AMB Performance Group Blog

How to Retain Employees Without Money

Posted on: March 22, 2022
Hiring and Retaining Employees

You have heard it before… time and time again. The only way you can keep workers is to pay them more. Money talks. So the questions revolve around how to retain employees without money. Money doesn’t have the most compelling voice. When it comes to elements of an employee retention plan, it’s important to think beyond dollar signs

How to Retain Employees on a Limited Budget

Folks need a paycheck. While we are a nation of volunteers, we also need to pay the bills – and achieve a level of financial security with which we are comfortable. So yes, you do need to invest in your people. In doing so, you are investing in the future of your company. 

That said, research indicates that the correlation between salary and happiness is not as strong as many would believe. In a comprehensive meta-analysis of 120 years of data and 92 quantitative studies, it was found that the link between salary and job satisfaction is “very weak.” There is less than a 2% overlap between pay and levels of satisfaction. Further, people’s satisfaction with their pay is not correlated to their actual salary.

In this study, job satisfaction for people earning in the higher bracket was similar to those who earn less. Results are consistent across the board. The bottom line: more money does not equate to higher levels of satisfaction. After a certain point – the point at which people have enough to achieve their level of financial security and comfort – additional salary does not make them happier or more likely to stay.

That’s good news. It means that you can focus on other elements of employee retention.

Elements of Employee Retention

How can you engage employees in your organization and keep them motivated to contribute?

  1. Focus On Meaning

If people are not likely to stay for money, they will stay for meaning. When they find their work meaningful, they feel a greater sense of satisfaction, commitment, and connection to the organization. Any work can be meaningful; it’s up to you to convey this message to employees.

Try devoting a few minutes during routine meetings to share your company’s vision. Why are they doing what they’re doing, and how does it contribute to the bigger picture? Why do they matter? 

Highlight “wins” on your team. For example, if a customer writes a review or testimonial, share it with your people. Let them know they are having an impact.

  1. Recognize Employees 

Appreciation cannot be silent. You must take steps to recognize employees for the work they are doing. This does not have to cost much if anything. Oftentimes, a shout-out in a team meeting can work wonders in letting someone know they are valued. If more appropriate, you can do this privately. Praise should be:

  • Be Specific. Skip the “Good job.” Good job at work? What did they do that was beneficial? How did they go the extra mile – and why is that so important?
  • Timely. See it, say it. Don’t wait to recognize employees and thank them for their efforts.
  • Relevant. No, you don’t want to praise an employee for showing up on time or for handling a routine task up to expectations. Over-praise is just as bad as no praise! It loses meaning. 
  • Ongoing. Recognition isn’t just an annual initiative. Notice what people do – and let them know you noticed.
  1. Provide Choice

A certain level of autonomy is necessary for empowering employees to find meaning and purpose in their job, and in helping them feel as if they have a future with your organization. Build in choice. For example, provide options for how they can approach a project (or encourage them to make suggestions. You might find they have better ideas!). Ask for input on aspects like meeting times or, even further, what type of work they would like to engage in.

  1. Give Opportunities for Growth and Development

Even more so than a bump in salary, which often gets absorbed in everyday life, people want the chance to learn and hone new skills and advance their careers. Sure, you run the risk of losing them after you’ve paid for training and development – but you risk losing them anyway. Again, when they feel like they have a future and that they are not stranded in a dead-end job, they are more likely to remain with the company.

  1. Have Some Fun

Build in some opportunities for fun! No, it doesn’t have to be the dreaded company ice-breaker. Instead, what if you did a monthly staff wellness day or afternoon? You could rotate the responsibility for coming up with an activity among the staff so they feel ownership over the process. A few hours on a Friday devoted to a good lunch, a casual game, or some sort of little contest can be terrific for motivation and team-building. 

This just scratches the surface in terms of how to retain employees without money. What are your ideas? Let’s put them into action. Contact AMB Performance Group to get started.

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