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12 Supplemental Rewards You Should Give Employees When Raises Are Unavailable


Summary: This article shows employers what they can give employees in lieu of raises.

Supplemental Rewards when Raises are Unavailable
  • Having a successful business with great employees is the pinnacle of business itself.
  • But at times you may be unable to reward them for their services.
  • Check out this article for ideas as to how you can (temporarily) reward your employees with something other than monetary raises.
Raises: You know as an employer that sooner or later you will have to face their reality. And once that happens, everyone’s going to want a piece of the action.

Raises seem to have a pandemic-like quality in almost every business known to humankind. No matter what profession or where a person finds their talents to be a best fit (and in that, should feel lucky they found “a fit”), the raise is the universal sign of appreciation between a boss and a worker.

The raise (as well as the promotion) exposes the thankfulness for the good work one has put in to a company. It shows commitment, gratitude as well as forms a strengthened bond between management and the employee.

Of course, the downside of raises, especially when they are given to a few people in lieu of an entire workforce, is that they can cause high amounts of consternation, particularly if raises have not been granted to not just one or two workers, but the entirety of your employees, particularly after they’ve been on the job for a few years.

The problem is, you know they deserve raises, and by this time, even your newest hire is approaching the point where they will expect to get some sort of incentive to continue their good work, even if it isn’t a raise.

Alternatives to Monetary Raises

Yes, money is nice. But you and nearly everyone else in the working world already know that. Just like the song says: Money makes the world go ‘round, it certainly does. Money allows us:
  • To have more to spend on necessities and luxuries.
  • To have more to save for future necessities and luxuries.
  • Access – to mostly anything.
  • A feeling of comfort and safety.
The problem is money is becoming more difficult on almost a daily basis to obtain. Sure, the job market (as of this writing), is humming along smartly, and our president is quick to point that we are becoming great again due to a combination of jobs surplus and a shortage of good, strong qualified workers. But given that, would anyone think raises should, quite frankly, be more plentiful? Of course!

However, plentiful is not always the case – at least not with all businesses.

Some businesses do better than other businesses. And some businesses are simply in greater demand than others. For example, which business would you say does better in the following two challenges:
  1. A Dry Cleaners vs. A Topless Maid Service
  2. A Car Wash vs. A Home-Delivery Marijuana Service
If you picked the dry cleaners and the car wash as victors – for whatever reason – you’re more than likely correct.

Of course, it’s not like these services can somehow join forces, though it’s not likely or even feasible that they would. But who knows? In our lifetimes, crazier ideas have come about such as in-home use of computers and a cloud-based electronic service-for-all called the internet.

Again, some businesses do better than others. And savvy employees can sniff that out like a shark smells blood in the ocean waters. This is why the strong businesses – the ones that are destined to be successful – will continue to be successful, while others may not be so lucky in their short or long run.

With that said, let’s assume your business is successful. It’s lasted awhile, has turned over enough of a modest profit to feed money back into itself, and looks promising for the future. At issue is the fact that while you are making money, you’re not making enough to give all your employees raises.

A bit of a bind, isn’t it? Well, to keep yourself out of more of a bind you should think about doing the following with your employees regarding their expectations of a raise.
  1. First of all, be clear with your employees: Tell your employees exactly what the issue is with their raises and why they won’t receive raises anytime soon. Use simple, straightforward language that outlines the point that the company hasn’t the money at the moment to give everyone a raise. Yes, you appreciate their work (explain that, too), yet at this moment, there simply are no Benjamins to dole out as a way of saying “thank you.” 
  2. Then be reassuring: Assure your employees that not all is lost. Sure, cash is king, but you have some other ideas that can at least appease your employees and convince them that they are still cared for by you and the company for the service they provide. Tell them you would much rather give them raises, but circumstances, be it cash flow, income, or other expenses germane to the business has to take precedence. In short, despite not getting a raise, and despite the business and its perpetual success taking a front seat to all else, as employees you, as their employer, have not forgotten them.
The Alternatives to Raises

If you use your imagination, you are bound to come up with some innovative ways to at least temporarily placate your employees with workplace rewards other than giving raises or issuing promotions.

Of course, temporarily is emphasized simply because you can’t entirely rely on these non-cash acknowledgements for jobs well-done, at least not for long. Sooner or later, your employees will require true monetary increases to simply carry on with their lives. You as their employer will also require true monetary increases for your employees in order to keep them on staff. Yup, as sad as it seems, that’s the way money works and how it can come between family, marriages, friendships and undoubtedly an employer and their employees.

