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3 Ways to Retain Top Performers Without Increasing Their Salary

As the labor market across nearly all industries continues to tighten, companies are taking more aggressive steps to retain their best talent.

While simply paying your top performers more can be an effective retention tool, it isn’t the only way to keep your best and brightest around. Plus, a salary boost isn’t always feasible, particularly for startups and other small businesses with limited resources.

Here are three ways to keep top performers without breaking the bank.

Offer More Flexibility

Robin Schooling, head of people at Strio Consulting, says that if you don’t already offer flexible schedules or remote-work options, it’s time to consider it. This could include allowing people to adjust their start and end times, to come to the office just a few days per week or to not be tied down to an office at all.

Schooling says the desire for more flexible time and remote work is an undeniable trend among younger workers. “I certainly see it on the candidate side,” she says. “Quite often the candidates will ask ‘Is there remote work’ or ‘Can I work from home a couple of days a week?’ If companies say they don't offer remote work, they’re going to lose out on candidates on the front end before they ever get them in the door.”

Vacation policies are also good places to implement additional flexibility, she says. Providing flexible or unlimited vacation rather than a prescribed number of days can work particularly well for salaried employees. “There is no additional cost to your company’s bottom line and, if you’re truly a results-driven organization, this works well,” she says. “People focus on getting their job done and then have the freedom to take off when and how they wish.”

It’s also important to encourage people to actually take their time off — and to build a full break from the workplace into your culture. “We’ve actually written it out in our policy: ‘When you’re on vacation that means unplug,’” she says. “We don't want you to be answering the phone or answering emails. Truly get away.”

Help with Professional Development

A 2018 survey found that nearly 90% of millennials were looking to grow their career within their current employer. The same survey found that offering career training and development would keep 86 percent of millennials from leaving their job.

“People want to continue to grow their skills and professional capabilities — so find ways to do that,” Schooling says. “If you’re not big enough to have an internal learning and development department, make sure they're getting that elsewhere.”

One way to do that is to cover the membership costs for professional organizations and give your employees a budget so they can attend events or conferences, she says. Not only does this provide people with valuable skills, but it benefits your business when your employees keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date, she says.

Empower Your Employees

Empowerment means letting your employees have control over their own work and letting them unleash their creativity to find the best way to get their work done. This requires more focus on outcomes and less attention paid to processes.

“People don’t want to adhere to tedious processes or stick to the conventional framework if there’s a better way,” Schooling says. “Make sure your top performers have the freedom to adjust how they get their work done.”

In certain situations, giving a top performer a new title can provide a mental boost and extra sheen with external customers, while also acknowledging a shift in responsibilities or a change in the scope of their job.

This is often an effective motivator for external-facing positions such as sales and marketing, Schooling says, although you should use it judiciously to avoid inflated titles that don’t actually match job duties. “You have to think about the unintended consequences that could flow from that,” she says.

Stephen Loy