Companies Find Cheap Ways to Boost Employee Morale

One company had bosses clean snow off employees' cars.

ByABC News
September 9, 2008, 6:15 PM

March 25, 2010 — -- Like many small businesses, Libby Hager's employer took its share of recessionary lumps: LaBreche, a Minneapolis communications and branding firm, had to trim salaries at the end of 2008 to make ends meet. But Hager, an assistant account executive, is anything but disgruntled, thanks in part to some new company perks.

Take Fishbowl Friday, a time-off incentive LaBreche started last year, where colleagues put written kudos about one another into a fishbowl and one person a week is picked to take Friday afternoon off. (To make up the time, the winner will usually stay late on the days leading up to their afternoon off.)

"It doesn't seem like a lot, just a few hours in the afternoon," Hager said. "But it makes the weekend so much longer."

More important, Hager added, "It's a way for us to get recognition for the work that we're doing. Everyone's supportive of each other in a way that we had never been before. It really increases morale."

Yes, money talks. But now that handing out raises and bonuses isn't always an option, retention experts warn that employers had better come up with some alternative ways to show staff some love -- and fast.

"Ignoring your talent and assuming they will just stick around and deliver 110 percent because they don't have any other options is really wrong-headed," said economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of "Top Talent: Keeping Performance Up When Business Is Down."

Eventually, the cream of the workforce crop will either resign or "spend 50 percent of their time on the job looking for another one," said Hewlett, who's founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy.

According to a 2009 Gallup poll, only 50 percent of employees surveyed said they were "completely satisfied" with the level of recognition they received at work.

"You'd be surprised how many people tell me that their supervisor doesn't even say 'good morning' to them," said talent retention expert Jane Goldner, author of "Driven to Success: A 10-Point Checkup for Achieving High-Performance in Business."