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6 ways to boost morale that won’t cost you a dime

Published: Monday, April 1 2013 5:29 p.m. MDT

A recent study reports that a whopping 43 percent of the workforce cites "lack of recognition" as the reason for their unhappiness. But it's more than that — employees want to feel valued by their leaders.

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We think we know what our employees want.

In order to keep employees happy, we need to offer competitive wages and benefits. Sounds simple, right?

Wrong.

A recent study by Accenture reports that a whopping 43 percent of the workforce cites "lack of recognition" as the reason for their unhappiness.

Read between the lines. It’s more than recognition — employees want to feel valued by their leaders. They spend the majority of their week in the office. It is their home away from home, so make the office environment feel that way.

Google employees enjoy perks such as game rooms and on-site cafes. Other organizations offer child care services within the walls of their buildings. These powerful perks keep employees happy and attrition rates low.

Is a simple pat on the back enough? Should you lease the building next door and serve gourmet meals five days a week? You’d like to mirror the perks of these great companies, but your budget is tight and options are limited.

No worries. I recently spent time with an executive and friend, Erin Housley, who offered a unique approach to achieving this goal on a tight budget. From her, I learned that with a little time and innovation you can help each individual feel valued without breaking the bank.

Here are six no-cost options to consider:

1. Implement a loyalty program with local retailers.

On their lunch break, your employees flock to restaurants near your office. On their way home, they stop by a local retailer for a quick shopping trip. These businesses thrive on purchases from your workforce, so develop a loyalty program and ask them to join you. Perhaps they will offer a 10 percent discount when your employee shows a company ID. Maybe they will offer weekly specials to your team. Let them know you’ll develop regular communication with your personnel announcing these deals. All they have to do is open their doors and sell their product. It’s a win-win that doesn’t gouge your budget.

2. Establish family fun discounts.

Chances are your employees work to provide a living for their families, and those families are their highest priority. Show them you care by partnering with local movie theatres, bowling alleys, pools and arcades to offer discounts for the entire family to enjoy. A few phone calls and partnerships, and you’ve demonstrated you recognize and support their personal priorities.

3. Partner with local service providers.

Do you know someone who could use a 30-minute massage to reduce stress? Someone who makes a side trip on their way home to pick up dry cleaning or get their car detailed? Everyone can benefit from extra time in their day. If you have an extra office, or space in your parking lot, then you can bring these amenities to your employees. Providers will be happy to bring their services to you if business is likely. Your workforce will be willing to pay for these services they use often, and pleased with the extra time you’ve saved them.

4. Start a book exchange.

Have readers in the office? Your workforce likely has a robust home library. Most have been read once and forgotten. Consider locating a bookshelf or two in a quiet corner of your building and provide your employees with an ongoing supply of new material to take home and read. Your IT department will devour certification books, management will appreciate the latest business approaches and working mothers may even choose to share children’s books. Your staff will have a convenient opportunity for continual learning and development.

5. Bring the restaurant to them.

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