4 Ways Great Managers Reward Employees When Money is Tight

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April 22, 2024 at 10:23PM UTC
It's 2020 — I don't need to tell you that millions of people have been laid off or furloughed this year. Meanwhile, many professionals who still hold a job are operating on strict budgets, under larger workloads. That combination spells disaster for employee morale. 
How can managers keep spirits high, even if they can't give out the compensation increases they feel their employees rightfully deserve? Here are four things great managers do to make up for that lost bump: 

1. They make their employees' lives more flexible. 

How a boss interacts with their team can be just as important as how you pay them when it comes to retention. In fact, in a 2015 Gallup poll, over half of the 7,200 surveyed workers said they left their job to “get away from their manager to improve their overall life.” The boss employees are most likely to run away from? The micromanager. One survey of over 2,000 employees by Comparably found that micromanaging was the worst trait a boss can have. Not only do micromanagers kill employees' self-esteem, they also cause undue stress. According to NPR, a "lack of autonomy at work elevates stress hormones and can have other negative health effects, potentially even hastening mortality." 
To make their employees feel more trusted and less stressed, good managers offer them the drivers' seat over their own schedule. They may offer them the chance to choose their own start and end times, how often check in meetings occur, or what projects they take on. They may also offer special considerations for top performers, like independently scheduled mental health breaks or afternoons off. 

2. They provide meaningful feedback. 

People want to feel important, and they want to feel invested in. If a manager can't invest in them with cash, there are other ways to make them feel like valuable members of the team. One of the methods most employed by great managers: Consistent feedback. 
"Providing the right type of feedback, within the context of job expectations and responsibilities, not only dramatically improves an individual’s work performance, but helps build trusting relationships and a willingness to excel — crucial elements in job satisfaction and enduring employee retention," The Alternative Board writes
Strong managers can provide this experience to their teams by meeting with them one-on-one, routinely, to talk not just about their day-to-day work but about their overarching objectives and development. Strong managers prepare for these meetings by keeping note of positive and constructive comments they want to provide about a variety of the employees' work, and by offering time for the employee to provide feedback and ask questions, too. After all, feedback is a two-way street. 
Strong managers may make create feedback opportunities for especially promising employees. They may offer lunches to discuss feedback on big-picture projects or initiatives, or special recognition from senior leaders via email or one-on-one meeting. 

3. They provide ample opportunities to grow.

Not only do employees want to feel important, they want to feel that they're improving. One survey found that 92% of employees think having access to professional development is important and employees with professional development opportunities have 34% higher retention rates. 
Managers can create these opportunities for their team in a variety of affordable ways. They may carve out time in the employees' day for courses, seminars or a stretch project. They may set their employees up with mentors from within the company or from within their own networks. Or, they may take the time to have a career-trajectory conversation and develop a growth plan that aligns in-house projects with the employees' goals. 

4. They offer transparency and continued advocacy.

Trust is what keeps great employees on a team — and working hard. Great managers are transparent — within reason — about decisions to promote and give raises. They give honest feedback and provide intel into when the employees' next chance to be formally reviewed is, then align them with ideas of how to keep up their good work or how to improve. When they manage an exceptional employee, they advocate for them — and make it known that they're doing so. The most appreciated boss is one who's on your side. Not because they have to be, but because you're great.

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