With unemployment at its lowest in nearly half a century, employee retention is a major challenge for most employers. Factors like emerging markets, flexible work arrangements, remote employment, and contingent employment have made the professional landscape as competitive as ever.
“This has driven retention down and employers are left with rotating seats, plummeting profitability, rising talent acquisition expenses and dissatisfied customers,” said Dave Lee, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Principal Human Capital Management Consultant at Twenty-One HCM, LLC. “There hasn’t been a more critical time in recent years to demonstrate the value you have for your employees. People are saying, ‘If I am not valued, I will voice my dissatisfaction online and, also, I am outta here.’”
Lee says that long-term motivation is a holistic challenge that requires buy-in and clear communication from all levels of management, as well as continuous feedback, employee development, pulse surveying, and improving all touch points in the employee experience. But small, unexpected gestures that show employees you appreciate them can also have positive ripple effects on a company’s culture—and they can often be easily and quickly executed.
Creating the near-perfect employee experience can be a tricky endeavor, but you should never miss an opportunity to let employees know they’re valued. And because it’s the season of giving, here are three easy and cost-effective approaches to rewarding employees.
While you want your employees to enjoy their time working, you likely recognize employees enjoy their time not working even more. One of the most impactful motivators you can offer is time.
If you work for a large or midsize company, or you do business nationally or internationally, you likely have airline credit cards with an abundance of frequent flyer miles that could transport an employee to a tropical destination. Add in bonus paid time off and a few nights’ stay at an economical Airbnb or VRBO, and you have the makings of a powerful low-cost employee incentive tool: time in paradise away from work.
Say It with a Card
Gift cards are great for rewarding exceptional job performance, providing incentives for meeting specific company goals, or retaining employees by showing them a simple kindness. And the motivation and productivity you get in return can outweigh the per-capita investment in the gift cards.
Nearly all major brands offer gift cards, so there’s mass appeal for your workforce, and you can buy them in bulk, which has a two-fold benefit. First, you can keep extra cards on hand in a variety of dollar increments to keep yourself covered for unexpected, last-minute circumstances. And second, some companies offer discounts when you buy in bulk. The popular sports restaurant Buffalo Wild Wings, for example, offers a 10% discount on any bulk gift card order of $500 or more (so by saving, you can make the boss happy, too).
Your human capital is your company’s most valuable asset. So it pays in many ways to invest in making your employees feel their value.
The Reward of a Warm Glow
You spend a significant amount of time screening and hiring good people. So, it should come as no surprise that some, if not many, of your employees are less motivated by personal rewards and worldly pleasures than by doing good.
One approach is to offer donations to the charity of choice for top job performers. Or, for more widespread impact, small perks—like paid time off or event tickets—can be a great way to motivate, reward, and build collaboration for employees who participate in companywide volunteering or donation efforts.
There are benefits to the company for charitable initiatives, too. Research from the University of Southampton showed that social incentives for employees increased on-the-job productivity by up to 30%.
Armen Berjikly is senior director of growth strategy at Ultimate Software where he drives the company’s transformative AI platform and direction. Previously, he was the founder and CEO of Kanjoya Inc., where he developed advancements in the NLP space to understand and improve organizations.