Idea 1:  Pay employees at least a living wage. 

Many Iowa adults are working, sometimes two or three jobs, and still not earning enough to cover a basic household budget. For a family of four, earning $50,000 or less a year can cause families to be above the federal poverty level but still struggle to have food, housing, and health care. These families are often one flat tire or one emergency room visit away from crisis, which can impact their ability to be present and engaged at work.

The pandemic has increased the stress families who fall in this ALICE (asset-limited, income-constrained, employed) category are experiencing as many have experienced a loss of income and an increase in expenses.

To get a better sense of how your employees are fairing with the wages they earn, uses these tools:

  • Explore wages:  Determine whether the wage you’re offering for each type of job is on par with other employers. This tool on O*NET OnLine lets you explore wages nationally, by state, and by ZIP code for various occupations.

  • Cost of Living: Better understand what employees need to make to cover basic expenses for themselves and their families using the Living Wage Calculator and The Cost of Living in Iowa

  • Working Poor:  Dive deeper into The ALICE Report to learn more about the challenges families who are working in Iowa are experiencing.

This guide from Central Iowa Works walks through what to consider in whether to raise wages and how to implement a wage increase effectively.


Idea 2: Determine compensation fairly for all employees and communicate it to employees. 

Create an Incentive Plan

Thinking about a combination of base pay and a bonus program can help you attract and retain employees who are motivated to meet your business goals. This article by Workest provides a framework for creating a consistent incentive plan for employees. Consider a bonus plan that is meaningful, accessible, reinforced, and tiered.


Set a Pay Raise Structure

Most employees will expect a raise at some point, and a well-timed raise can help employees feel recognized for good performance, valued by the business, and on pace with their colleagues. It’s especially important to reward employees for improved performance and skills to retain them long-term.

  • This article by Xero outlines when to give a raise and what else to consider in setting up a raise structure.
  • This article by Villanova University outlines when to offer raises based on key factors, including service, proficiency, outstanding contributions, and achieving goals.
  • This Pay Raise Calculator lets you quickly calculate the amount of raise after a percentage increase from a current salary.


Idea 3: Provide bonuses in addition to sufficient base pay

Types of Bonuses

Offering a reward can make a big difference for retaining your staff. While most employees prefer monetary bonuses, you can consider other options to show your appreciation. This article by Quickbooks outlines types of bonuses to consider under three categories: performance bonuses, non-performing bonuses, and non-monetary bonuses.


Staff Incentive Program

These articles featured on outline for small business owners how to set up a staff incentive program, types of incentive programs you could offer, and other ways to motivate your workers.


Idea 4: Make most employees permanent with benefits

Case for Full-Time Jobs

Nearly 80% of full-time workers in the U.S. were living paycheck to paycheck, according to a CareerBuilder survey in 2017. Stress about money can impact productivity and lead to turnover, all of which costs your business. This Harvard Business Review article makes the case for why businesses should offer more full-time positions with benefits.


Benefits Employees Want

Benefits are a key factor in whether someone accepts a job and many employees would choose additional benefits over a pay raise. This Harvard Business Review article shares which benefits employees want most, which includes better health, dental , and vision insurance, more flexible hours, more vacation time, and work-from-home options. A mix of benefits that top employees’ wish list and are inexpensive can make your business more competitive.


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