Five non-cash options to help retain employees

CHIEF OF STAFF FIVE: A good salary and enviable benefits are no longer enough to keep high value employees from jumping ship into either the ever-growing gig economy or worse, a competitor.

Between trends like ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘the great resignation’, employees all over the world are telling leaders they don’t feel valued in their organisations, and if they don’t act quickly, turnover rates will only worsen.

Employees today want more from their jobs. They want a purpose, to find meaning in their work and to know they feel appreciated for what they do. When employees feel recognised, business productivity increases by 31%, company culture is strengthened, and there is more satisfaction at work.

Here are some cultural changes organisations can make to help employees feel valued.

1. See the good

Sometimes, valuing employees starts with a simple shift in mindset. Leaders can fall into the bad habit of only correcting negative behaviours, failing to see the positive changes in their employees. When it comes to long-term projects, leaders must be careful about providing acknowledgement of progress to stem out burnout.

Naturally, excellent performance and great output must be recognised, but leaders must be mindful of the employee’s personality and how they’d like to be recognised. Putting outstanding effort on blast will flatter one employee, or risk embarrassing another. In the latter case, a sincere thank you letter or a small gift is more suitable.

If the situation permits, employers can consider monetary rewards for excellent performance.

2. Hear employee input and take action

Employees feel appreciated when leaders show that they care about what employees think. An open door policy is an easy way to get ideas from employees who live and breathe the work they do every day, and may provide a useful perspective when big decisions have to be made.

When their perspective is taken into consideration, there will be a smaller divide between executives and the more junior members of the organisation, creating a smaller space for resentment to fester.

Employers can take initiative by seeking input often, either by pulse surveys, two-way appraisals or for higher ups to spend time with employees to keep tabs on how things are going and to understand what their day-to-day concerns are like.

3. Care about their entire employee experience

Motivation is fuelled by three fundamental psychological needs — autonomy, competence and relatedness. Individuals have a fundamental need to take ownership of what they do, and fulfilling this need leaves employees more satisfied. Therefore, thinking about creating peak experiences is a key to helping to fulfil those needs.

Modern leadership easily fuels these three needs by connecting employees to a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Employees who relate better to their leaders feel more fulfilled at work.

Therefore, training leaders to connect an employee’s task to their larger purpose shows them that their work matters. Leaders should not only encourage an employee’s success but also

consistently advocate for employee development to encourage competence and build their autonomy.

4. Recognition shouldn’t be limited to their output

Employees offer their companies more than just their performance indicators (KPIs). Giving recognition for their unique, authentic selves helps instil a sense of belonging in the workplace as they feel like an integral part of the team.

Is the employee easy to work with? Are they good at deescalating conflict? Does their energy help to invigorate their teammates? Do they have unique life experiences that provide valuable insight into the workplace? Does their creativity add a more innovative flair to the team’s efforts?

These acknowledgements shouldn’t be limited to a top-down experience, but the culture can certainly begin from the top. Peer-to-peer recognition can play an important role in building that sense of belonging at the workplace.

Cultivating this culture begins when leaders set an example by providing genuine feedback on these characteristics. Next, leaders should ensure that everyone knows exactly how each employee makes a difference in the organisation and how their role helps the organisation achieve its greater purpose.

The sense of interconnectedness helps to cultivate more peer-to-peer acknowledgement of each other’s work, even across different teams.

5. Hire internally

It’s important to ensure that a candidate is suitable for a role before hiring, but prioritising internal candidates first shows that employers value the current team and are invested in seeing them reach their personal career goals.

Hiring internally also benefits the company by reducing onboarding pain and costs while boosting employee retention and loyalty. Employees who don’t see a future in the company are more likely to leave for greener pastures.

For this to work, it’s important to provide employees the opportunity to upskill, and more importantly give them time to undergo this training during company hours.

From simple gestures to codifying employee appreciation in the company structure, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. However, a core component of employee recognition is to see things from the employee’s perspective. Chances are, the unconventional solution is one casual watercooler conversation away.

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