8 Low Cost and Creative Employee Loyalty Programs
If you are reading this article then you are probably leading a team or running a business and are curious what I mean by this title. If you haven’t had to do any hiring lately – CONGRATULATIONS! If you have, then you know how very difficult it is to find great talent. This may be the wildest market I’ve seen – in some ways more active than the late 90s. This is due to the fact that, in order to beat the competition, businesses are utilizing all sorts of new tactics to attract talented individuals to their ranks. I actually saw a help wanted LED sign on the Boulder Valley YMCA – and they need a bunch of folks. When was the last time you saw help wanted at the YMCA?
Getting your message out there, seen by the right people, AND attracting their interest is getting harder to do because so many businesses are searching for the same people, and may be offering more than you! As a talent acquisition professional let me share a secret with you….your people ARE getting phone calls from recruiters – in some cases daily. In the heat of the work week, when everyone is so frenzied and busy, it’s hard to remember to take care of your people. You are thinking about getting the job done, and how much your workers can do for you. However, you should also be thinking about making sure your team is happy, and how much you can do for your workers. Odds are your top talent would also be considered top talent elsewhere, and there may be other companies courting their favor. If you want to keep them in this market, they have to want to stay. Before you say you shouldn’t have to continue to woo your own employees, think of it this way: It’s much more costly to replace someone than it is to keep the already high performing people you have. Now is the time to make sure your workers know that you appreciate them. Let’s talk about some low cost and creative loyalty programs that will keep them happy – and refusing the calls from beyond your walls.
- Spontaneous time off. We’ve all been working long and hard this year. Your best team members (the ones you don’t want to lose) are probably also the folks that have the most vacation time accrued. Why not walk into his/her office and say, “Listen, you’ve been putting in a ton of time and I think you should take a long weekend, so enjoy Friday off – no phone or email, do something fun!”
- Support for volunteer activities. I have a client who gives up to 3 days off per year for their people to participate in their favorite charitable activity. Letting your folks know that you support them in their community goes a long way to gaining their allegiance. Volunteering in a child’s classroom, delivering meals to seniors, reading groups at the library, or fixing computers at the community center are all ways to help that make people feel good about themselves and make a difference at the same time – try it and see how much good will you’ll spread.
- Conferences and training. When the economy sank, training/development was one of the first benefits to be cut. This isn’t an entitlement by any means, but if you have great people you owe it to yourself to continue to build their skills – you’ll enjoy the results with increased productivity, and your employee will add to their tool belt and feel like you really care about advancing their career – everyone wins!
- Sponsorship into professional associations. Another great way to infuse your team with new energy is to get them “out of the house” once in a while. Joining professional organizations gives them an opportunity to talk with other professionals and hear about the challenges they are having and how to overcome them. There are a couple of great outcomes that will happen as a result: 1. Your happy people will talk about how great their job is, and you may get some new recruits out of it; and 2. They will hear about the obstacles in other people’s jobs and appreciate what they have even more. Yes, and potentially talk with recruiters or hiring managers – but if they are happy you have nothing to worry about.
- Play time. Why not organize a day for your team to purposely think “outside their box?” Every team in every company, given the opportunity, can solve some pretty gnarly problems. Maybe your play day is freeform – let them work on something that they have been thinking about, but haven’t had time to work on. Maybe it’s an organized activity – a non-profit who needs a simple database application built. In any case, providing your team the luxury of sitting at work and “playing” for a day can infuse some new energy and creativity into your team.
- Gifts for their family. Why not reward great work with hockey tickets for the whole family? Buy them passes to Six Flags for the day along with $100 spending money, or a family pack of lift tickets to Keystone while the kids are out for the winter break. This is a great way obtain not only your employee’s loyalty, but their family’s loyalty as well – and loyal families have A LOT of pull when it comes to job decisions.
- Lunch ‘n learns. The best programs are about personal enrichment – not professional training. Consider bringing in a personal trainer to talk about easy ways for busy people to work out. Maybe feature a nutritionist to talk about raising healthy kids and teaching good eating habits. Or, a time management expert to do a presentation on getting the most out of your workday so you can go home and NOT think about work. These types of presentations send the message that you care about your team as people – not just cogs in a wheel.
- Wellness Programs. Health benefits are no longer as big of a draw or a retention tool for employers because of the mandatory health care laws. Your people can probably get a similar plan independently with the affordable healthcare act. BUT, encouraging them to be healthy is something that they will appreciate. Why not have a massage therapist come in monthly, start a walking/biking/running club, or arrange to fund their membership in a health club? Yep that’s buying some loyalty.
The key point to remember in all of this is your employees are PEOPLE. They have emotions, needs, families to think about, and want to feel that they are making a difference. Great people are very hard to find and hire right now, and it’s not always just about the money. You’d be surprised how many people really value a great work environment over just the numbers. Loyalty rises as employees feel more respected and valued as a person. As a smart and savvy hiring manager, I know you’ll get out of your office and start letting your folks know how much you appreciate the work that they do – each and every day.
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About Kimberly Lucas
Kimberly Lucas is the Founder and Chief People Connector at Goldstone Partners, Inc., a Colorado-based search and talent advisory firm specializing in recruitment strategy and engaged search for privately-held companies. As a seasoned entrepreneur and career coach, Kimberly is committed to helping founders build strong, profitable companies that stand the test of time. She serves as a mentor for University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business as well as Goodwill AVID. She also serves on the board of the Rockies Venture Club and is an active facilitator at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.