How to Maximize Slim Budgets When Entertaining Employees

The recession isn’t over like we thought. As reported last week, only 18,000 US jobs were created last month, and unemployment is still over 9%. In this type of economy, 2 realities emerge: 1) employees aren’t as likely to leave the security of their jobs, and 2) they are going to be working harder for the privilege of keeping their jobs. Companies which value their employees naturally want to give economic and other incentives for this hard work, but in the current environment, raises and bonuses may not be feasible; how, then, can managers find the budget to provide employee entertainment activities designed to boost morale during challenging times?

Below are a few quick tips to stretch your allocated entertainment funds, in order to reward staff for their hard work:

1) Plan Your Event Early in the Week – This isn’t to avoid conflict with Friday happy hour; rather, most venues where you will hold your activity – bars, lounges, restaurants etc. – will be FAR more reasonable with their pricing if you bring your group on an “off” night, such as a Monday or Tuesday, when they are typically not as busy as they are later in the week or on weekends.

2) Bring As Many People as You Possibly Can – Most venues are thrilled to have a large group spend a couple of hours eating & drinking at their establishment. The more people you bring, the more flexible they are likely to be on pricing for food, drink and space use – guarantee a minimum spend, and you can likely get a private room at no fee (typically very expensive), as well as avoid committing to a hefty per-person arrangement, which may make a large group event untenable. Open the event to other departments, divisions or the entire company, to let as many people attend as possible.

3) Hold the Event in or Around Your Office – While a true “escape” from the office would ideally mean just that, there are plenty of options for arranging an employee staff party or professional team building activity within your workplace. However, if you’re adamant about doing something outside of the office, keep the options within walking distance, to save on transportation expenses.

4) Skip the Stuff That Doesn’t Matter – T-shirts, trophies, coffee mugs emblazoned with the company logo – all nice, but not necessary. Focus your limited funds on venue, food/drink and talent, to ensure that the group has the best experience possible.

5) Keep the Activity Simple – With a huge range of employee entertainment options out there, it’s tempting to want to give your group a real show. However, when your dollars are extremely tight, the goal should be to give staff a fun & memorable reward, not to completely blow their minds; find something which works for you and go with it (assuming the team building vendor has a good reputation, that is). If your budget basically allows for venue and not much more, you can even opt to develop your own activity: has a nice resource for creating your own employee team building events.

I’m a big advocate for treating employees well, and in times such as this, I feel strongly that staff should be rewarded for their hard efforts. Do you have any thoughts, questions or suggestions for how to entertain employees on a tight budget? Please share below!


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