Woman relaxing on a hammock while working on a laptop.
Perks like more time off and flexible work schedules can matter more to many employees than a raise in salary. — Getty Images/Thomas Barwick

As a small business owner, you want to find ways to keep your employees happy but may not be in a financial position to give them raises. Fortunately, there are other ways to keep your employees engaged. Here are five ideas to try.

Unlimited paid time off (PTO)

Giving your employees unlimited paid time off (PTO) means there’s no limit to the number of paid days off they can take during the year. Instead, employees can take time off as needed if they can still get their work done.

There are many benefits to offering employees unlimited PTO. This policy motivates employees to use their time more efficiently, and it saves you from having to keep track of how many vacation days your employees have taken. And there’s no rush for employees to use up all their vacation days come December.

If you decide to offer this perk, set clear expectations around how this policy works. For instance, employees will still have performance standards they need to meet. And unlimited PTO means employees won’t receive a payout for vacation days after they quit.

[Read more: Health and Wellness Benefits You Can Offer Part-Time Employees]

One-time bonus

Maybe you can’t afford to provide an ongoing pay raise, but you can afford to give employees a one-time bonus. Since bonuses are a variable cost, they can be easier for business owners to manage.

The first step is to decide how you will structure your bonuses. For instance, will they be merit-based or just a one-time reward for everyone based on the company’s success?

You’ll also need to determine how you will pay out bonuses. If the bonuses are for a smaller amount, you can provide cash bonuses. Or you can give a bonus in the form of equity or stock options.

Flexible working schedule

A flexible work schedule means employees have a say in where they work and how they structure their days. This type of benefit is highly in demand — a McKinsey study found that 87% of employees who are offered a flexible work schedule will take advantage of it.

Studies have also shown that when employers offer flexible work schedules, this helps improve employee retention. It also helps you attract top talent to your organization, increase workplace productivity, and improve employee engagement.

[Read more: How to Keep Track of Remote Workers]

A flexible work schedule means employees have a say in where they work and how they structure their days. This type of benefit is highly in demand — a McKinsey study found that 87% of employees who are offered a flexible work schedule will take advantage of it.

Provide better benefits

Health, vision, and dental are part of a standard benefits package for full-time employees. But providing a more comprehensive benefits package can be a great way to improve employee morale. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), 80% of Americans prefer a job with benefits over higher pay.

If you want to figure out what benefits to offer, consider your employees' age ranges and lifestyles. For instance, a student loan reimbursement program may be an attractive benefit if you have mostly younger employees.

If any of your employees are parents, offering parental leave or orthodontic coverage could be appealing. You could also provide your employees with a personal spending account that they can use for health benefits.

Professional growth opportunities

Another way to keep employees engaged is by offering professional growth opportunities. This is different from simply training your employees — training focuses on their ability to do their current job, while professional development focuses on their future with the company.

These types of programs benefit the business and its employees. Employees find more purpose and contentment in their job when they see a career path they can work towards. And companies that offer these opportunities reduce their employee turnover.

Start by meeting with your employees regularly to discuss their job performance and areas where they could benefit from professional development. From there, you can develop a plan to help employees continue to advance within the company.

[Read more: How to Develop a Growth Path for Employees]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

To stay on top of all the news impacting your small business, go here for all of our latest small business news and updates.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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Published September 30, 2022