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Can’t Afford Raises? Other Ways to Keep Employees Happy

In today's increasingly digital and globalized economy, your employees are always just a click away from new job opportunities. The proof is in the numbers — the average length of time an employee spends in a job is only 4.6 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Knowing that most employees cite increased compensation as a key driver when making a career move, as an employer, it is easy to feel handcuffed by financial constraints. Moreover, wading through the sea of resources touting new ways to attract and retain employees can seem overwhelming.

But there’s a bright side. Research from SHRM and Aerotek underscores a few common-sense truths we can all put to work, regardless of your pay scale. Here are three ways to think outside the bucks and earn long-term loyalty from your employees.

Success does not just grow on trees

Inviting employees to take root with your company requires cultivating an environment ripe with growth opportunities. If a financial investment in an advanced degree and certification is unfeasible, begin by harvesting resources already on hand.

Start by establishing mentor-mentee relationships. Or if this is too taxing, simply institute informal lunch-and-learn opportunities for colleagues to share their respective interests and expertise.

If possible, supplement these efforts with more rigorous, formalized training programs led by senior-level employees. Encourage them to create a structured lesson plan to better guide employee learning; it may seem daunting but it’s a critical exercise.

You’ll be pleased with how quickly you can elaborate on discussion topics when you’ve got a lesson plan or curriculum. Unsure of how to get started? Take a peek at sites like udemy or digital tutors. They offer training in a variety of areas, with reasonably priced courses to help create a meaningful learning experience.

Everybody’s working for the weekend

A modern update on this classic rock mantra would go something like this: "Everybody’s working to carve out time for scattered commitments spread across a 24/7 continuum." Not quite as catchy, but it’s worth considering for your company. The happiest (and most productive) employees tend to be well rested and less stressed.

If time is money, flex time is the currency of tomorrow. An emerging attitude amongst many employers is product over process: If an employee is delivering stellar work on deadline, perhaps we shouldn’t place as much emphasis on where or when they do it.

While it’s not a model that every workplace can apply, it’s worth exploring. The old adage "time is money" immediately takes on new meaning; while you may not be able to give great employees more money, there’s certainly opportunity to give them more time to enjoy life outside of work.

Ask and you shall receive

Stephen Achilles, President of Northwest Conservation tells Aerotek, "I think the best thing a company can do is ask the employees what they want for benefits. I am always surprised at what they ask for, and I never would have thought of providing it."

While nothing beats the value of a candid open-door policy between staff and management, there is great value in using employee surveys as a tool for taking the temperature of a workplace. This is especially true in matters of compensation, which are delicate and all too easy to sweep under the rug.

With today’s overall movement towards data-driven analysis, it is surprising that only 53 percent of companies survey their employees to identify the rewards that matter most. Often there’s a gap between the benefits employees want and the benefits companies offer.

The takeaway

Few companies can afford to get into salary bidding wars. But every company can afford to think creatively about other ways to reward and retain their best employees. You may even find these alternate retention strategies that take into account what really matters to employees may be worth much more than a number on a pay stub.

Have other suggestions for the best ways to keep employees happy — beyond the paycheck? Share them with us using hashtag #OutsideTheBucks.