Cheap Thrills: Small Businesses and Employee Perks

Almost every business, large or small, started as someone’s dream to offer a better mousetrap or mouse-trapping service. For businesses that remain under 100 employees – and like it that way, thank you very much – those dreams are more than just a paragraph on the About Us page: they are a guide to how the business operates, makes its products, treats its people. Many small businesses want to provide the same extras as large companies but think they lack the budget to do so. Here are a few low-cost ways that SMEs can compete with big guys to earn employee loyalty.
Be a family friend
Do you have parents in your company who have young children at home? By the time they get to work, they’ve already been at work. From making sure their son’s jacket has a cute name label in it for the school field trip to making sure their daughter is still wearing shoes when she exits the car. What adjustments can you make in flexible time or telecommuting that could help them? Chances are, those same benefits could be helpful to employees who are also caring for an elderly parent or sick family member.
Feed people
The occasional lavish lunch or yearly party is, of course, appreciated, but your company budget would be just as well spent on a good selection of hot and cold beverages and weekly stash of fruit, snacks, or breakfast. A busy or snowy day can be made a bit smoother when employees know they can get through it with some provided food. How about allotting a few hundred pounds for a meal service to employees who go out on parental or sick leave?
Pet them
Positive reinforcement does work. Build a culture of constructive, meaningful feedback in a review process that happens more than once a year, and find ways to measure an employee that aren’t just about hard numbers. Companies go through hard times, employees don’t always perform the way you’d hoped, and your best people sometimes leave. An environment in which employees feel supported in their career development will keep them engaged in trying to do their job well.

There is no shortage of research documenting the importance of employee loyalty. A 2009 study from the University of Pennsylvania in the United States found that a company could get an 8.5 percent boost to productivity by spending 10 percent of its revenue on developing employee capital; compare that to just the 3.9 percent improvement seen by spending that same 10 percent on capital improvements. Even if you are nowhere near being able to spend such an amount, a small business can build and grow by demonstrating its loyalty to the people who make it run.