It's not just about salary: How to keep employees happy without a pay rise

It’s a challenging market for employers and people managers right now, and not everyone can offer higher salaries or pay rises. But here’s the thing: for many job seekers and employees, work-life balance is a key consideration – in fact, across several industries it’s the most important factor driving employment-related decisions.

Annual leave, flexible working arrangements and shorter working hours are among the top benefits businesses can offer to attract and keep staff, according to SEEK research.

“You can't always compete purely on salary, so it’s important to make sure that there's more connecting the employee to the organisation than just salary,” explains Samantha Miklos, CEO at Cornerstone Medical Recruitment.

These benefits will help to keep your employees and new hires happy – as well as your bottom line.

More types of leave

Life is busy and gone are the days of four weeks’ annual leave being the only option for many people. Miklos says her business offers employees a range of different leave options that are extremely well-received. These include loyalty leave tied to length of service, performance-based leave, birthday leave, the ability to purchase extra annual leave and the option to work overseas and easily add on a holiday.

“Four weeks is a bit of a thing of the past,” she says. “We've now got lots of different leave preferences up to six weeks that help to take the pressure off.

“A lot of the flexibility people want really comes back to leave, so it’s about trying to be really creative with it.”

Unofficial flexibility

It’s also possible to be flexible with leave without adopting a formal policy, says Graham Wynn, founder and director of Superior People Recruitment.

“There's been this big push recently for bereavement leave for pets, but it hasn’t gotten across the line. So what companies are doing is offering people a couple of extra days after the death of a pet and not taking it off annual leave,” he says.

“There's nothing written into the contract, but many businesses are now much more flexible with similar sorts of things. If a situation crops up and someone needs a day or two here or there, they're allowing it.”

Shorter working hours

Miklos says reducing working hours in her business to 37.5 hours a week has made a huge difference to morale – and little difference to productivity. “Everyone is out at 4.30pm and they can enjoy the afternoon to themselves,” she says.

Being creative in the way part-time work is taken up is another popular strategy when it comes to accommodating shorter hours. Miklos says job sharing or shared rostering can be a great approach for customer-facing businesses that need staff on site.

“We've got a couple of roles where there's two part-time employees working alongside each other on varying days and it works really well,” she says.

“It's about talking to your team and understanding how you can integrate flexibility without the customer being dissatisfied.”

Meaningful perks

Offering meaningful perks can also help to keep your people happy, especially if implementing flexible working arrangements is tricky in your industry.

Wynn says gym memberships are highly prized. “For organisations that need people on site or in the office full time, gym memberships are offered quite a bit and they’re really popular.”

For people living in regional locations or who travel for work, discounts to food delivery services and online gyms are appreciated, Mikos says.

She says help finding housing is a major perk for healthcare workers moving to a new place for a short time. “A job seeker might do six weeks in the Pilbara and eight weeks in Alice Springs and providing accommodation makes it easier for them to locum around the country.”

Thankfully, there’s more to attracting and maintaining great employees than paying high salaries. Tuning into the flexibility and support that your people want for work-life balance is key to keeping everyone happy for the long term.

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