Traditionally, when employers have sought to reward top performers, they’ve relied on money.
Whether in the form of a raise or a bonus, adding to your existing pay is one of the best ways to keep you around and make you feel appreciated.
However, many small businesses are struggling to make budget on the revenue they have coming in each month.
Fortunately, money is only one way to say "thank you" to employees for their hard work.
In fact, a recent survey of 200,000 people showed that salary is fairly low on the list of things employees need to feel appreciated.
One way to increase longevity and attract the best new workers is to offer attention-getting perks. Here are a few ideas that bosses can consider in lieu of a salary increase.
In recent years, businesses have begun winning over potential candidates by offering the hottest gadgets on the market, including tablets and smartwatches. This type of perk can be especially attractive to employees in tech jobs.
Make sure your boss differentiates between products they’re issuing as work devices and gifts they’ve given you as a perk. If an employer offers you a tablet to lure you into a job or just to keep you happy, you should be able to keep the item permanently, although your boss may require you stay in the position for a minimum length of time.
2. Paid sabbaticals
Popular in academics, paid sabbaticals are rarely seen in the corporate world. However, these extended breaks from work have proven beneficial both to employees and their employers.
This is one way you can pursue a personal passion, such as traveling to an exotic location or studying a new subject, and return rejuvenated and ready to contribute again.
3. Debt repayment
Many students today leave college with a pile of loans they’ll have to spend years repaying. The Federal government recently announced it would help government employees repay their student loans and the trend caught on.
Companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Natixis have announced they, too, are offering student loan repayment as an employee perk. Consider asking this of your employer as well.
4. Exclusive event invites
There are some things money can’t buy. If your employer can swing access to perks like backstage passes to concerts or great seats at sporting events, it will probably improve morale.
If you work in business development or sales for your company, use networking events and your local Chamber of Commerce to help your company make the kind of connections that will give you access to these perks.
5. On-site spa services
Busy professionals have no time to spend an hour at a local spa getting a massage. For that reason, businesses have begun bringing masseuses to the workplace, where they give shoulder massages on workers who are seated at their desks.
Several startups have even popped up offering this service. Make your interest in this perk known to your employer so they can check with local spas and get a group discount.
6. Convenient services
In addition to massages, businesses can bring convenience to employees by offering perks like dry cleaning pickup and parking lot car detailing. Even if employees pay the bill, employees will be grateful for the time they’ll save on extra after-work errands.
One of the most mentioned perks at Google is its offering of free meals to employees. Free food doesn’t only help employees save money, it keeps them on site, where they can focus on the work that needs to get done. Smaller businesses can duplicate this by occasionally having lunch catered or offering snacks during staff meetings.
8. Pet-friendly workplaces
More businesses are realizing the benefits of allowing you to bring your pets into the office each day. Since you don’t have to rush home to your favorite furry friends, you may tend to stay in the office longer.
For this to work, however, it’s important for your boss to accommodate building policies and make sure any employee allergies are addressed.
Perks can be a great way to keep the office interesting and attract top talent. If those perks are unique, they’ll boost morale and make you excited to come into work each day.
If you’re looking to narrow a field of possible new employers, look for businesses that implement some of these perks and put their own original spin on them. That’s a sure sign of an employer that cares about your happiness, which is one of the best perks anyone could hope for.
John Boitnott is a journalist and digital consultant who has worked at TV, newspapers, radio and internet companies in the U.S. for 20 years. He's an advisor at Startup Grind and has written for NBC, Fast Company, Inc. magazine, Entrepreneur, USA Today, and VentureBeat, among others.