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Lead Your Team Managing

11 Secrets to Keeping Employees Happy (Without a Raise)

11 Secrets to Keeping Employees Happy (Without a Raise)
Credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Want to retain your best employees? Your first thought may be to offer them a raise, but as it turns out, the old adage is right: Money doesn't buy happiness.

"Bonuses, company perks and paid days off aren't enough to keep employees happy," said Pete Pedone, president and founder of home audio/video system design firm Interactive Home. "Showing an employee how much the company appreciates, respects and values them on a personal level is much more gratifying."

Many studies have shown that employees with high job satisfaction are generally more productive, engaged and loyal to their companies. Hiring managers, HR experts and business leaders weighed in on the best ways to keep employees satisfied when salary isn't the driving factor.

"Our employee engagement survey found that the No. 1 contributor to employee happiness is transparency. Money and promotions are important, but what people want to know is the truth about the state of the company. The cost of improving transparency is almost zero, but it requires an ongoing dialogue between management and staff." – B.J. Shannon, manager of customer happiness at TINYpulse

"To engage the workforce and remain competitive, it's no longer sufficient to focus solely on benefits. Top employers create an environment where employees feel connected to the organization and have a positive work experience that's part of a rich, fulfilling life. David Ballard, assistant executive director for organizational excellence at the American Psychological Association

"Businesses should take steps to create spaces where employees can easily communicate and share ideas. Casual conversations in the break room can become collaborative conversations. Make it inviting and effective, with nice furniture, tables, and snacks and beverages, if possible." – Tom Heisroth, senior vice president at Staples Advantage

"[Our research] found that providing developmental support, such as training opportunities and career mentoring, to employees who do not believe there are attractive career opportunities for them within the company led to such employees leaving the organization. It's critical for businesses to have regular career planning discussions with their employees. As part of training and development, make sure employees are aware of the different types of career paths or job opportunities throughout the company." – Maria Kraimer, business professor at the University of Iowa

"Achievement and recognition are high motivators for employees. If they take risks, reward them. Give them a coupon to go out for dinner, an extra day off, tickets to a show, etc. The small stuff adds up." – Charley Polachi, managing partner at Polachi Access Executive Search

"We are seeing employers increasingly realize the importance that health and productivity programs can play in their efforts to control health care costs and maintain a productive workforce. While the outcomes of any one tactic can't be guaranteed, high-effectiveness companies with thoughtful, multifaceted programs are reaping clear returns on their investments in workforce health." Wendy Poirier, health and group benefits leader at Towers Watson

"There are many ways to supplement salary by assisting employees in other areas of their lives. You can offer an extra level of life insurance or disability insurance for employees to protect their incomes. Other ancillary benefits, such as dental, optical [and] wellness, are all well received by employees. And gym memberships and transit benefits are great perks to keep employees happy and healthy. It is important to [provide] higher benefits so your employees know that you truly care about them and their families." – Bobby Hotaling, president and CEO of The Hotaling Group

"Many employees feel that a flooded inbox and a constant string of meetings waste time and hinder productivity. Replace some of those emails and meetings with technology that helps them save time and collaborate more efficiently." – Sydney Sloan, director of customer and social marketing at Jive

"The best benefit you can provide to your employees is the opportunity to make a difference through their work and help guide the course of the company. Benefits such as clear and frequent communication on company happenings, individual and department direction, and big-picture company direction make all the difference in employee happiness." Anthony Smith, CEO and founder of Insightly

"A one-on-one conversation with an employee or group dinner goes a long way. Whether it be a private conversation at the start of the day, taking them out to lunch or even a beer after work, [it] helps keep that bond. Once you stop 'showing the love,' you begin to lose employees. A small company has to go the extra step." – Pete Pedone

"Companies should consider surveying their own workforce to gauge their satisfaction levels. Insights from employees themselves can point employers in the right direction for shaping a more a positive and creative work environment, and for developing more formal career development programs. By partnering with employees to improve their satisfaction levels, employers will reap business benefits today and tomorrow." – Sandy Mazur, president of Spherion

This article was originally published in 2014 and was updated Jan. 4, 2016. Additional reporting by Business News Daily contributor Dave Mielach.

Nicole Fallon Taylor

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.