Along with employee salaries, employee benefits are a significant portion of an overall company budget. Large corporations entice employees with gym memberships, massage therapists, expensive holiday banquets, free logo apparel and more. It can make it difficult for the little guy to feel competitive in luring and retaining talent. There are numerous studies that indicate these high-priced benefits don’t work. There are many things a small business owner can offer that will breed loyalty and productivity in their employees:

  • Appreciation. Noticing good work, saying “thank you” and recognizing employees in front of their peers are easy benefits to provide.
  • Knowing your employees. We all want to be known, especially by our leaders and people we admire. Ask about families, be aware of birthdays, new babies, marriages and education milestones.
  • Offering surprises like gift cards for a coffee house or inexpensive sports tickets. Do you remember the Pavlov experiment from freshman psych class? By offering treats when a bell was rung, they taught dogs to salivate just via the bell over time. The part people forget is that this stopped working after awhile unless a surprise treat was offered occasionally. Instead of giving something away every Friday or via an “employee of the month” award, it is actually more appreciated when you surprise employees with small gifts.
  • Flexible scheduling. All of us have difficulty scheduling appointments and family activities when we work full-time traditional hours. Allowing employees some flex time, within reason, is a free but effective way to reward them for being part of your team.
  • Casual dress or jeans. Who would have thought that getting out of our work clothes could mean so much? If you have a business that doesn’t require formal wear 5 days per week, consider offering casual Fridays. Many companies actually charge $1 to employees to wear jeans one day per week which goes into a social fund. The surprise factor works here as well. Unexpectedly announce that the next day is “sports day” and allow people to wear their favorite team colors and jeans and watch the happy glow spread among the place.
  • Allow people to kick off early when things are slow. Walk around and personally deliver the news that it is “too gorgeous outside” to work and even the most sour of employees will feel love for you and the company.

Space all of this out but try to do something no less than quarterly for everyone and find someone daily to say “thank you” to. You don’t need the big bucks to build a loyal, committed team!


by Steven Schlagel