I hear this often – we don’t have the budget of Google or Apple – we simply can’t afford to have happy employees.

There’s a misperception out there that in order to have happy employees you have to throw extraordinary pay and fabulous perks at them.

First, let’s look at perks – while I’ll be the first to admit that a massage would be nice or a retreat in Hawaii, the value is temporary. Think about it – if you come back from your relaxing lunch massage to sit down next to your vampire co-worker, the one you sit next to every day, 8 hours a day, the massage might be just enough to keep you sane, forget happy.   Or if you return from Hawaii, proud of your tan and pictures of coconuts, to toxic drama where none of your innovative ideas can see the light of day, the glow of the tan wears off, quickly.

Second, let’s look at pay.  Remember a time you had an all-star player that you gave consistent substantial increases to, the one who may have even said they were happy, and who then gave you their notice and went elsewhere (maybe even to the competition.)  Well sorry to say, they weren’t happy and they didn’t feel safe to tell you that they weren’t.  In some cases you find out that they even took a pay cut.  That’s because (and I hate to do the cliché) money isn’t everything.  In fact it’s not even in the Top 8 Critical Factors to having employees feel good about coming to work.  I will tell you that employees want to feel that they are being paid “fairly.” Especially in relationship to their co-workers – because yes, they will talk about it, company policy or not.

Third, know that there are many many ways you can create and keep happy employees that don’t cost a dime.

Fourth, I would suggest you can’t afford NOT to have happy employees – take a couple of minutes to consider the ROI of happy employees:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtA67Xvz2bI.