How to win over staff without increasing salaries

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When it comes to keeping staff happy, salary is still the number one priority, according to the AAT Salary Survey 2019. But how can you keep staff happy with limited budget and resources?

Salary and core compensation package were also cited as the top motivation by 28% of respondents in a separate survey by B2B International’s Business & Marketing. But the key bit of information here is that work environment and atmosphere (24%) were also major contributing factors. This was closely followed by flexible working policies (21%), work-life balance, benefit packages and reputation (all 20%).

The main takeaway from these figures is that operating on a shoestring budget does not mean you’re doomed to lose your best staff; take a look at our alternative incentives below.

Give them birthday/special occasion days off

Alison King, managing director of Bespoke HR  says: “Giving staff a day off on their birthday or for something important like moving house is a simple but effective idea and fairly easy to manage with a good holiday calendar system.”

King recommends “including this in any recruitment marketing too, as it demonstrates your company’s commitment to caring for staff.”

Get staff involved in decision-making

Zoe Whitman, Founder of But the Books consultancy, says: “I always try and make sure my team know what’s happening in the business and what I’m working on. I try and involve them in any strategic decisions and keep them involved when we’re pitching for new work.”

Getting staff involved in strategic decisions helps them develop their knowledge and skills and makes them feel involved, Whitman believes.

Take them on holiday

If you do have some leeway with budget, then why not take your team on holiday, says Alastair Barlow FCCA, Founder and Partner at flinder accountancy firm. “We offer an all-expenses paid annual ski trip week where we discuss, share and work on our strategy – we call it #flinderTakesThePiste.”

The trip is a huge perk for employees and a brilliant way to reward them, says Barlow. “They get excited about it months beforehand and talk about it for months afterwards. We find it super valuable for engagement, motivation and team work.”

Run volunteer days

“Numerous studies have shown that employees, particularly the millennial generation, are motivated by a company’s ethos,” says King, of Bespoke HR.

“Those businesses with a strong corporate social responsibility focus tend to attract and retain the best talent. So running volunteer days for a charity or cause of their choice is a good morale boost and reflects well on the company.”

Start a mentoring scheme

“Identify the skills within your workforce and consider where these can be best shared, for example – a senior manager could offer a member of staff advice and guidance on career progression, whereas a graduate could offer insights into social media,” says King.

“Even if mentors and mentees only meet once every few months, mentoring has been shown to improve confidence, demonstrates a supportive working environment and enhances job satisfaction.”

Opt for a co-working space

Barlow, of flinder Accountants, says choosing a co-work space was one of the best things they ever did for the business.

“From a practical reason, it meant we could be out and about meeting clients all over London and then jump into one of the many other co-working spaces in the same group, grab a coffee and charge the Mac before our next meeting,” he notes. “It gave us both a quieter environment than a Starbucks to hold calls and also a great location to meet people too.”

It also gave them more flexibility. “Being based in a co-working space gives us that flexibility to upsize when we need to without the pains of long contracts. It means we can stay agile and that we don’t have to pay excessive rent for empty desks,” Barlow says.

Create a good working environment

Yoga yurts, break-out areas, ping pong tables, Friday drinks trollies and roof gardens are just some of the ways innovative ways employers have made their workspace an enjoyable place to be. Choosing the right location is also essential, says Whitman.

“As a fairly new business we do have a tight budget but a nice working environment wasn’t something I could compromise on for the team. I chose a modern Harbourside office with a good kitchen, a cafe upstairs and lots of natural light, over a much cheaper option because I felt the Harbourside space would give the team and real sense of pride about where they worked.”


Finally, don’t forget that listening is one of the most important things you can do and it doesn’t cost a thing.

“We recently ran a team survey to collate both quantitative scores but more importantly qualitative areas we can improve on. Listening to the team and implementing suggestions where possible goes a long way to keeping people engaged and motivated,” says Barlow.

In summary

Whilst salary is still a key driver for staff, there are many other ways to incentivise; from a team holiday with a potential corporate discount, to simply ensuring they feel heard. Ask your team what would best motivate them, and you might be surprised by the range of responses you get. Just taking an active interest in their happiness could be an important first step.

Read more on cultivating a positive working culture for staff here:

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

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