How to Compete Against Larger Companies

jennifer Bjorkman | August-09-10



Dear Expert,

What other benefits can our nonprofit business offer as we have maxed out our salary budget, especially when the private sector offers higher wages?


By Lynne Bard

Beyond Rewards Inc.

By Lynne Bard – Beyond Rewards Inc.

There are many benefits a small business and non-profit can offer in lieu of salary increases.  If you have reached the capped salaries maximum you can be creative in retaining your staff.  It is not always about the money.  The corporate culture is vital to the retention and morale of the organization. 

1)    Know your staff

Make your work environment and culture one that staff want to be part of, want to be present and want to be part of the team. Know your team; who are they, what do they need to meet their career expectations and desires.  How can you assist them in meeting these needs?  Are they young with families, Baby-Boomers whose children have grown up or close to retirement?  These factors influence an individual’s needs and will assist you in developing the right strategies to retaining your workforce without having to increase salaries.

2)    Build a strong corporate culture

Small businesses and non-profits that want to compete with the private sector higher wages can obtain the balance in their organization through providing a balanced work-life, building a culture of inclusiveness and providing professional development opportunities.  Example of work-life balance implementations are:

  • flexible work schedules
  • job sharing
  • part-time work
  • shortened work weeks
  • telecommuting
  • job redesign
  • work redesign (redistribution of tasks)
  • transportation provided or paid for
  • childcare facilities
  • eldercare assistance
  • employee assistance programs
  • extended parental leave
  • flexibility in vacation (when taken, how divided up)

There are inexpensive resources that you can utilize for in-house team building sessions once per year.  Attending free training sessions through local chambers, training organizations offering free mini sessions and asking for Non-Profit rates when signing up for courses and workshops to reduce costs.

3)    Think beyond salary

To become an employer of choice, salary is just one of the desires and needs an employee looks at as well as the following:

  • training and development opportunities (equal across the board – equal opportunity for all)
  • a safe working environment (safe from harassment, bullying, embarrassment, high regard for health and welfare)
  • a healthy working environment (positive, upbeat environment, work/life balance for all, high moral, open door, friendly atmosphere, having a friend at work)
  • responsive scheduling – flexibility in scheduling (work/life balance)
  • positive employee-supervisor relationships – caring management (its more than just a job)
  • reasonable job demands (don’t expect the unreasonable – long hours are not acceptable today)
  • Employee communication and influence (employee input into growth and changes is Key to retention)
  • Open and straightforward communication (Open and honest communication is KEY!)
  • personally rewarding work – energetic and enthusiastic work environment – love of your work is important – entrepreneurial spirit is key to success in today’s environment – switch from left to right brain emphasis


4)      Get creative


Think about your employees and what might be meaningful to them. Here are some benefits and creative worksite practices that have worked well for other companies. What will work for you may not work for another non-profit organization.  This list is not exhaustive and some may not be possible in your organization.


  • anniversary cakes with a $100 coupon for every year worked
  • barbeques on-site
  • bereavement leave plan over and above government legislated
  • casual dress days
  • concierge services (for errands)
  • contributions to employees’ charity of choice
  • “cool” (innovative, fun) office environment
  • counseling services (over and above EAP)
  • discounts on corporate products or services
  • a $50 bonus for a cost-savings suggestion
  • financial planning services
  • flex time

Lynne Bard is a Human Resource Management Consultant based out of Guelph, ON.



Have a burning HR question you need an answer to?

Send an email to Learn more about ECO Canada’s panel of HR Experts and how they can help assist with your HR needs.