After an extremely challenging two years, employees are taking a hard look at what they want out of their jobs and careers — and many are finding their current employers lacking. As we navigate the Great Resignation, where employees are leaving their jobs at unprecedented rates, companies are realizing that creating a positive, supportive, and engaging environment for their staff is no longer negotiable; if they want to attract and retain top talent, bringing awareness to employee experience and taking steps to improve it is an absolute must. 

“For any business to stay competitive, it’s more important now than ever for HR to stay on top of the business’s and employees’ changing situations and needs and make suitable improvements to continue to engage and retain talent,” said Sophie Wade, a workforce consultant who specializes in the future of work and author of Empathy Works: The Key to Competitive Advantage in the New Era of Work.

But while improving employee experience is a non-negotiable in today’s labor market, for many companies, the budget to make those improvements is slim — or, in some cases, nonexistent. 

If you’re one of those companies, you may be wondering how, from an HR perspective, you can drive significant change without a significant budget. Below, we’ll highlight four HR improvements you can make that will positively impact your employees, teams, and organization as a whole — without blowing your budget.

4 Ways to Improve Employee Experience That Don’t Require a Significant Investment

1. Shift the focus to the bigger picture — and how your employees contribute to it.

While HR improvements often involve making changes to processes or policies, sometimes the best — and most budget-friendly — improvement you can make has to do with perspective. You can create a more positive experience for your employees, and drive employee engagement in the process, by helping them see the bigger picture. 

Start by “connecting workers with the vision, mission, and purpose of the organization and the role their work plays in moving the business forward,” advised Wade. For example, you could hold an all-hands meeting where leadership gives a presentation on the company’s values and goals, and how they plan to grow and expand the business in the future.

Once your team is on board with and excited about your company’s mission and direction, show them how their role and the work they do each day contributes to that mission and direction. You could do this by having managers schedule team meetings and one-on-ones with their staff members to talk about how their jobs contribute to the larger mission and goals of the organization. Take it a step further by asking employees to brainstorm other ways they as a team or individuals want to contribute. 

For example, say one of your company’s core values is sustainability. During a team meeting, a group of employees might have the idea to organize a company-wide clean-up event, which can give them more ownership in bringing your company’s values to life.

“When employees feel their work matters on a daily basis and [that they] are contributing to something bigger than themselves, they are more engaged and focused [and] teams and divisions are better aligned, resulting in better outcomes,” Wade said. And showing your employees that their work matters is an HR improvement that doesn’t have to cost a thing.

2. Encourage more fun.

It’s important to create a company culture that supports productivity and efficiency. But people want to enjoy coming to work, so it’s just as important to create a company culture that encourages fun.

Another low- or no-cost way to improve employee experience at your organization is to “acknowledge that it’s okay to have fun at work,” said Eric Harkins, founder of Minneapolis-based talent consulting firm GKG Search & Consulting and author of Great Leaders Make Sure Monday Morning Doesn’t Suck: How to Get, Keep, and Grow Talent. Then, take steps to create enjoyable activities and experiences for your team.

There are plenty of different — and affordable — ways to incorporate more fun into the workday. For instance, you could end work early one Friday each month for “Friday Funday,” where teams break off into groups to participate in a recreational activity, such as an internal Nintendo Mario Kart tournament, where employees race each other in different heats until a single winner is crowned, or a cooking or baking challenge for a trending recipe on TikTok. Or you might encourage your employees to share what some of their hobbies and interests are, and then create groups or meetups catered to those hobbies and interests, like a company-wide knitting group or a Dungeons & Dragons meetup.

Not only do activities like these encourage more fun in the workplace, but they also act as team-building exercises, which can make your teams stronger and more effective. And these ideas won’t even make a dent in your budget.

3. Leverage your current employees to attract top talent.

Recruiting is one of the most important HR functions in a company, and for your organization to thrive, you need to consistently be bringing in strong candidates. And when it comes to expanding your team, one of the best ways to attract top talent to your company is through your current workforce.

Improving recruiting operations doesn’t have to mean increasing your recruiting budget; tapping into your existing talent pool can be an effective, budget-friendly way to refresh your recruiting strategy and use your existing employees — and the positive experience they’re having working for your company — to attract top talent to your organization.

“Utilize your workforce to create…[recruiting] campaigns with short videos, social media posts, or written testimonials,” suggested Jenna Squires, President of HR services firm World Payroll and HR. Then, use those videos, posts, and testimonials as the foundation for your recruiting efforts.

For example, say you’re looking to hire a new marketing manager. You could schedule video interviews with your marketing team, asking them what they love about their jobs and working for your company. Then you can share those videos on your social media channels, company website, and even as a link directly within the job posting

When potential applicants see how excited and engaged your current marketing team is about their work and your organization, it can help them see how the open role could be an exciting and engaging opportunity for them. This can drive more candidates to apply, increasing your applicant pool and ideally making it easier to find the right person for the role.

Finding new, innovative ways to attract talent to your company is one of the most impactful HR improvements an organization can make. Leveraging your current team to attract that talent is a way to make this HR improvement without breaking the bank.

4. Start an employee recognition program.

Employees want to be recognized for their hard work and contributions to the team and organization. So if you’re looking for an HR improvement that will make a significant impact on your business — without making too big of an impact on your budget — create and launch an employee recognition program.

An employee recognition program creates a company-wide process for leaders to recognize their employees, and ensures that there are regular, structured opportunities for employees to get the praise they deserve. This can help employees feel more satisfied at work and lead to higher employee retention.

What you include in your employee recognition program is up to you: You might have managers host monthly team meetings where they recognize each of their employees for one of their wins over the previous month, end each all-hands meeting by showcasing employee successes, or create a “recognition board” (either digitally or in-office) where both managers and employees can bring attention to coworkers who have gone above and beyond to help their teams. 

Your employee recognition efforts don’t have to increase your budget much — or at all. As long as you use the program as a way to regularly celebrate your employees and give them the recognition they deserve, you’ll see results. “Recognition [goes] far with employees,” Squires said. 

Making strategic HR improvements is a powerful way to create a better work environment, and attract and retain talent in the process. And while you’ll need to invest time and energy into implementing those improvements within your organization, with these tips, you won’t need to invest a significant amount of your HR budget.

Looking for more insights on HR improvements that won’t raise costs? Be sure to check out Lattice’s Resources for Humans. This Slack community of 15,000+ HR leaders is a great place to connect with other industry professionals, ask questions, and share advice. Join for free today!