In tough economic times, you may not have the funds for raises or bonuses even for your most dedicated employees. As other businesses go into bankruptcy and lay off people, you think your workers are fortunate to hold onto their jobs.
But when the economy improves, workers who feel unappreciated will start polishing their resumes. Showing your employees you value them now will make them willing to weather the tough times and stay around when the business climate improves.
"Businesses don't factor in the cost of turnover," says Ed Hess, professor of business administration at the University of Virginia and author of "So, You Want to Start A Business? 8 Steps to Take Before Making the Leap."
"The first aspect is the cost of training new employees -- the lost time and productivity," he says.
At least as important are the relationships your workers build with your customers. Hess reminds us how much we appreciate the person at the coffee shop who has our medium coffee with skim milk already made when we get to the counter. "It's hard to have a customer relationship when the customer is dealing with a different employee every time," Hess says. "If your employees are happy, customers pick up on that. It's a direct pass-through."
How to show the love
- Say thank you
- Recognize them with an award
- Give the gift of time
- Take suggestions
- Offer free food
- Invest in education and health
- Tell them a timeline for raises
1. Say thank you The easiest, least expensive way to motivate workers is often overlooked -- saying thank you. "A lot of business owners take their employees for granted," Hess says. "A sincere 'job well done' is a small price to pay for that extra bit of effort that makes all the difference."
Take it a step further and write thank-you notes to employees for a pleasant surprise in their mailboxes at work or home, Hess says. And make it specific to a certain job -- 'Thank you for staying late to meet the deadline on the Jones project' -- not just 'Thanks for all your hard work.'
2. Recognize them with an award Beyond a thank you, recognition awards make employees feel valued as part of the team.
"Whether it's a simple blue ribbon they can hang in their cubicle or a framed certificate, present the award in front of all your employees and tell the honoree exactly why you are giving it," Hess says. Your honored worker gets time in the spotlight and you get the chance to make the point to all your employees that quality work is valued.
3. Give the gift of time If you can't afford raises, consider the gift of time. Give additional days off, making a Tuesday or Thursday holiday into a four-day weekend, says Robin Noah, a business management consultant with SCORE in Orange County, Calif., a nonprofit resource for small businesses. Or, give employees their birthdays off or an extra personal day. Make sure they understand what the time is worth.
If you're looking to cut payroll expenses, give employees the option to take three hours off without pay whenever they need the time, Noah adds.
Another option is giving staff members the flexibility to work from home and attend meetings via conference calls. "We've seen this reduce expenses and increase productivity," says Vanessa Horwell, chief visibility officer of ThinkInk PR in Miami. Employees who are too sick to come in to work or have a sick child may be able to work on projects at home.