10 things your employees need other than money

How to meet your employees’ needs when you can’t afford to give them a raise


PHOTO: Ingimage

Bosses: do you ever feel like your employees are dropping like flies? You’re not alone. A recent survey conduct by Ranstad revealed that 56 per cent of employees in Singapore are planning to resign within two years due to unsatisfactory compensation.

Granted, some bosses are true-blue misers, but given the choice, most of them would love to throw money at their best employees if it meant retaining them for a little while longer. Unfortunately, most simply don’t have a budget that allows them to recruit new talent while satisfactorily rewarding the older ones. So what’s a boss got to do to keep his people happy under a tight budget?

The key to keeping people around is meeting their needs on an emotional level. In other words, they need to be loved. Does that send sentimental? Well, it works -- the survey also found that in addition to not being paid enough, employees are most tempted to leave when faced with a poor work-life balance and a negative atmosphere. A great office environment and a sincere relationship with your juniors can make up for a lot. And if people feel a personal connection to you, it’ll be harder for them to just walk away.

Click on to see the needs of your employees, and how you can meet their needs without spending too much money:

1. Encouragement and affirmation
Unsentimental bosses have the tendency to treat their staff like newbies in boot camp. You bark your orders, correct people loudly and in public, and tell them to buck up when they start getting emotional. And yeah, this sounds practical, and you can argue that adults don’t need to be coddled, but a little bit of assurance never hurt anybody. When things get tough, tell your staff member that rough patches are normal and that things will blow over. When she makes a mistake, correct her, but then assure her that things like that happen to be everybody and that she just needs to be more careful next time. And above all, don’t make her performance personal – nobody needs to hear that they’re stupid, lazy, or a waste of money.

2. Appreciation
On that same note, employees want to feel some gratitude for their hard work. If you can’t pay them in what they believe they deserve, you can take the edge off by at least expressing how thankful you are for their hard work. Don’t just glance up and grunt when she hands you a thick file of paperwork – look up and say thank you. Compliment her work and let her know that you appreciate the long hours she’s putting in, the extent to which she has improved, and the unique voice she brings to the project.  

3. Work life balance
Ah, the Holy Grail in life as a white collar worker. As a boss, it’s easy to trick people into spending more time at work than they should. You can give them a work phone and demand that they keep it on at all hours. You can guilt-trip them when they want to leave earlier by talking about how unfair it is that their teammates have to “pick up the slack.” When they complain, you can talk about how no one – including you – is exempt from what this career demands, and that if they can’t handle it, they can leave. And they will, because after a certain point, your employee’s desire for a happy life will outweigh his desire to prove himself to you as a worthy colleague. So don’t make a stink when they go on vacation, and don’t give them extra tasks that infringe on their nights and weekends. If you notice that they’ve been staying at the office late, ask if they’re overloaded during the day or if they’re having trouble managing their time.

4. Friendship
Workplaces are competitive by nature, but that doesn’t mean your office has to feel like the hunger games. Plan things that will foster some camaraderie. Take your subordinates out to lunch once in a while. Surprise everyone with coffee. Invite everyone to Happy Hour and buy your team a round. You can even try for some casual team bonding activities, like going out for dinner every other month or getting everyone to do karaoke. The more at home people feel at work, the more likely they will be to appreciate it beyond its function as a source of income.

5. Recognition
The difference between recognition and appreciation is that appreciation is private, while recognition is done in public. People feel appreciated when you let them know that their assistance made a difference to you; however, people also need to feel that their work makes a difference to the organization as a whole, which is where recognition comes in. We all want assurance that our work makes an impact on the people around us, so take the time to point out your employee’s accomplishments in front of others so that she feels validated. Show her some numbers from time to time so she knows what she’s contributing to a project, and let her know that what she does is important to the team.

6. Pride for the company
People shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed about their workplace – and while name brands and a company legacy can go a long way, the novelty of prestige wears off if employees start feeling like the company is actually a terrible place. So first, if you have the power to do so, you need to make people understand that your company is a good place to be – it provides excellent benefits, there’s long-term job security, and it has a fair amount of name recognition. Then you need to show them that compared to its competitors, it takes more risks, it has more connections, and it offers more growth. In the same way that students were encouraged to foster school spirit back in the day, people should feel as if it is a privilege to work at your company.

7. Feeling like a human being
More often than not, employees feel more like a cog in the machine than a human being. To their bosses, they’re nothing more than a resource to be exploited. Which might be great for you, if you’re not inclined to show them love, but bad in the long run because it will drive them to leave. They’re just a tool, and tools – unlike human talent – are easily replaced. Treat your employees like people. Ask them about their lives. Ask them what they like to do for fun. Tell them to go home if they’re still in the office at 8 pm. Show that you respect them as a person by understanding their limits and their personal commitments.  

8. An intellectual challenge
No matter how hard a job is in the beginning, your employee will learn. And then he will get bored. And when people get bored, they give up. If you get the feeling that your employee is phoning it in, sit him down and ask if there are any other areas in his line of work that he would be interested in exploring. You can even take it a step further by telling him that you’ve noticed his potential in particular area, and that you’ve created something extra for him to do. That way, he’ll feel like someone believes in him and will be more likely to stay on for additional opportunities.

9. A positive environment
As the boss, you’re in the position to determine the culture of the team. Make an effort to stamp gossiping, complaints, and world-weariness. A little competition is good, but you’ve also got to build trust among the colleagues – be transparent about your plans and the problems you are tackling, and make them understand that they’re not just individuals trying to make a living, they are a team with unique talents and a common vision. Show your staff that you not only expect a lot out of them, but you believe in them. Treat them like capable people, and they will respond in kind. Ensure that your workplace is clean, bright, and well-stocked with new fresh equipment and coffee.

10. Fun
Finally, introduce some festivity into your workplace. This can be as simple as setting aside a few minutes every day to do team stretching exercises, to encouraging everyone to dine together once a week instead of eating at their desks every day. Find reasons to celebrate, be it a project milestone or someone’s birthday.  Play pranks on each other during April Fool’s Day. Surprise everyone with chocolates on Valentine’s Day. After all, it’s one thing for a boss to give his staff money – it’s another for him to care enough about their lives to do little, unique things that would make them happy. 

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