When Cash Flow Runs Low, These Employee Benefits are Priceless

A good employee is worth their weight in gold, so what do you do if you can’t give them the financial benefits they deserve? Danielle Higley from QBO talks about how to make workers feel valued even when money is tight. ~ WizeOwl

Running a small business can feel like climbing a mountain. At times, the learning curve is steep. For every one step forward, you slide two steps back. Yet, every once in a while, you hit a stopping point where you’re finally able to look behind you and enjoy the view. And, as that view gets better and better the higher up you go, you remember the outcome is worth the struggle, and you remember what reasons led you to climb that mountain in the first place.

For small businesses with limited cash flow, money is often one of those one-step-forward-two-steps-back situations. For that reason, keeping employees long-term can be tough. No matter how much they enjoy the work, their team or even the product, everyone needs to make a living, and it’s tough to pay employees as much as they deserve when staying profitable isn’t a guarantee from month to month.

So, how do you tempt employees into sticking around without breaking the bank to give them a bonus or a raise? Good news – money isn’t everything, even to employees, and with a little creativity, you can provide your people with outside-the-box benefits that may be just as valuable.

Fostering employee passions can be worth more than cash. According to a recent survey by QuickBooks® Payroll, more money may not even be the topmost concern for the average employee. When asked why they might change jobs within the next two years, the number one answer for survey respondents was “for better career opportunities.” Third most popular? “To reduce my stress levels.”

Small business owners can learn something from those two answers and choose to create a work environment that promotes responsibility and learning, as well as a healthy work-life balance. It might sound counterintuitive to treat your business as an incubator for growing talent, but if your employees view their time with you as a means to learn, grow and develop skills that will take them higher elsewhere, you’ll still likely see a great deal of effort and intention in your current staff.

Likewise, for those who value a less stressful lifestyle, business owners can focus on fostering an environment that embraces personal needs and wants. Consider asking workers to not check their work email while off the clock. Implement a scheduling system that allows them to view their shift online or via an app well in advance, so they have time to schedule appointments or other commitments. Take workers’ needs into consideration, and demonstrate to employees – through your own actions – that family commitments are important. When your employees see you taking time off to attend your child’s soccer game, they’ll feel better about doing the same.

Give employees the benefits they want. It’s a tough position to be in, knowing you’d like to pay workers more, but you can’t really afford to sacrifice the cash flow. Benefits such as PTO and healthcare are expensive, so you may feel you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, deciding whether to offer your employees dental insurance or give everyone a small pay bump.

The good news is employees really want healthcare. It’s the most desirable benefit. The bad news is if you think you can pay workers less and use healthcare as your reasoning, you’re unlikely to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. Around one in three employees say their employer uses benefits to keep base pay low, and they don’t like it. It’s better to be transparent with your staff than try to hide the fact that you don’t have enough cash to go around. Alternatively, consider offering your employees benefits that are tough to find.

  • Extended parental leave: If you can’t afford to pay employees while they’re out, still give them more time off to be at home, with a guaranteed job when they get back.
  • Access to a company account that gets great travel deals: Employees can use coupons and savings when booking vacations.
  • Recognition awards: When an employee does well, treat them to a nice dinner or a night out at a sporting event of their choice.
  • Flexible schedules and work accommodations: 76 percent of employees want this, yet only 18 percent get it currently. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to work from home now and again?

Workplace benefits that fit. Not every workplace is going to be able to offer their employees the chance to work remotely. It’s a bit tough to sell on-the-shelf merchandise, for instance, from the comfort of your own living room. But, keep in mind, these are just suggestions. If cash flow is tight but you want to make your people happy, consider the best method of all: open communication.

Ask your employees what they want. Allow them to be part of the conversation. By asking your employees what benefits they value most and what you can do to make their workplace fun, inviting and a place they can call home, you’ll give them a gift better than any raise: an employer who cares. And, that benefit is absolutely priceless.