8 Ways to Secure Top Talent Without Offering More Salary

Offering a signing bonus or other noncash incentives can attract great employees, even if you can’t afford a high salary right now

8 Ways to Secure Top Talent Without Offering More Salary

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Hiring has never been simple. In 2019, the employment rate was at an all-time high and top candidates were able to negotiate and take their pick of jobs.

In 2020, the opposite has been true. A record number of people are out of work. You might have put a hiring freeze in place, and a lot of small businesses had to let employees go.

Even if your company hasn’t been dramatically impacted by the pandemic and resulting economic downturn, you still may not be in a position to offer a top-dollar salary when you’re looking to hire again.

An important thing to note is that salary has traditionally been king. And this king is powerful because it compounds year over year on your list of expenses. Not every company can spend more now, but every company wants to attract and retain the best talent for its team. This is where your brand can be a strategic differentiator as you explore your flexibility to spend money. But it’s important to remember that people don’t come to work just for money. Everyone wants to feel valued and do interesting work for a great company. There are a few ways to minimize the amount of extra cash you need to help land the best candidates.

As you assess your budget and hiring needs for the next several months, you may find you have less flexibility to offer bigger salaries. While everything has some cost, there are alternative areas you can invest in that cost much less and will not steadily rise like a salary. Here are eight ideas that might help you:

Offering flexibility – Whether it is the start and end time of the workday, a compressed workweek or the offer for certain office positions to work from home, these are all coveted offerings. If the job allows for flexibility, it’s worth considering.

Offering perks – There are tons of creative offerings that matter to employees and are often available at a small cost. A few examples of perks are subsidies for public transit, extra uniforms provided by the company, meal services at work, a monthly budget to use ride-sharing services instead of commuting, free or discounted laundry/dry cleaning, and popular gym or lifestyle club memberships or discounts. If possibly, you could even add the amenities to your own office building to make it even easier for your employees to take advantage of. For example, George Garner of Next Plumbing added a full-service gym complete with locker room for his staff to work out in. It’s an expense upfront, but his employees love it; and anything that improves employees’ overall health and well-being will, in turn, increase productivity.

Part-time or job-sharing work – Many people have their own reasons for wanting to work less than full time. Offering part-time or job-sharing options where two people perform what was once a full-time job can give you more coverage in talent and attract some amazing candidates who wouldn’t otherwise be a fit.

Having good managers – A positive workplace culture is a competitive advantage. If you invest in managers who care about their teams and prioritize teaching and coaching employees, you will be able to attract, develop and, most important, retain your top talent. It’s been proven many times that people work for people, not companies, so make sure you and your managers are good listeners, care about your people and can show empathy.  

Offering hiring bonus/signing bonus – A hiring bonus can be a great perk. The benefit to your bottom line is that it’s a one-time cost, not a recurring cost like a salary. For example, if you can give someone an upfront, one-time cash bonus, it will save your company money year-over-year compared to a larger starting salary. A bonus can be paid within the first three months and can have a condition of repayment if the employee leaves before a set amount of time. For hourly workers, even a few hundred dollars upfront can make a big difference.

Starting benefits coverage earlier – The traditional model for health care benefits in Canada and the U.S. has been to delay offering benefits for 90 days to get through a probation period. If you can offer these from day one, especially in the U.S. where bridging health care costs can be very high, this is a great employee incentive.

Reimbursing education costs – Another great benefit is paying for an employee’s continuing education and training. Skills change quickly, and the investment in learning benefits both the employee and the company in the long term.

Having modern work tools – Providing your employees with the latest technology and high-quality equipment shows that you are invested in the business and want them to be able to do their jobs efficiently and well. Employees take pride in their work — and greater care of the equipment — when they have top-of-the-line tools to use.

If you’re paying significantly less than your competitors, it will be hard to retain good workers. If you’re paying significantly more, it’s difficult to sustain that practice and stay profitable.

Being creative with the perks you can offer will help show job candidates you care about employees and that you understand what matters to them. 


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