer large cash rewards, then consider other incentives like extra paid time off, vacation days or a handful of “I don't feel like coming to work today” coupons.

“When a growing company like ours looks for top talent who fit within our dynamic culture, it's important to use our most valued asset to help recruit: our employees,” says Kate Pope, manager of talent acquisition at Achievers. “Job boards, sourcing tools and job fairs can be a huge expense. We would much rather invest our dollars back into our employees by rewarding them for helping us find A-players.”

7. Reward points giveaway

Companies often accumulate a ton of points and miles on the company's credit cards. A great perk that costs you virtually nothing is to turn those rewards over to employees as incentives for project completions and on-the-job performance. In tight financial times, employees appreciate the extra compensation with points, gift cards and travel packages.

8. Bulk movie tickets

This is another great way to reward employees and get them to go out together as part of a team. Buy movie tickets in bulk and give them away to your teams as an added perk, with extras that allow them to bring family on some occasions. It'll keep everyone happy, and bulk quantities of tickets are usually offered at cheaper prices than retail.

Sujan Patel is the co-founder of Content Marketer and Narrow.io, which help marketers scale their content marketing and social-media efforts.

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