Suzanne is a top employee. She’s motivated, proactive and efficient. She’s also a great team player who loves working for your organisation. So, what do you do when Suzanne approaches you for a well-deserved pay rise but there’s no wiggle room in your budget?

Many employers face this scenario, especially those struggling to survive and thrive with COVID-19. It’s tough, but don’t despair. You can reward staff and keep them with you, even when your organisation is under financial pressure and can’t dish out pay rises.

As recruiters, we regularly chat to jobseekers about what motivates them with work—besides money. Here’s a previously published checklist, updated. It’s a great starting point but talk to employees about what drives them. Don’t make assumptions on their behalf.

Remember that employees have values that are important to them. Tap into these, including the need for respect, validation, a sense of purpose and opportunities to learn and grow.

Also explore these f2f expert articles for inspiration:

Purpose

Employees want a sense of purpose. It’s demoralising when they don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. So be clear on your vision, values and mission. This is even more important today since more employees want to work for an organisation they believe in; one that aligns with who they are and how they think.

Workplace culture

Today’s employees are keen to work in a rewarding, safe culture. This includes a culture with management that truly leads, that celebrates successes and is positive. Employees don’t want to put up with toxic work environments, so build an inspiring culture.

Equality

Make sure you treat everyone equally, acknowledge wins equally and provide opportunities to grow and gain new skills equally. If you favour a few, other employees will feel neglected.

Empowerment

No-one likes to be micro-managed. Employees thrive when empowered. So, build a culture that is clear on structure, expectations and responsibilities. Then give employees the freedom to get on with their work.

Strong leadership

Employees thrive under strong leadership. It motivates and builds their confidence. Create a dynamic and visionary leadership team. Also remember that employees respect managers who listen, communicate well, are decisive and lead by example. They don’t want managers who bully or are disrespectful.

Flexibility

Flexibility is important. It helps employees get on with life outside of work, pursue further education, develop in other ways and enjoy social activities. Flexibility is valuable for employees to have choice over when, where and how they work, especially Millennials. This doesn’t mean throwing your business into chaos, but old-fashioned, rigid approaches, imposing a standard ‘9-5’ day, are ‘out’ for many employees.

Work-life balance

Employees will stay with you if they’re not being driven into the ground for organisational gain. Work-life balance is a valuable way for attracting and keeping employees. It signals that you care about their mental, physical and emotional health. It also enables employees to enjoy downtime without feeling guilty.

Opportunities to grow

Besides a paycheque, employees want to learn, grow and be challenged so provide opportunities for them to do so. This doesn’t always require major investment. Short in-house training courses are an option. Paying for staff to attend a networking event is another. If you can put more funds into training (such as paying for a uni degree or sending employees to a major conference), do so.

Recognition

Employees want to be recognised for a job well done, and they want to be recognised immediately, not weeks after. Make an announcement by email or at a team meeting. Simple things count, like a hand-written thank you card, or an early mark.

Team environment

A team environment where everyone’s opinion is welcome, is a big bonus for employees. If only a select group are listened to or recognised, it will be noticed.

Celebrating

A workplace culture that celebrates victories (small and large) is a big plus for employees. It makes them feel accepted and signals that the organisation isn’t just about profit or gain. Recognition needn’t be expensive. Ways include thank you emails, a lunch out or a gift voucher. Smart employers work with employees on how they want to be recognised, instead of deciding for them.

Regular feedback

Employees don’t want to plod along not knowing how they’re performing. Think of formal and informal ways to provide regular feedback, so your employees understand how to improve.

Benefits

Many employees are motivated by extra benefits. Smart employers work with employees on these. Here are work perks employees love.