The people who work for your company are the lifeblood of your business. There is a reason why labor strikes are such an effective collective bargaining tool. Without skilled workers, your company shuts down. It is as simple as that. Being too cavalier about the general mood of those who work for you is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. 

If you were capable of running your business by yourself, you would have never hired employees in the first place. The fact that you did means you need them. And you can’t afford to lose them. There are a number of ways to hang on to good employees. Once you find one, you definitely want to keep him. After all, it is true what they say: Good help is hard to find. Every employer also knows that once found, good help is hard to keep.

It is somewhat easier to keep good help if you have an unlimited budget. But because no one does, we have to find creative ways to make our employees feel like a million bucks without actually paying a million bucks. The trick is understanding what motivates people to do their best work. Believe it or not, it is not always money. Here are three ways to keep your employees happy without breaking the bank:


You would be amazed at the amount of loyalty you could buy for $2 a day. 2 cans of Coke, a bag of chips, and 3 cups of Jo would do the trick for most of the people who work for you. In bulk, none of those things are expensive. Yet many an employee has all but crawled out of their skin because they didn’t have the cash on hand to feed a vending machine. That’s lost productivity.

If you don’t want your employees hopped up on all that sugar and caffeine, you can provide something like an Aramark filtered water dispenser that taps directly into the company water supply, offering unlimited clean water without bottles or jugs. Doughnuts in the morning do more to inspire people to get to work on time than a month of lectures and threats. Clean, delicious water should be table stakes. Keep them refreshed, and you’ll keep them, period.

Honor the Clock

At many places of business, there are the work hours, and the “real” work hours. Seldom are those the same thing, at least, not here in the states. Many employers expect workers to come in early, stay late, and bring their work home for processing over the weekend. Not only does this dishonor the original employment agreement, it disrespects the employees time and commitments outside of work. It is one thing if you as a founder, treat your own time that way. But you have no right to treat an employee as if she cheated you out of an honest day’s work just because she doesn’t behave like an entrepreneur with no work/life balance.

Paper Promotions and Expanded Roles

Perhaps even better than money, one of the best ways to keep an employee happy is to make them feel important. And the best way to make a person feel important is to give them something important to do. When additional pay is not involved, this has to be done very carefully to avoid the appearance of creating unpaid, and thus, unappreciated labor.

Never assign extra responsibilities. Award them. Make it feel like a promotion. And don’t forget to include a title with that unpaid promotion. Make her a team lead, project manager, or any appropriate title that also conveys accomplishment, and looks good on a resume’. The title denotes achievement to the person holding the title, to her coworkers, and to the next, potential employer. Cheating a person out of their rightful title is just as bad as cheating them out of a paycheck, maybe worse. The title IS a form of payment that can be cashed in at a later date. It can definitely keep a good person who is on the fence.

Keeping good people is not always easy. But it most certainly does not have to be expensive.

By Kar

Dr. Kar works in the interface of digital transformation and data science. Professionally a professor in one of the top B-Schools of Asia and an alumni of XLRI, he has extensive experience in teaching, training, consultancy and research in reputed institutes. He is a regular contributor of Business Fundas and a frequent author in research platforms. He is widely cited as a researcher. Note: The articles authored in this blog are his personal views and does not reflect that of his affiliations.

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