To that end, a recent article published by Business News Daily cites 12 secrets to keeping employees happy without a raise, each suggested by successful business leaders throughout the U.S. Those secrets are as follows:

1. Be transparent
"Feedback and the ability to understand employee concerns is important, but it's what you do after that's critical to retention. You should always be transparent by sharing what you've learned and a course of action for addressing the issue. For example, after a recent company-wide engagement survey, we chose to share our results with all employees. We not only communicated our top areas of success but also our areas for improvement and how we planned to address them moving forward. Transparent communication and a simple acknowledgement that we heard you can go a long way." - Laura Grieco, HR and administration director at Parkmobile

2. Offer more vacation time
"Reward your highest performers with incremental vacation days. These employees are your superstars so you can be confident they will get their work done as well as enjoy a few extra days of well-deserved time off with family and friends." – Stacia Pache, founder and CEO of itBandz [See Related Story: Want to Boost Employee Productivity? Offer an Incentive]

3. Make work-life balance a priority
"To engage the workforce and remain competitive, it's no longer sufficient to focus solely on benefits. Top employers create an environment where employees feel connected to the organization and have a positive work experience that's part of a rich, fulfilling life. – David Ballard, assistant executive director for organizational excellence at the American Psychological Association

4. Encourage communication in common areas "Businesses should take steps to create spaces where employees can easily communicate and share ideas. Casual conversations in the break room can become collaborative conversations. Make it inviting and effective, with nice furniture, tables, and snacks and beverages, if possible." – Tom Heisroth, senior vice president at Staples Advantage

5. Create a career pathway
"[Our research] found that providing developmental support, such as training opportunities and career mentoring, to employees who do not believe there are attractive career opportunities for them within the company led to such employees leaving the organization. It's critical for businesses to have regular career planning discussions with their employees. As part of training and development, make sure employees are aware of the different types of career paths or job opportunities throughout the company." – Maria Kraimer, business professor at the University of Iowa

6. Build employees up
"If you're looking to keep an employee by giving him/her a raise, it's already too late. Find people who share the operational values of your organization from the outset, test for fit early, and allow growth opportunities to express that value. We're fanatics about initiative and constructive impact. Our team members are consistently rewarded with higher value projects following a constructive initiative." – Zachary Watson, CEO at HoneyCo

7. Promote a positive work environment
"Happy employees make for a happy company. Within the office, we'll publicly acknowledge accomplishments, provide a group lunch, reserve a prime parking space, or change a title. We'll also help employees to grow and develop, whether by taking on new desired responsibilities or challenges, taking courses to learn new skills, or furthering knowledge of the company by traveling on company business trips." – Jakki Liberman, president of Bumkins

8. Set the example
"One can't underestimate the importance of walking into the office as the boss with a smile on my face and making sure I give the same feeling of importance to everyone." – Jon Sumroy, CEO and inventor of mifold

9. Recognize and reward employees
"Achievement and recognition are high motivators for employees. If they take risks, reward them. Give them a coupon to go out for dinner, an extra day off, tickets to a show, etc. The small stuff adds up." – Charley Polachi, managing partner at Polachi Access Executive Search

10. Always say 'thank you'
"In my experience, employees rarely become unhappy or leave solely over money. When they do become disenchanted it is usually because they don't like their boss, aren't engaged or feel like they have stopped learning. Having a positive culture and workplace environment helps a lot, as it encourages teamwork and communication which increases engagement and opportunities for teammates to learn from each other. We also do periodic "shout outs" to people at all levels of the organization for great work or superior effort. These kudos cost nothing but provide important public recognition for a job well done, effectively compensating people in the form of social currency which is highly valued." – Gary Beasley, co-founder and CEO of Roofstock

11. Offer benefits beyond the basics
"There are many ways to supplement salary by assisting employees in other areas of their lives. You can offer an extra level of life insurance or disability insurance for employees to protect their incomes. Other ancillary benefits, such as dental, optical [and] wellness, are all well received by employees. And gym memberships and transit benefits are great perks to keep employees happy and healthy. It is important to [provide] higher benefits so your employees know that you truly care about them and their families." – Bobby Hotaling, president and CEO of The Hotaling Group

12. Make employees part of the big picture
"The best benefit you can provide to your employees is the opportunity to make a difference through their work and help guide the course of the company. Benefits such as clear and frequent communication on company happenings, individual and department direction, and big-picture company direction make all the difference in employee happiness." – Anthony Smith, CEO and founder of Insightly

In Conclusion
There’s no doubt your employees are the single most important component of your business. Without them and their dedication, there’s no telling what could happen to your (or quite frankly anyone’s) business.

Poor end product, little to no accountability, tardiness, days missed, thievery and confrontation could be all rolled up into a shit show that is destined to collapse in on and itself, leaving you to hold the bag, not to mention the possibility of a few lawsuits, both from your employees and your clients who were let down while dealing with you.

Don’t let things get this out of hand for you and your company. Most employees, if they support you as a manager, will be forgiving if you aren’t quite in the position to offer raises or promotions, but can instead offer them non-monetary awards. Just try not to perpetuate this for too long – a year at the most – as it will soon get old in lieu of a true monetary raise or promotion.

It’s just the way business…and the world…work.

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