Employee Engagement on a Budget


I worked with a CEO who took different employees to lunch every week. They sometimes talked about work, but mostly they talked about the employees. This CEO not only knew the names of most of the 500 people who worked for him but also knew something about them—their spouse’s name, how many children they had, a special interest or talent, etc. Most of the employees in this company would have walked on hot coals to please the CEO because they knew he cared about them individually and personally. The cost of these lunches? In terms of the overall budget, it wasn’t even a line item. In terms of employee retention and goodwill, it was the best dollar spent.

Companies sometimes spend precious budget dollars unwisely. I recently read a great article about the high cost of saving money when recruiting great candidates. Lowballing job offers is one of those areas. Skimping on onboarding and training is another. At times, penny wise is dollar foolish in the business world.

Smart companies recognize that helping employees start strong and communicating interest in their success are keys to employee engagement. Continued efforts to develop employees reap great rewards. 

Companies can find reasonable ways to cut costs. They can even enlist their employees to suggest cost-savings ideas. Doing so strategically is key. When budgets are tight, how about letting employees become the experts who provide training on a critical skill their team members need to have? This allows employee-trainers the chance to be recognized while providing an accessible mentor for the team. Even when bringing in an outside expert or sending team members to external training programs, companies may have support with state-funded training assistance programs. And, perhaps one or two employees can attend a conference or training program and then report to the rest of the team, finding ways to incorporate and transfer the training to improve operations within the team.

Said Henry Ford, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” Retaining great employees is more about thoughtful strategy than it is about dollars spent.