Keeping your budget in check, lowering spending and managing costs are key concerns for every small business owner. But equally important is keeping your employees content, motivated and loyal. How can you reconcile these two seemingly contradictory needs? The good news is, employee perks don’t have to cost a bundle—in fact, some of them cost nothing at all.
Here are six low- or no-cost perks to keep your employees happy:
Offer flex time. According to Monster.com, 40 percent of employees say flexible schedules are an important factor they look for when seeking a job. Flexibility is especially important to women: According to a recent LinkedIn survey, 67 percent of women want more flexibility at work. It won’t cost you a penny to offer flex-time options. If you’re not comfortable going totally virtual, one option is to choose certain “core hours” when all employees must be on-site, and then offer flexibility around those hours, such as letting employees choose to work from 6am-3pm, 7am-4pm, 8am-5pm or 9am-6pm. I once had an employee who wanted to work from 10am-7pm.
Let employees work from home. Remote work is not only a highly desirable perk to attract and retain employees, but it also benefits your business. Companies that offer remote work see productivity gains of more than 30 percent. You can save money by letting employees use their own devices to work from home—just make sure you institute proper security measures to keep your computer network and data safe.
Provide career coaching and development. A study by OI Partners this year found coaching is the number-one tactic big companies are using to retain valued employees. Talk to your employees about what skills they want to learn or improve upon, then provide cross-training, sign them up for industry seminars and conferences, or have them take online courses to learn new things. Both they and your business will benefit.
Make work fun. Especially if you have young employees, whose social lives often revolve around work, follow the lead of tech companies like Google and encourage team-building by coming up with fun activities. Try organizing happy hours, bringing in pizza for team lunches, or hosting Friday afternoon beer busts. You can also let employees come up with their own fun ideas, like potluck lunches, bake-offs, contests or themed dress-up days.
Use barter. Try bartering with other small businesses, or with your vendors or suppliers, to get free products and services for your employees. For example, if you own a marketing company, you could provide free services to a restaurant in exchange for gift cards that you can use as rewards for your employees for a job well done, or to a local massage company to come in and give your employees 15-minute neck-rubs every Friday.
Strength in numbers. Team up with other local businesses in your retail center, office park or building to get local, mobile vendors to come by and provide products or services to your employees. Gourmet food trucks, mobile auto repair or auto detailing services, and dry-cleaning pickup and delivery are just a few of the services that might come to your business if they know there are lots of potential customers there. These conveniences make life easier and more enjoyable for your employees—and help them stay productive since they’re not leaving the premises to buy lunch or get their errands done.