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How to Keep Employees Happy On a Shoestring Budget

May 26, 2011

By: Carletta Clyatt

How do you keep an employee happy and loyal?

Some insist it’s all about cash, but in these days of workload cuts, salary freezes, abbreviated hours and shrinking financial reserves, other options must be considered. However, uncovering what, besides money, keeps each worker satisfied can be taxing since different age groups and personalities require a wide range of offerings.

To help sort it all out, here are some factors to consider before presenting any non-cash “stimulators” to help retain your employees:


What appeals to your recent Gen Y college grad may do little to impress a more seasoned Baby Boomer. Because of this, it’s important to understand the needs and expectations of each generation represented on your staff: Gen Y, born 1978-1989; Gen X, born 1965-1977; Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964; and Veterans, born prior to 1946. For example, the Gen Y group typically places a very high value on feedback, especially when it includes recognition of their skills and talents. Knowing they have a voice and will be viewed as an equal part of the team, despite their youth, gives Gen Y a much needed sense of comfort, reassurance and pride.

Gen Y will work hard but they also want quick rewards in the form of promotions and leadership roles. The more challenge, the better. They also value less traditional work hours and settings, so in addition to career growth opportunities, offer flexible schedules or environments, as they’re likely to buy generous amounts of Gen Y loyalty.

Gen X is similar to Gen Y in some ways, but perhaps even more desirous of a work-life balance. They’ve watched workaholic parents devote all their time to companies while missing out on baseball games and family dinners – only to be laid off by ungrateful corporate henchmen.

The Gen X battle cry is, “We’re not going to let that happen to us.” Therefore, perks such as company-sponsored family outings, “Bring Your Child to Work” days and flex time are apt to appeal to them and help keep them loyal.

Baby Boomers usually enjoy opportunities to mentor younger workers. They also value teamwork, genuine relationships with co-workers, and the chance for personal growth. Give them all the facts, keep communication very open and offer status-symbol awards as perks.

Veterans may rank as the most easily motivated of your employees. They often list the opportunities to stay physically active, give back, remain mentally alert and feel productive and useful among their reasons for not retiring. Position them as knowledgeable teachers and resources to your younger staff members. Be very generous with your praise, gratitude, interest and respect. 

In-Sync Management Tactics

Be a manager who’s willing to adapt yourself to meet the needs of your entire staff. The one-size-fits-all approach to management will not work in an office filled with a wide range of ages, perspectives, expectations, backgrounds and needs. Remember that employees don’t typically leave their jobs -- they leave their managers. Find out how each member of your team is wired and why he or she responds to situations in specific ways.

Tap into each individual’s expectations of you, and then assume the role that is required.  The successful manager is one who knows his or her employees so well that rewards are based on what encourages and drives each person.

The Favorites List

Some managers are asking employees to draw up a simple list which specifies favorite movies, books, music, restaurants, stores, foods, sports teams, and hobbies. They find that having this information on record makes it easier when looking to personalize a tangible gift, reward excellent performance or simply offer encouragement during an employee’s personal crisis.

Another increasingly popular management tactic is to surprise workers with a small, unexpected reward or gift. These are the days when most people find themselves nearly drowning in stress, so an expression of your thanks from “out of the blue” can be as saving and valued as a life preserver.

While it might be tempting, this is certainly not the time to eliminate rewards. The last thing you need now is a group of demoralized employees, as the price you’ll pay will be in poor quality output and low rates of production. And the cost of replacing employees is always high in terms of dollars, time and energy.

You and your staff are currently riding out the worst economic recession seen in recent history, yet be assured that new opportunities are coming, better days lie ahead. Don’t shortchange your team now. Uncover each of their unique motivators. It’s only with a satisfied, experienced and loyal staff at your command that the expectations of future unprecedented success will, in fact, become a reality.

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, is the SVP at The Omnia Group. She offers clients advice on how to manage more effectively and gain insight into employee strengths, weaknesses and behaviors. For more information about employee behavioral assessments, call Carletta at 813-280-3026 or email:

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