Randstad's latest research into employer branding and what people want from their jobs has shown that attractive salary and benefits remain the most important factor for 62% of workers in 2021.

However, this was closely followed by other motivators that were more related to personal wellbeing and happiness:

  • Work/life balance (58%)
  • Job security (56%)
  • Pleasant work atmosphere (55%)
  • Career progression (49%)

COVID-19 and other recent challenges have left many countries and individual organizations in a difficult financial situation. As a result, it might be difficult for HR managers and business owners to justify raising pay or providing financial bonuses for hardworking staff who have helped their companies get through this challenging time.

Fortunately, there are various non-monetary incentives you can use to motivate your workforce and retain your most valuable people. Here are ten examples:

1. flexible working arrangements 

Flexible and remote working became essential for many employers during the pandemic, as physical distancing restrictions made normal workplace arrangements impossible. This is expected to have permanent consequences for the world of work. More than three-quarters (78%) of CEOs surveyed by PwC said remote collaboration will be an enduring shift in the post-pandemic world, while 61% said the same about low-density workplaces.

Giving people who have proven themselves trustworthy the option to continue working flexibly or remotely on a permanent basis could be an effective way to reward them. It will help them achieve a better work/life balance and free up time they would otherwise spend commuting.

Flexible working can encompass anything from giving employees the freedom to work from home on a certain number of days each week, to letting people choose their own core working hours instead of the typical 9 to 5.

2. training

As our latest Employer Brand Research showed, career progression opportunities are an important factor for nearly half (49%) of people when choosing an employer. One effective way you can reward and recognize your employees is by providing training opportunities that will help them learn new skills and move forward in their careers. 

This doesn't have to be an expensive undertaking, especially if you have experienced employees in your workforce who have knowledge and capabilities they can pass on to their colleagues.

Furthermore, providing training for your workforce can position your organization for future success by helping you nurture talent and plug skills gaps.

3. direct recognition for staff who consistently excel

Sometimes, all employees want is a small gesture or sign of appreciation from their manager or employer, so they know that all their hard work isn't going unnoticed. Past research has highlighted the connection between staff recognition and retention.

Recognizing people's efforts and achievements could be as simple as sending an email (with business leaders copied in) to offer congratulations on a job well done, or mentioning individual successes during monthly meetings.

4. days off (outside annual leave) 

Our survey showed that work/life balance is the second most important factor for people evaluating potential employers, after salary and benefits. Employees with a good work/life balance are more likely to feel happy and engaged in their jobs, which is good not only for the individual, but for the business in the long term.

One way to help your people achieve a better balance between their work and home lives is by offering occasional bonus days off, possibly as a reward for outstanding performance or for going above and beyond the requirements of their role.

5. themed days

Celebrating occasions and hosting fun, informal events in the workplace can be a good way to reward your employees, boost morale and strengthen relationships between co-workers. This will contribute to a positive work atmosphere, which 55% of respondents to our survey cited as an important consideration for them.

There are many events throughout the year you could invite your workforce to celebrate, such as International Picnic Day, which could be marked by people eating their lunch outdoors in the nearest green space. There's even a Leave the Office Earlier Day

6. rewards based on personal interests

Offering rewards based on people's passions and hobbies will make your employees feel appreciated and will also show that you're interested in them as individuals, not just as members of the workforce.

Examples might include local gym memberships, restaurant vouchers or theater tickets.

7. time out of normal work commitments

Most employees will be accustomed to using all of their time at work to focus on the essential requirements of their role. Freeing up people's time to work on projects they may be passionate about, but aren't strictly related to your core business, is one way to reward them for their loyalty and boost their job satisfaction.

According to research published in the Harvard Business Review, helping workers find and pursue their passions is something that sets apart those companies that are considered the "best" to work for.

8. monthly or quarterly awards

Regular, informal awards events can provide the opportunity to showcase and celebrate the efforts of staff who consistently excel in their roles.

It can be beneficial to include peer-nominated awards, which will contribute to a sense of camaraderie in the workforce and reward those employees who show strong leadership skills and consistently help their colleagues.

9. volunteering opportunities

Recent research in the UK showed that 21% of employees were already putting their work skills to use in a voluntary capacity, while 50% would be interested in volunteering using their professional expertise.

As an employer, you can help people achieve this ambition by giving them the time and support they need to pursue volunteering opportunities. As well as providing a beneficial break from their regular work, this can lead to higher morale and job satisfaction as employees take part in altruistic activities.

10. experience in other roles

Gaining experience in different roles, disciplines and departments within your business can provide a number of benefits for your staff, including more variety in their work and a broader perspective on how the organization functions. It can also support your company-wide skills development efforts and boost people's future employability.

If your business has multiple premises, you could give employees the opportunity to work in a different location for a limited time, which will add some variety to their jobs and open them up to new experiences.

Rewards are a way to show appreciation for your workers' efforts, and while extra pay and financial bonuses are frequently cited as the strongest motivators, it's often the intangible, non-monetary rewards that have the biggest impact on morale. Regardless of the benefits you're able to offer staff, try to make your company a place where hard work is recognized and celebrated on a regular basis.

Find out more about what workers really want from their employers in our 2021 Randstad Employer Brand Research.