When performance review time rolls around, do you experience more stress fretting over how you'll manage to reward your team than you do worrying about your own evaluation? You've just been notified that there's no room in the budget for pay increases this year. Do you say, "Sorry, maybe next year," or do you wrack your brain to come up with an acceptable Plan B?
There are often larger factors at play within a company when annual pay increases are placed on hold-- factors that most likely are outside of your control. And so, you're stuck. You know you have well-deserving top performers on your team that have earned recognition and reward. And, you certainly don't want them to become dissatisfied and seek employment elsewhere. The question is, then: How can you boost engagement in your top performers when offering a pay increase isn't an option?
Find out what's important to them
While your top performers would likely appreciate a raise, if your hands are truly tied and you cannot offer a pay increase, you'll need to get your creative wheels turning. Exceptional employees are motivated by other factors as well, and it's your job to investigate by asking questions to find out just what those motivators might be. Then create an action plan for rewarding your top performers in creative ways other than a straight pay increase. Showing an employee you value his or her contribution to the company can have a positive impact on employee engagement, employee satisfaction, and employee retention.
Incentive ideas that won't break the bank
1. Grant them more authority. Part of why a raise or promotion may be so appealing to a high performer is the authority and responsibility that goes along with it. Sixty-three percent of millennials do not feel that their leadership skills are being developed, according to a Deloitte Millennial Survey. If an employee has earned it, grant her more decision-making power and ownership of projects.
2. Offer them an interesting challenge. High-performing employees are often excited by new challenges. Does someone on your team express interest in spearheading a large project, expanding their sales territory, or working cross-functionally with other departments? Let them. The time allotted for performance reviews can be used to introduce new and exciting project assignments.
3. Get flexible with working times/locations. Working flexible hours or remotely is the dream of many employees nowadays. If you trust your top performers, and can offer these allowances without disrupting the regular workflow, do so. This can mean much more to some than any monetary reward.
4. Add some vacation days. Time off! Who wouldn't want more? Giving an employee additional vacation days or PTO is another way to incentivize someone who has earned it.
5. Teach them something. Again, your high-performers are usually the type of individuals who want to better themselves, and have the energy and desire to learn. Find out what interests them professionally, and afford them time and resources to cross-train, learn a new skill, or obtain a relevant certification.
Do the best you can to advocate for pay raises for your well-deserving team. But, if that's simply not possible, come up with another plan for recognition. Remember to tailor the reward to the individual if at all possible. Motivation is not one-size-fits-all, and its important to get to know your employees aspirations and desires in order to ensure they feel valued by you and the company.