There is little doubt wage rises are coming in 2022. With inflation surging and the cost of living taking centre stage this federal election, there’s now little doubt your employees will be seeking a pay rise in 2022. However, a lot of business owners feel ill-equipped to deal with higher incomes, with some telling me they’re already losing staff to competitors willing to offer more.

That’s why I thought it was time to look at non-financial benefits, or what you can do when you can’t afford a pay rise.

Reduced hours/increased time off

If you can’t afford to pay someone more, what about asking them to work less? The opportunity to take more holidays, leave work earlier or have a Flexi day each fortnight holds real appeal for many employees. That means it could be a good way to keep them on board without needing to offer more money.

If you’re worried about the impact this might have on your business’s productivity, you don’t necessarily have to be. A comprehensive Icelandic study found that there was no reduction in an organisation’s level of service when its employees went from working five days a week to four days a week. In fact, many indicators of service provision and productivity actually rose. At the same time, employees’ happiness and well-being improved dramatically.

If you’re going to go down this path though, it helps to make sure that your employees actually want to work less. For some workers, cutting hours may feel like a demotion or backwards step in their career rather than a benefit.

Other flexible working options

It’s not just time off that many employees want, it’s also the opportunity to work autonomously. During the COVID lockdowns, many of us got very used to working our own way. We often also had the opportunity to fit in more time with our families, on hobbies and just generally looking after ourselves. Now, as things return to normal, it can be a difficult thing to go back to the feeling that we always need to be in the office.

By continuing to offer some degree of flexible working even after COVID, your workplace could continue to appeal to employees even without a pay rise – especially if competitors aren’t doing the same.

Providing recognition

One of the main things employees want out of their work is the recognition for a job well done or at least the feeling that they’re not being taken for granted.  Too many employers forget this and expect their employees to keep working their best and remaining loyal, without ever letting them know how much they mean.

Don’t fall into this boat. Make sure you tell your staff how much you value them even if you can’t afford to pay more. Throw after work drinks or regular dinners to celebrate their achievements and acknowledge how they contribute.

Career mapping

While some employees are tempted to move by a short-term windfall, many look to the longer term. If you can offer a genuine and fulfilling career path, they’ll have much more incentive to stay with you. This could be a good time to sit down with the staff you want to keep to find out exactly what they want from their careers and how you can help facilitate it. By following through, you’ll be giving them more reason to stay than just pay.

Know where you stand

Finally, before you say no to a pay rise, you need to do your homework and find out exactly where you stand. If your employees are covered by Awards or Agreements and these provide for a pay increase, you may have no option but to pay more.

You should also review your bottom line, to work out how much is coming in and what’s going out. If you find that you need to increase pay, it may be time to increase your prices…

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about how to get non-financial benefits work for your business, get in touch.

Thinking of selling your business? Your Human Resources (HR) policies, processes and practices are all likely to have an impact on the price you receive. 

We explore what you need to do to get your business HR ready for sale so that you secure top dollar when it comes time to sell.  

1. Have the right HR policies in place

First and foremost, any potential buyer will usually want to know how your business functions from an HR perspective. Even more importantly, that your HR policies will continue to function when the buyer takes over. They’ll also want to know that you have established HR customs and procedures that don’t conflict too much with their own. 

This means always taking the time to document and write down your HR policies and procedures before your business goes to market. This means everything from employee leave and flexible working hours through to termination and redundancy.

2. Understand your HR liabilities

The other key concern most buyers will have is your HR liabilities. They’ll usually go through a due diligence process to uncover these (or at least their lawyers will). When they do, they’ll notice things like “golden parachutes” for managers, massive redundancy entitlements, large looming bonuses and, most importantly, excessive leave liabilities. 

To get the best price, you’ll need to keep these to a minimum. If a member of staff has accrued more than eight weeks’ annual leave, you may be within your rights to ask them to use some of it. You should also be prudent when it comes to agreeing on severance terms with senior staff.  

3. Do what you can to retain key staff

One of the most challenging things to do will be convincing your employees to stay on after the sale. Some buyers will stipulate as a condition of sale that your key employees stay. This is especially true of any businesses that rely specifically on the skill of the staff to make money (ie professional services), as well as for relationships-based businesses. 

Key employee retention is also important when the sale doesn’t involve a merger or acquisition by a similar business. That’s because the buyer won’t have existing employees to take over that workload.  

Losing key staff in the run-up to a sale is also likely to diminish your business’s value. Reassuring them about their value is obviously a start, but sometimes it takes offering them incentives for them to stay. You may find you need to offer loyalty bonuses in this regard.

4. Keep up employee morale

A buyer is able to see a workplace with poor employee morale or a toxic workplace culture. They will notice workers who are disengaged and productivity that is slipping. To get the best value of your sale, you need to prevent this from happening. That involves communication.

It’s only natural employees will be worried, and let’s face it, perhaps some staff have every right to be. But you also need to let employees know the positives that new owners will bring. Will there be increased opportunities? A new direction? The chance to play out on a bigger stage? Just be sure that you’re realistic about what the future brings as promising the world is likely to have the reverse effect.

Also, keep your door open and let people come to you with their fears. Staying open and honest is vital. 

5. Make sure you’re compliant

Finally, one of the main HR-related exposures any business buyer can face is inheriting non-compliance with a law, regulation, award or agreement. Here, it’s your responsibility to make sure the buyer won’t uncover any major surprises in their due diligence. 

The way to do that is to audit your HR policies and practices. You need to find out where your exposures lie. Then you can make them right and make an educated decision on how to best approach things. 

Uncovering a major breach of law can make a buyer nervous and leave them wondering what other exposures they may be facing. 

Are your HR policies ready for sale?

Selling a business can be a long and drawn-out process. Any serious buyer is going to take time going through every detail to make certain they know what they’re buying. By identifying and correcting any HR-related issues, you’ll be in a much stronger negotiating position and more likely to get the best price. 

If you’d like to get your business and HR policies ready for sale, speak to the Catalina Consultants team.