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15 Low-Cost Employee Engagement Ideas for SMBs

published: January 10, 2020

Unless your company can afford to pay stratospheric salaries along with offering your best employees amazingly expensive perks, think Google or Facebook, you probably don’t have the means to provide your staff with the same free gourmet lunch menus, free massages, access to a complimentary company gym, full tuition reimbursement, or other costly employee benefits.

Luckily for you, that’s O.K. In fact, it’s more than O.K.

According to a Gallup survey, despite their substantial revenue, the largest U.S. companies have the lowest levels of employee engagement, while businesses with fewer than 25 employees (and thereby lower revenue) have the highest. Better still, according to an Aflac survey, 75% of small business workers surveyed said they were “very” or “extremely” satisfied with working for a small company.

In the end, it’s not so much the resources you allocate to employee engagement but the importance you assign to it and the strategy behind it that really matters.

So no need to break the bank, but you still have to work those brain cells! To help you start, here are 15 easily implementable and low-cost employee engagement ideas you can begin using today.


bigstock-Start-up-Business-Team-Brainst-189652615The Two Main Employee Engagement Drivers for SMBs

According to a Quantum Workplace study, 71% of small businesses’ employees are engaged, compared to 65.4% for mid-sized businesses and 62.5% for large companies. Giving recommendations, the research also reveals the two main drivers of employee engagement for SMBs:

Asset 73The belief that the organization will be successful in the future

Quite logically, SMBs employees like to know where their company is going. That’s why it’s so important for SMBs to make sure to communicate their corporate values, objectives, future projects, investments, etc. effectively.

Opportunities for personal growth and development

Likewise, SMBs employees need to feel they’re going to grow with their company in terms of skill, salary, career, training, etc.

Having these two goals in mind, here are 15 ways SMBs can implement employee engagement initiatives on a tiny budget, but will long-time effect.


Looking for more strategies to better your workplace?

Download: 7 Research-Based Strategies To Improve Employee Engagement


bigstock-Business-Partners15 Low Budget Employee Engagement Initiatives for SMBs

1. Adopt a full transparency policy

SMBs employees appreciate transparency. In order for them to reach their full professional potential at their company, they need to know where it’s going. That’s precisely why SMBs’ owners should be frank about their goals, their investments, and even their revenue. This will ensure the trust relationship that’s so essential to employee engagement.

2. Opt for open-space environments

Open space tends to break down hierarchical barriers and bring coworkers together. By getting rid of the old cubicle walls, you’re helping your employees to communicate better, which ultimately creates a better work environment.

3. Recognize your employees

Asset 30Employee Recognition does not have to be expensive to be effective. It’s all about thanking your employees for their good work and making sure they feel valued for their contribution. So you got the idea: it’s less about the price they receive than the gesture behind it. Nowadays, SMBs even have tools tailored for them to recognize their employees. One of them, Award-Winning Applauz Recognition, is free-to-use, so no need to worry about money! Providing employees with a Newsfeed where coworkers can recognize each other and managers their teams. Official recognition programs help SMBs build an engaged workforce daily.

4. Offer work flexibility

Although 43% of employees would choose workplace flexibility over pay raise, the power of work flexibility is still underestimated by many companies, including SMBs. Allowing your employees to work remotely one day a week can do wonders for productivity. In fact, a recent Stanford study showed that companies with employees working from home could save money, decrease by 50% of their employee attrition and absenteeism. Just saying…

Asset 285. Involve employees in goal planning

To keep your workforce engaged, you need to make them feel involved. It’s even easier in small companies! If your SMBs creates software, for instance, discuss the creation steps with your employees, including the design, the features, the user experience, etc. Your employees will get even more involved in projects because they will feel they contribute to their creation.

6. Use communication tools

In any company, communication is key. Communication tools such as Slack help you keep your employees informed about everything happening in your company, whether it’s announcements or funny workplace stories.

7. Use project management tools

For them to remain focused and engaged at work, employees need to feel they’re properly supported. Using project management tools such as Asana helps teams to keep track of their common projects and deadlines.

LSB-02_Graphic-18. Offer career growth

As aforementioned, SMBs employees are better engaged when they know they have a future in their company. That’s up to their company to figure out how and how much they want to grow to ensure they can give their employees career perspectives. That means training them for the positions they aspire to reach, offering them free courses, which can be done at low cost with sites like Lynda.com.

9. Plan regular social activities through a culture committee

Make your employees want to stay for who you are and what you do, not for a mere paycheck. By creating a culture committee focused on planning their own office activities (board games, barbecues, social Friday, team lunches, etc.), SMBs can foster a positive work environment, and distinguish themselves from their competitors.

Asset 7210. Get employee feedback

One of the main keys to employee engagement is taking into account what employees want. As simple as that. Now, it might seem complicated, but with the proper tools, it’s not. Applauz Recognition, for instance, offers SMBs’ owners and managers to run employee engagement surveys for free. The software also enables employers to poll their employees about anything from event organization to workplace preferences.

11. Be pet-friendly

Allow your employees to bring their pets at work. This initiative lightens up everyone’s mood. The proof is, a Purina survey found that 80% of employees in pet-friendly workplaces say having pets nearby while they work makes them feel “happy, relaxed and sociable.”

12. Provide yummy freebies

Whether it’s a weekly fruit basket, or muffins every Friday, yummy freebies won’t have you go bankrupt. It’s just an occasion for you to show your employees you care about them.

Asset 69i13. Instore innovation days

Giving your employees paid time to work on special projects that matter to them is a great way to show your workforce your support initiative, learning, innovation, and creativity. Your employees can only thank you for it.

14. Start a homemade wellness program

No budget for free onsite massages? No big deal. Implementing a wellness program doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with stretching sessions once a day to get your office employees away from their computers and your warehouse workers away from heavy objects to lift. Host a cooking class to teach employees how to cook healthy meals, install a table outside, etc.

15. Create employee engagement initiatives

Time to get creative! Think of all the ways you could help your employees like their professional environment and be happy at work. In the end, you’re the one who knows your employees best!