Employee engagement can be difficult to measure and even harder to improve. That's especially true for small businesses, which may lack the budgets to offer big perks like Google or Microsoft can. While your business may be unable to offer on-site massages or a state-of-the-art rec room, plenty of opportunities exist to make the workplace more pleasant for your employees. Some simple, creative morale boosters can really make a difference.
Research shows it's never been more important to engage employees. A recent Gallup survey found that only 23% of employees report feeling engaged at work. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 18% said they were actively disengaged at work. Employee engagement can have significant benefits for a team, including increased productivity, lower turnover rates, and improved overall performance. So how can you boost engagement (and your bottom line) without breaking the bank? Here are 30 low-cost employee engagement ideas for any budget.
Offer free food
Free food is a reliable pick-me-up that gets almost everyone excited. Whether you offer incentives in the form of a spontaneous treat or a planned event, people love to chow down and get social. Here are some ideas you can try that center on food:
- Offer free donuts or bagels every Friday.
- Try a weekly potluck where a different staff member picks the theme each time.
- Plan quarterly lunches to celebrate the team's successes.
- Bring out the blender for Hump Day smoothies using seasonal fruit.
- Conduct an old-fashioned ice cream social and ask team members to bring in their favorite toppings.
- Post your neighborhood's food truck schedule and encourage chatter about which ones the group may want to try together.
"Whether you offer incentives in the form of a spontaneous treat or a planned event, people love to chow down and get social."
Take a field trip
Remember the grade-school excitement before, during, and after an outing? Plan a field trip for your team to get everyone out of the office for a day. Here are some low-cost field trip ideas:
- Ask if your local museums offer free visitor days.
- Plan a friendly bowling competition.
- Take in a minor league baseball game (seats tend to be cheap).
To build a sense of camaraderie and purpose, consider volunteering as a group. Volunteering will satisfy the desire to break routine, with the added benefit of promoting your small business's name within the community. Schedule activities during work hours so you don't interfere with people's personal commitments. Unsure what the team would enjoy? Just ask. Here are some volunteer ideas:
- Clean up a park.
- Read to kids as part of a school or library program.
- Contribute labor to a Habitat for Humanity project or similar endeavor.
- Allow employees to choose a cause and work as a team to raise funds.
Your small business depends on consistently meeting goals to help it grow. Encourage everyone to kick it up a notch with a culture that rewards productivity. Providing opportunities for team members to challenge themselves can increase engagement with minimal costs. Some ideas for challenges include the following:
- Offer occasional telecommuting as an option for those who prove they can get work done remotely.
- Challenge the staff to complete the week's tasks by noon on Friday, so everyone can get an early start on the weekend.
- Find free or low-cost online courses and allow employees to take them during work hours.
- Have quarterly brainstorming sessions to encourage creative thinking and outside-the-box ideas.
- Upskill employees by teaching them a new task or letting them try a different responsibility. As a bonus, this increases the skill level and flexibility of your team.
- Thank those who rise to the occasion, since acknowledgment is the ultimate morale booster.
Other low-cost employee engagement ideas
Still need some ideas to engage your team? Here are some other budget-friendly ways you can boost employee engagement:
- Write handwritten cards to employees on their work anniversaries.
- Host a wellness challenge and offer prizes for the top winners.
- Create a social committee to plan various outings, like happy hours and trivia nights, or host similar remote events if you have employees who work from home.
- Schedule monthly recognition meetings to acknowledge employees who are doing excellent work.
- Plan events where team members can bring their families, such as a company picnic.
- Start work clubs for people with similar interests, like a book club for those who enjoy reading.
- Offer lunch-and-learn sessions or workshops on various topics, like nutrition or work-life balance.
- Implement casual Fridays or dress-down days.
- Find ways to recognize employees, such as shout-outs on social media or in the company newsletter.
- Give employees some free company swag, like T-shirts or water bottles.
- Throw festive holiday-themed parties, like a Halloween costume contest or a Fourth of July cookout.
Employee engagement doesn't have to be costly. With a few creative and low-cost solutions, you can show employees you value their efforts and appreciate the work they do. Engaged employees work hard and feel satisfied with their jobs, making them an invaluable asset to your business. You really can't put a price tag on that.
More tips on employee engagement:
Unsure whether your employees feel engaged at work? Ask these questions on your next employee engagement survey.
Don't let disengagement lead to quiet quitting. Learn how you can avoid this trend at your company.
If you have a remote workforce, here are some ways you can reward work-at-home employees to keep them engaged.
Underperforming employees may be a sign of low engagement, so try these six tips to motivate employees.