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4 Ways to Contain HR Costs Without Impacting the Employee Experience Targeted moves, like adopting peer-to-peer bonus programs and going paperless, can cut costs, with your employees' blessing.

By Heather R. Huhman

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Let's face it: The cost of creating positive employee experiences quickly builds up and is often overwhelming -- especially for small businesses.

Related: The Hidden Costs of Undervaluing Human Resources

But, with the right tools and resources, many companies are able to balance cost and employee experience.

For Matt Bentley, CEO of CanIRank, an SEO-ranking software company in San Francisco, finding that balance was crucial to employee retention. So, he implemented an employee-recognition system to improve company culture and allow team members to recognize co-workers' achievements.

"We use Bonusly, a peer-to-peer bonus platform," Bentley told me via email. "Employees give each other bonus points, then use their points to cash in on rewards or gifts at the end of each month. It's fun and keeps morale high."

Bonusly has also helped the company reduce the turnover rates of new hires, Bentley said. "In fact, we haven't lost a single new staff member. Even though it costs the company more up-front, it helps to lower our HR expenses in the long run," Bentley said.

With one cost-effective tool, in other words, Bentley has enhanced his company's e employee experience and made a work environment where employees want to stay.

Engaging employees with a recognition system is just one way to provide a positive employee experience while containing HR costs. Here are four other ideas for keep your employee experience positive without breaking the bank:

1. Go paperless.

While businesses have gone digital in most aspects of daily operations, they may find it difficult to ditch that trusty pen and paper entirely. But, by critically analyzing the cost of current printing and paperwork, employers will find an opportunity to save.

Related: The 'Whys' of Why You Should Consider HR Software for Your Small Business

That's exactly what David Reid, CEO and co-founder of EaseCentral, a benefits and HR solution company in San Francisco, did by focusing on digitalization. "By digitalizing the experience and using updated technology, we see savings across the board," Reid told me. "Technology can certainly help augment administrative tasks for HR reps, decreasing costs and increasing overall efficiency."

After integrating payroll into its employee-facing technology, EaseCentral saved both time and money by centralizing HR and benefits functionalities. This allowed the company to focus even more energy on employee engagement.

Tip: Use an HR platform, like EaseCentral or Zuman, which provides a centralized digital place to keep HR, benefits and payroll. With options like these, employers can eliminate paperwork and outdated processes, using cost-containing options.

2. Employee wellness

Many employers worry about the added expense of employee-wellness programs. But Mark Kushinsky, CEO of MaidPro, a house-cleaning and maid service in Boston, encourages employers to look at their greater team and company benefits.

"At first glance, I can see how one might not see how [wellness programs are] a necessity. However, not only does our wellness program encourage a healthy lifestyle, it also lends itself to a better work-life balance," Kushinsky shared with me.

MaidPro's employees are excited about their opportunity to immediately and consistently reap the rewards of the company's wellness program, Kushinsky said. "On the corporate side, having happy and healthy employees has reduced our costs for employee recruitment, while also increasing our retention," the CEO explained. "The wellness program costs less than having to recruit, hire and train new employees regularly."

For example, when one of MaidPro's employees started having serious back problems, she didn't take time off for doctors and physical therapy. Instead, she went to a customized class at MaidPro's headquarters.

"Not only did she have the support she needed from us, but also she was able to continue working during her recovery, which relieved stress for her and for us," Kushinsky said.

Tip: Employee-wellness benefits come in all shapes and sizes. Before making a move, ask employees what they're lacking or need in daily wellness measures. As employers implement benefits to help improve their teams' health, everyone will begin to see employee experience and cost saving improvements.

3. Learning and development

Learning and development is a crucial element in creating engaged employees and positive experiences. Unfortunately, the costs of seminars, webinars and one-on-one trainings quickly add up.

Joyce Wilson-Sanford from Portland, Maine, a retired EVP of strategic organizational development at The Delhaize Group, a global food retailer, said she focused on making her small staff into experts. "I used people who stayed in their primary role to become expert trainers on various topics. Because I only asked for 20 percent of their time for the entire year, primary work didn't suffer," Wilson-Sanford said.

By keeping people in their primary roles, Wilson-Sanford's program cut costs on learning and development and gave new hires an opportunity to dive deeper into the employee experience with superiors.

Explained Wilson-Sanford: "I also created self-managed learning groups." Setting goals for each person and monitoring progress within these groups resulted in improved engagement in their primary roles, she said.

Tip: Find employees who are not only pros at what they do, but excel in bonding with co-workers. As new hires learn the ropes from an experienced co-worker, they'll gain a better grasp of the company's culture.

4. Benefits

The cost of benefits and perks can be too much for small companies. However, when the right benefits that are affordable and effective are chosen, they help attract and retain employees, lowering recruiting costs.

Kevin Busque, co-founder of TaskRabbit, and current CEO and co-founder of Guideline, a 401(k) company in Burlingame, Calif., said he believes benefits are most effective when HR gets younger employees involved.

"If we are spending the money to provide those benefits, we want employees to maximize the value from them," Busque told me via email. "In the process of starting Guideline, I've learned one way to reduce costs without hurting your employee experience is to be super strategic with the benefits you offer and the partners you choose to work with."

Tip: After establishing a budget that fits your company's budget, create a survey to give employees a voice in benefit choices. Without increasing HR costs, leaders can enhance the employee experience by including them in the process.

Related: The 4 Tax-Exempt Benefits Your Employees Want Most

Additionally, no matter what benefits are offered, it's crucial to educate employees on what is available. Provide interactive seminars to ensure everyone is involved and understands how the benefit helps them.

Heather R. Huhman

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, the PR solution for job search and HR tech companies. She writes about issues impacting the modern workplace.

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