Currently, a growing number of people are changing jobs as part of “the great resignation.” However, some businesses simply cannot compete on salary alone to keep their employees or attract new ones. What can you do if you can’t afford to pay your employees or new hires more? Here are 11 non-monetary employee retention ideas to help increase overall well-being and morale.

The PERMA Model

Positive psychologist Martin Seligman created what is known as the PERMA Model, which represents five core elements of happiness and well-being. The five components of PERMA include Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments. Research shows that there are positive associations between life satisfaction, job satisfaction, and commitment in organizations. In other words, if you can increase your employee’s happiness and wellbeing, you may be able to increase their commitment to your organization. The PERMA model is a great guide to give you strategies for improving your employees’ experiences at work even when you can’t afford to pay them more. Below are ideas for using the PERMA model to heighten employee well-being in your workplace.

Positive Emotions

Positive emotions include hope, interest, joy, love, compassion, pride, amusement, and gratitude. Here are some ways you can help your employees experience positive emotions:

1. Start Summer Fridays

One option is to give your employees Fridays off during the summer. You could encourage them to use these days to do something they enjoy, reflect on what they’re grateful for, or simply spend more time with the people they care most about.

2. Provide snacks and lunches

Savoring can help create positive emotions. Having delicious snacks, special treats or even surprise lunches in the office can give people a boost of positive emotions. Add a little appreciation speech with the food for added benefit.

3. Write thank you letters

It’s hard not to feel good when you feel appreciated. Try writing handwritten and thoughtful notes to your employees to tell them how much you appreciate them. Be specific with your praise and see how it positively impacts the people in your workforce.


Have you ever been so absorbed in a task that the day flies by? Compare that to a day that drags on where you find yourself checking the clock every 5 minutes. Engagement is when your employees are absorbed in their work and “in the zone”. Here are some ways you can help your employees be more engaged in their work:

4. Help Employees Learn Their Strengths

People enjoy and are engaged in work that they are good at. People are good at work when they get to use their strengths. For people to use their strengths it’s best to know what they are. You can help your employees discover their strengths by having them take a character strengths test (a great free version can be found here) and then think about the ways they can put those strengths to work in your business.

5. Reduce Tasks Employees Dislike

Once you discover your employee’s strengths you may also want to have an honest conversation about tasks that they dislike doing. While it may not be possible to eliminate all non-engaging tasks, having an honest conversation with your employees and doing your best to align their work with their strengths can  do wonders for their well-being and even their productivity.         


Relationships can help us feel supported, loved, and valued by others. As social creatures, relationships are vital to our happiness. Here are some ways you can help your employees build relationships at work:

6. Host Informal Gatherings

While your team may be used to formal “work” meetings, it’s nice to have informal opportunities to network and get to know each other. One option is to host informal gatherings such as happy hours, lunches, or even a book club to allow a setting for your team to get to know each other and build strong relationships.

7. Try Team-Building Events

Another way for people to get to know each other is to have a unique shared experience. You could have a team building event at an escape room, or do a cooking class together. The options are limitless.


We all have a need to feel like our work and our life matters and makes a difference. Here are some ways you can help your employees understand their meaning:

8. Plan Volunteer Days

One way you can help employees feel like they’re making a difference is to give them a paid day off to volunteer for a charity that is important to them.

9. Share Positive Stories

It can be easy to forget about how your work impacts your team, the business, the community you work in, and even the world, but each and every one of us is making an impact every single day. Take time to highlight stories of how your team’s work is making a difference. You can write personal letters, send an email, or make a speech, but helping people understand that their work matters and makes a difference is vital to helping your employees feel a sense of meaning.


We all feel good when we work toward and reach a goal. Here are some ways to help your team feel accomplished:

11. Set and Communicate Goals

This may sound simplistic, but it’s hard to feel that you’ve accomplished a goal if you don’t have one or don’t know what it is. Make it a practice to set goals with each of your employees on a regular basis and come back to them on occasion to both support them and hold them accountable to make progress. Keep in mind that you don’t have to only stick to business-related goals. You can also encourage and support your employees on their personal goals as well.                

12. Celebrate Achievements

One way to celebrate achievements is to give people bonuses and/or awards for meeting their goals. However, if you’re on a budget, don’t pigeon-hole yourself into only financial incentives as ways to celebrate achievements. Other ways to celebrate achievements could include creating a hall of fame for people that meet or exceed their goals, throwing a themed party when a goal is met, taking your team to a concert or comedy show, or simply writing a thank you note. One idea is to ask each team member to give a list of 5 things that would “make their day” at the beginning of the year. Then, when it’s time to celebrate a success you can pick something from each individual’s list that’s within your budget.  

Small Changes, Big Impact

While compensation is important, don’t underestimate the value that people place on a positive workplace where they feel happy and fulfilled. The great news is that companies with highly engaged people outperform firms with the most disengaged employees. They see increases in retention, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth. So even if you don’t have a surplus of money now, taking steps to improve your employees’ experiences at work can be the first step in financial stability, more shareholder value, and raises for everyone in the long run.

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