Six Pay Raise Alternatives

Scott Gordon

As employers, especially today, we are lucky to be able to maintain our current staff levels and/or work with the employees that are left. Before everything went south, we were working late into the evenings, taking calls on the weekends and missing our kids’ soccer games and the dinner party that our wife/husband had planned with the new neighbors. We worked our employees’ tails off and their fingers to the bone.

Today, half of your employees have been laid off, let go, fired, right-sized or whatever the new economic recession has deemed them. Work loads are doubling, hours are getting longer and less work is getting done because morale is in the toilet. It couldn’t get any worse…but then your employee says, "I’d like to have a pay raise because I’m doing the work of three employees and I haven’t had a pay raise in two years."


I scanned the news online recently and searched for "getting a pay raise." The majority of articles were titled "Getting the Pay Raise You Deserve," and so on. It’s safe to say that everyone deserves a pay raise. Especially those who are still employed. But budgets won’t allow it, bosses won’t allow it, stockholders won’t allow it, and, let’s face it, if you can’t get a pay raise, your employees certainly aren’t going to get a pay raise.

So what do you do when you can’t give a pay raise but your consultant/employee has been dedicated since the onslaught of layoffs began?

Below are six pay raise alternatives that have worked not only for me but for other business managers as.

Pay Raise Alternative 1: Typically in our roles as business managers, we have the opportunity to lunch a client every day, go to sporting events, concerts, etc. Step aside and pass those tickets along to your employees or consultants. A $150 dollar ticket to a Billy Joel concert goes a long way and provides maximum ROI. Images will be posted on their social networking pages, your company will get maximum exposure and your competitors will lose job candidates because they’ll wonder why their consulting firm/employer doesn’t "show them that kind of love."

Pay Raise Alternative 2: In April 2008, 79 percent of Americans polled said they considered going out to dinner a "luxury." Treating an employee to an exceptionally good lunch (including picking him or her up from the office) is a tremendous display of appreciation. And don’t discuss business! The whole point of the meal is for the employee to escape for an hour or so, enjoy a great meal and unplug.

Pay Raise Alternative 3: Give cell phone breaks. Fold your consultant/employee into your cell phone plan. My company has a massive plan with "bucket minutes." Whether those minutes are used every month, I have no idea, but I would assume not. Over the past few years, cell phones have become a necessity. One less bill per month is an awesome feeling.

Pay Raise Alternative 4: Award your employee a new title. If your employee is a programmer, make him a "senior programmer." If most of the department has been laid off, this employee is your lead dog anyway. If "senior" doesn’t fit, try "lead," etc. Get creative. Be sure to order new business cards for your employee, too.

Pay Raise Alternative 5: Offer a flexible schedule or telecommuting. Not having to sit in traffic to make it to the office at 8 a.m. is appealing to an employee. Coming in later means the employee gets to sleep later, cruise in on the freeway with less traffic and probably arrive at the office a little less stressed. The option to telecommute cuts down on gas and car maintenance costs. The more money your employee can save, the better!

Pay Raise Alternative 6: Let your employee/consultant come up with his or her own "perk." If it’s a viable option, implement it immediately.