Salary, or wider remuneration, rarely features in the top factors that motivate staff, often falling behind recognition, communication and the opportunity to grow and develop. This offers an opportunity for smaller businesses to compete with large corporates to attract and retain good employees, as Emanuele Maindron-Brisley from Kent & Medway Growth Hub explains.
When it comes to employee perks, it is a given that smaller businesses cannot compete with corporate giants; however advertising ‘competitive’ salaries that prove to be hardly above the minimum wage, free parking space and 28 days holidays (inclusive of bank holidays) to attract or retain staff is simply taking people for fools. And that’s not a good foundation on which to build sustainable working relationships between an employer and an employee.
Let’s forget the waffle: it is important to be honest with the people who work for you – they are your primary brand ambassadors. If you can’t afford to provide your staff with (truly) competitive wages or above-the-minimum days off, don’t try to embellish reality: state things as they are. If it is not possible to give financial rewards, make sure there are other good reasons to work for you, and that your company supports a healthy, positive culture that will rub off on clients and suppliers.
Formal inductions are never a waste of time. Outside the inescapable health and safety elements, an induction lays down the in-house rules, habits and customs of the company, e.g. dress policy, holiday period, Christmas days off to book, or training opportunities. This avoids unrealistic expectations and disappointment from the outset.
New staff should be welcomed and introduced to their new colleagues. It may seem basic, but there are still organisations where you discover new faces in the open space without having a clue about their name or their role.
Ongoing communication, information and dialogue are also essential. This cannot be emphasised enough. Managers who take the time to share what is going on with their team on a regular basis – projects, clients, results and even issues – and to listen to feedback and suggestions, reveal how everyone’s contribution fits together and show consideration to people without the need to publish self-promotional marketing collateral.
Respect for employees also translates into non-tangible perks; this is about management acknowledging life’s demands, challenges and hardships and showing understanding and compassion. Flexible hours to attend important appointments and school events, compassionate leave, home-based working opportunities, being able to leave early when you’re under the weather, etc. are irreplaceable human, friendly touches that make people feel confident and valued at work and in turn ready to go the extra mile when necessary.
Other initiatives cost little or nothing and yet support a positive business culture and staff morale. These include organising an employee picnic in the neighbouring park; arranging sporting activities after work; celebrating achievements; giving staff a birthday off; allowing a free – digital or material – space for staff to exchange goods or services; promoting car sharing; facilitating the exchange of knowledge (e.g. music lessons vs gardening); babysitting; or encouraging team-building through fund-raising for a chosen charity. As an example, earlier this year we enjoyed a “Fit February” scheme, with fitness classes at lunchtimes such as yoga and tai chi. Most staff joined in because it was not just about the welcome stretch from the desk but also about having fun, giggles and a break from the daily routine.
So employee benefits are not all about money (though it does help). They are also about providing a genuinely friendly work environment that will make employees happy to come to work, engaged and committed. There is no escaping the fact that the work atmosphere is associated with the management team and how leadership deals with employees on a day-to-day basis. I have seen some of the most unpleasant work atmospheres in companies priding themselves on being all about “human to human” relationships. While in other places, too small to have a dedicated HR person or a specific staff ‘entertainment” budget, an open and friendly management style has more than compensated for the lack of funds.
Greeting employees every day, acknowledging efforts and achievements, saying “thank you” should go without saying, yet unfortunately, it is still not the case everywhere.
The best employee perks are all about making your workplace a happy place to be.
For more tips on attracting and retaining staff, and a wealth of other advice, support and information, ‘Ask Phil‘ to access the resources from the Kent and Medway Growth Hub.