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Low-cost strategies to attract and retain the best workers

4-minute read

What is the cost of losing a good employee? Entrepreneurs know it can be high.

At Frima Studio, a fast-growing video game maker based in Quebec City, the challenge of attracting and keeping talent got harder a few years ago when a pair of deep-pocketed multinational competitors opened offices nearby.

“We couldn’t compete on salary, so we decided to create an attractive workplace─one that was fun and inspiring,” says Nathalie McLaughlin, Frima’s Human Resources Director.

Use an array of benefits

Twice a year, Frima emulates the Dragons’ Den TV show and invites its employees to pitch innovative projects to a panel of judges.

“If we judge a project to be solid enough and have sufficient marketing potential, we will release its creators from a few of their usual tasks so they can devote one day a week to the development of their amazing idea. A few months later, we review the state of the project and decide if it’s worth pursuing, in which case we greenlight its production and marketing,” McLaughlin says.

The array of benefits designed to make Frima’s employees’ lives easier includes flexible work hours, as well as a week of paid vacation between December 25 and the New Year. The company also offers employees gaming areas and an on-site gym. Twice a month, two massage therapists and a hair stylist also drop by.

Frima isn’t alone in turning to creative ways to provide employees with non-monetary rewards.

Salary alone is not enough

As Baby Boomers leave the labour market, many entrepreneurs are finding it difficult to find skilled employees to replace them. Companies in all industries—not just tech—increasingly see non-financial compensation as a solution to their staffing challenges.

Non-financial benefits can be inexpensive and can boost a company’s productivity. The rewards are even greater when we consider that losing an employee is very costly.

Develop the employee experience

At Frima, the employee-friendly workplace became a beacon for smart, enthusiastic workers who have helped propel the company’s explosive growth. “The key to our success is our work culture,” McLaughlin says. “We listen to employees a lot. People always talk about the customer experience. We have developed the employee experience. It means people don’t want to leave.”

Frima also has a performance reward system that awards points that employees can exchange for services, thus reinforcing the company’s commitment to helping employees maintain work-family balance. Perks include tax preparation, lawn mowing, babysitting, movie/dinner combos and more.

Frima’s success shows that while pay is important, it isn’t what makes employees happy at work. Employees want flexibility, trust and the chance to develop as part of a team. And just as we spend time listening to customers to serve them better, we also need to listen to employees.

How to compensate without cash

Entrepreneurs should listen to employees to learn what benefits they value and work on non-financial compensation constantly until it becomes part of the company’s way of life. Here are three types of non-financial compensation to consider.

1. Flexibility

A flexible workplace is increasingly in demand. You can offer flexibility in terms of time (variable work hours) and space (opportunities to work outside the office).

2. Trust

Employees like to have responsibility, work in a harmonious environment and be trusted to make decisions. At the same time, you should hold employees accountable via solid performance appraisals.

3. Self-development

Entrepreneurs should think about how to help employees develop themselves. The result will be more a productive and motivated workforce.