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The 5 Raises that Fit Any Budget


Let’s face it. Budgets are tight. Raise pools are shallow. And even as business improves, we may find that the new normal is considerably leaner than it used to be.

If you’re a manager, you may feel like your hands are tied when it comes to motivating and growing your employees.  Without money…

  • How can you keep employees engaged?
  • How can you reward their good work?
  • How can you retain your best talent?

Even if your budget is absolutely zero, there are still five raises available to leaders and managers in any organization.

Raise the bar

2010 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships

Motivated employees want to achieve. Your best and brightest will remain engaged as long as there are meaningful challenges before them. So, take the time to talk with them. Understand their interests and passions. Help them keep their focus upward and forward by jointly setting ambitious goals and expectations that challenge their capacity and provide a springboard for greater growth.

Raise the subject

Career Development. Too frequently managers avoid this topic. They believe that if they don’t talk about it, employees might not think about it… and the status quo will be protected. They fear that they can’t deliver what employees want anyway (raises, promotions, the corner office), so why feed the frustration?

But, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Development is on people’s minds whether you raise the subject or not. In fact, the only thing more dangerous to the status quo than discussing development, is NOT discussing it.

My own qualitative research suggests that just talking with employees about their careers increases career satisfaction. Just raising the subject gets people thinking.  And, since career development is an ‘inside job’ for the employee, this is a powerful first step.

Raise the flag

Provide feedback to others. Especially in leaner times, information about how one is performing and how to enhance performance is a currency managers can spend freely. People are hungry – in some organization starving – for the nourishment that accompanies this type of information. And, it costs literally nothing except some attention to what’s going on and a moment to communicate it.

Raise awareness.

About possibilities and opportunities. Recent research I conducted with Beverly Kaye suggests a surprising #1 answer to the question: What do employees want most out of career conversations with their managers? Creative ways to use their talents.

Talents and capabilities yearn to be honored, used, and stretched. Managers who understand this are in a perfect position to raise awareness about the possibilities and opportunities to leverage talents in novel ways to support the business. Doing this is the ultimate two-fer:

  1. The employee grows… along with his/her engagement, fulfillment, and satisfaction
  2. Legitimate organizational needs are met in the process

Raise a glass
Cool Martini

Celebrate success generously. Drawing attention to the good work and good results of others is a powerful leadership strategy. Obviously, recognition benefits the person being recognized as it builds motivation and encourages even greater performance.

But recognition also benefits the rest of the team or group. It telegraphs the behaviors and outcomes that are valued and draws attention to what’s possible for others.  It’s also good for the manager. The more managers focus on the positive – results, effort, and strengths – the more energized they will feel and the more constructive an environment they’ll create for themselves and others.

These are five raises that fit any budget. But, perhaps there are more.  Raise the curtain? Raise the specter? Raise the roof?

Please share your thoughts about other cost-neutral raises that have you used.  I look forward to raising my personal bar with your suggestions!

Image #1 by Phil Roeder

Image #2 by wickenden


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