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What Attracts and Retains Employees? It Might Not Be a Paycheck.

Amidst a nationwide labor shortage, these companies understand that you need more than a steady paycheck and benefits to attract and retain quality employees.

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As the labor shortage continues to leave employers struggling to attract and retain quality talent, with some offering record-high wages and sign-on bonuses, the key to keeping workers might not be a hefty paycheck at all, but rather intangible or non-normative incentives that improve one's quality of life. The franchise industry has been hit particularly hard by the slim labor market, but smart employers have shifted hiring perks or expanded initiatives already in place to create an environment where workers want to stay.

Experiences, not things

In the competitive fight for quality workers, some brands have taken notice that many employees are in the market for rich company culture and experiences that enhance their life both in and outside of work, not just steady pay. "No one wants to go to work where you just clock in and clock out," says franchisee Jason Cabrera of Layne's Chicken Fingers. "I want my team to look forward to coming to work everyday." Cabrera prioritizes a strong balance of fun and challenge within his team, and he ensures everyone feels valued.

Zoom Room, the indoor dog-training franchise, puts relationship-building and meaningful company culture at the forefront of its experience. The company hosts regular social events and team-building activities — one of which involves an anniversary celebration at the Virgina Beach location that lets employees throw a pie at their bosses (really!). Zoom Room aims to foster meaningful relationships between all employees and maintains high standards for its quality company culture. "Around the clock, we work with puppies and dogs — so [the events] are a fun stress reliever and incentive for us," says Stephanie Knepp, VP of operations.

Scramblers Restaurants implements similar initiatives to foster team dynamics and gives employees something to look forward to. Each year, it hosts the "Scramblers Olympics" for all employees, where every location forms a team and gathers for a day full of activities, prizes and mingling.

Related: Team-Building Tips: 8 Ways to Make Sure Every Employee Feels Included

Opportunities to grow

According to Pew Research Center, the one of the driving forces that led individuals to quit their jobs in 2021 was feeling that there was little to no opportunity for advancement. The IT service franchise, Cinch I.T., provides extensive resources for its employees to grow and learn during their time with the company. With top-notch training and internship opportunities, along with home-buying programs and resources, Cinch I.T. strives to give employees autonomy and access to build their lives and careers towards growth. "Once people don't have room for growth, they naturally get bored and begin to look for their next challenge," says Cinch I.T. founder and president, Rick Porter. "If people can physically see a road map for their future, it helps keep them focused and driven towards their personal and professional development. When they develop, the entire company develops."

Ongoing support

A generous signing bonus doesn't hurt, but it's the intangible aspects of feeling supported and valued that often keep employees happy, productive and in it for the long haul. In the wake of the pandemic, when most big companies chose to furlough a large portion of their employees, Flame Broiler made the executive decision to keep every single worker on board and ensure job security in uncertain times. "Although this led to a significant financial hit, it served the franchise well in the long run to maintain a strong company culture," says Christian Lee, head of business operations at Flame Broiler. "We've found that treating our employees like family is the best strategy for employee retention." Similarly, Noodles & Company enacts countless efforts to ensure its employees feel valued, and it offers extensive resources that give staff ongoing support outside of work. Some of the initiatives include six weeks of paid maternity leave, surrogacy and adoption assistance of up to $10,000 for qualifying team members, backup dependent care assistance, free mental health counseling, flexible work hours and gender-neutral bathrooms for an inclusive work environment.

Related: How Much Ongoing Support -- and What Kinds -- Should You Provide to Your Franchisees?

What really matters

As the nation crawls out of a global pandemic, it comes as no surprise that workers are reevaluating what really matters, and what — quite simply — isn't worth the money when taking into account the value of one's quality of life and time. With a lack of candidates and endless jobs that need to be filled, companies are reevaluating themselves and providing not only a job for workers, but incentives to grow, learn and build meaningful relationships.

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