6 low-cost or no-cost things employers can provide instead of a raise

On the Job

6 low-cost or no-cost things employers can provide instead of a raise

It’s time for your annual performance review. You’ve had a great year. Accomplished your goals. Taken on extra assignments. But when your manager shares the amount of your annual pay increase … well, you’re less than excited.

This scenario happens frequently. Many organizations have budget constraints that don’t permit them to give employees as much as they’d like when it comes to pay increases. But that doesn’t mean you have to walk away unhappy. There are a few low-cost or no-cost things employers can provide — if you ask. Here are six of them:

1. A different job title. For organizations, a job title has no cost (except maybe to print new business cards). For employees, a job title is very valuable. It’s an indicator of your skills and can be valuable on your resume. If you’re a senior manager, having your job title reclassified to director could be a big deal in your career.

2. Wellness programs. It’s possible to ask for items or activities related to wellness and wellbeing. Tim Reiter, senior staffing consultant at Unum, says one of the most common requests he’s heard is for access to gyms or fitness centers. You could also pitch the idea of getting a standing desk or under-the-desk elliptical.

3. Remote work.
Leisha Rogers, staffing consultant at Unum, said the most common request she sees is being able to work from home. Even if it’s only one day a week, it can make a huge difference in work-life balance, stress levels, commute times and your dry-cleaning bill. Not everyone enjoys the remote work environment, but for those who do, it can be a valuable no-cost perk.

4. Flexible work schedules.
If organizations are reluctant to offer remote work, that doesn’t mean flexible scheduling is off the table. Reiter suggests flexible scheduling, including the ability to work a 4-day work week, could be attractive to employees. This can also be an attractive benefit for organizations to offer new hires in lieu of a higher starting salary.

5. Professional development. This is a real win for employees and employers. Professional development opportunities can include conferences, certification programs, seminars and training. And not all these events have to involve travel. Many organizations have virtual events employees can participate in from home or their office.

6. Volunteer time. An increasing number of employees want to work for organizations with a sense of community. A very low-cost perk that’s a win for employees and companies is volunteer time off. Employees get to give back to an organization that needs support. Organizations can support the employee and the community at the same time.

How to ask for a perk (instead of a pay increase)
Before having a conversation with your manager to ask for a perk, take these steps first:

• Review company policies and the employee handbook. Rogers recommends doing some research on what’s currently in place. The last thing an employee should do is ask for a perk that doesn’t align with company policy, because it’ll be immediately rejected. A request should be something the company would seriously consider.

• Conduct a cost/benefit analysis. This doesn’t have to be elaborate, according to Reiter. “The idea is to bring solutions on how the request will benefit (not hurt) the employer.” Come prepared to discuss any potential costs and how granting this request would benefit morale, the workplace and the company’s bottom-line.

During the conversation, don’t press for an immediate answer. Give the company time to consider all the options. It’s possible they might come back and ask for more clarification or even request to negotiate.

Organizations and employees want the same things. They want to work someplace where they can do good work and get paid fairly for it. But compensation isn’t always about the amount of money we get in our paychecks. Perks like flexible schedules, professional development and volunteer time can be a boost for employees and employers. It takes research and open discussion to find the right mix.

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