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Engage and retain employees without increasing salary

Updated on January 30, 2024

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Topics Covered:

Attracting and retaining talent

Rewards and recognition

The 2024 Engagement and Retention Report from Achievers Workforce Institute shows that while base pay is a reason to job hunt, when people are paid above a living wage they are able to prioritize other factors.

Is compensation king? It’s the #1 reason employees say they’ll job hunt in 2024 — leapfrogging last year’s leader: work flexibility — but the latest data shows that the right company culture and employee experience outweighs salary for engagement and retention.

What matters more than money for motivating the masses?

Most people are motivated by more than money, including by things like career growth, recognition, strong friendships, and more. AWI’s research, based on insights from 3,800 employees, found five things that correlate with lower job hunting, higher productivity, and better job satisfaction.

Five factors for feeling rewarded

1. Culture alignment

When employees say their company’s decisions align with organizational values, they are more committed and productive.

2. Recognition

Monthly or more frequent recognition increases employees’ job satisfaction, productivity, and intention to stay.

3. Relationships

Employees who have strong connections at work are more likely to stick around longer and say they are their most productive selves.

4. Feedback

Companies that gather and act on employee feedback have a workforce that feels engaged, valued, and has a strong sense of belonging.

5. Career progression

When employees say they see people who look and identify like them at work, they are more likely to say they plan to stay with their current employer for a long time.

How can companies retain talent without offering the highest pay?

Companies can retain talent without offering the highest pay by improving other parts of work that make employees feel valued and rewarded — sometimes called emotional salary. Non-monetary factors that impact employee satisfaction include purpose, recognition, feedback, culture, and friendships at work.

Most employees would prefer to stay where they are valued and supported over a role that paid more but didn’t have those traits

Can companies compete for top talent without paying the most?

Companies can compete for top talent without paying the most in the market. In fact, competing on salary alone is unlikely to be successful in the long run because employees won’t stick around if the culture is lacking. Employer brand is crucial and there are a number of things Total Rewards leaders can do to impact your company’s reputation.

3 Total Rewards initiatives to attract, retain, and motivate

1. Frequent, meaningful recognition

Compared to people recognized just quarterly, employees recognized at least monthly are 57% more likely to say they would recommend their company to others, 52% more likely to say they’re productive at work, and 43% more likely to say they rarely think about job hunting.

2. High impact rewards

Two-thirds of employees say they prefer personalized rewards over generic ones, but many employees are still being given generic rewards or have to select from a small range of options. Employees who say they can choose a personalized gift for years of service acknowledgements are almost twice as likely as average to say they can see themselves having a long career at their company.

3. Awards that drive results

Over 90% of HR leaders say their company’s annual awards drive results, but just half of employees say their company has annual awards with a prize they value, indicating that at best, these awards are motivating just half of the workforce. Reassess your awards to ensure it’s motivating more people and you’ll see that impact performance and retention.

Ready to learn more about motivating beyond money?


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