7 Inexpensive Benefits to Reward Your Employees

Here's one of the problems with running a small business during difficult economic times. You need the best possible people if you want to survive the tough economy, but money to keep them is scarce. One all-too-common solution is to beg your people to stay even though you can't compete with the compensation offered by larger companies. A better one is to find low-cost benefits to demonstrate how much you appreciate their contribution.

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Here are seven of our favorite ideas:

  1. Flextime
    Nine-to-five is traditional, but one of the most inconvenient schedules to work because of rush hour. Unless your business is entirely appointment-based, when your team works is often unimportant so long as the work gets done. Offering flextime gives them more power over their lives.
  2. A Sincere Thank You
    This isn't a general announcement, feedback sandwich, or off-the-cuff "hey, thanks." This is making eye contact, taking a moment, and giving a team member your undivided attention while you specifically mention a good job and what it meant for the company. It's free, and does more to build loyalty than anything else on this list.
  3. Local Discounts
    If you have a workforce, other businesses will offer them a discount simply for the free advertising that comes with the lower price. Take an afternoon to talk with decision-makers at local gyms, restaurants, beauty parlors, day cares and other shops that your employees are most likely to use. You'll be surprised how many are willing to play ball.
  4. Dog Days
    House-trained, well-behaved dogs in the workplace improve productivity and decrease absenteeism. Though this isn't appropriate for all environments -- it would be a disaster at most day cares, for example -- in places where it works, it can work wonderfully.
  5. Eating In
    Lunch for your entire team costs very little compared to most traditional benefits packages, but makes a huge difference in morale and camaraderie. This benefit works equally well as a surprise, or as a regular weekly event. Buying dinner on nights you expect your team to work late is especially important.
  6. Wellness Lunches
    Wellness programs reduce absenteeism, improve productivity and make a positive difference in the lives of employees who use them. One inexpensive wellness benefit is to extend lunch breaks by 30 minutes, provided the employee uses that time to attend a wellness event like a gym workout or group fitness class. The "lost" time pays itself back in renewed energy and focus.
  7. On-Site Services
    You can buy ten-minute chair massages for a medium-sized staff for less than $200. Shoe shines and dry-cleaning services are similar services you can bring in to show your team how much you care.

What kinds of benefits does your team say they appreciate the most? Tell us about them in the comments.

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