Investing in Employees

Everyone knows the cliché “you should invest in your employees.” However, many CEOs don’t know where to start. Sometimes “investing” in your employees feels like just giving them more non-cash compensation. Investing in your employees is different from installing a coffee bar. Investing in employees creates a win-win. The employee wins AND you win. Here are some ways you can invest in your employees


Creating a recruiting process that selects high-quality staff creates a better work environment for you and your staff. Here are some factors in creating a quality recruiting process:

  • Actually have a process. Reading resumes and hiring from the gut is not a process
  • Use aptitude testing
  • Don’t slot-fill. Suck it up and do without rather than put a low-quality team member out there.


One of the best ways to create a win-win situation is to invest in training. You get more skilled employees. Your people feel appreciated and have an opportunity to create more value for the company in get a raise in turn. Here are some examples of ways to train:

  • Although outside training is preferred, inside training is better than no training
  • Computer skill training
  • Sales training
  • Evening college or MBA courses
  • Industry training provided by your trade association.
  • This could be as simple as allowing a non-essential employee to attend a trade show.
  • On-line courses
  • Ask your employees what training they would like. Make them demonstrate how the company benefits from the investment in their training.


Training can be an expensive process, so retaining staff makes good business sense. Some of this list falls under non-cash goodies we give to our employees. However, think of the cost of losing a quality employee. The cost of recruitment, retraining, productivity lost, etc. typically are far more than the goodies we give to entice quality people to stay. Here are some examples:

  • On-site day care
  • Flexible hours
  • Have a doctor, massage therapist, or other professional come to your place of business regularly to make these appointments easier on your people.
  • Put a dry cleaning drop off box at your office
  • Hold an occasional contest for your non-salespeople
  • Have a company outing sometime other than the holidays. I have a client that goes to the indoor go-cart track every month for teambuilding.


Your company does not need to be a democracy to have involved employees. Give your employees input into company decisions. Take their advice. You don’t always need to do what they say. However, you do need to do EXACTLY what they say sometimes or they will never feel involved. An involved employee feels like it is “our” business instead of “your” business. Share your vision of where the company is going so they can feel like they are along for the ride.


All those wonderful qualities that make you an outstanding entrepreneur make you lousy at trusting your people. Here are a few tips:

  • Give them the right to fail. That is, you need to EXPECT that they won’t do things as well as you; as fast as you; and the same way as you.
  • Share important information with them like margins, costs, goals, and strategies. If you don’t share all the data you have, you cannot expect them to execute at the same level as you. Can you see the circular logic here? You want them to be mini-me and execute as well as you yet they don’t have the same information and tools and therefore cannot possibly do so.
  • Employees know when you trust them and when you don’t. Vesting your trust with an employee is non-cash compensation that costs nothing. Quite the bargain, huh?


  • Simply saying “Thank you” or “Good job” can be the best way to show your people they are appreciated. Again, this is another way you can “pay” your people with no-cost perks. If you are not good at giving out the “atta-boy’s,” think of all the money you are saving by doing it. Maybe that will get you into the mood.
  • I have a friend that keeps $50 bills in his desk and hands them out with the atta-boys for added punch.
  • Give them extra paid time off. Many times this costs you nothing because it was dead time.
  • Give something extraordinary. That is, if they could buy it for themselves, it really isn’t that big of a deal. For example:

    • Give an office gal a $250 shopping spree at an upscale store where she would never shop
    • Give a day at the spa over and above what they would do for themselves
    • I once gave a big screen TV to a $10/hour employee. He could never have afforded one. He worked his butt off for a month on a big project and deserved something big. From that point on, every time he looked at his big screen TV, he thought of his wonderful boss (ok, that’s pushing it, but you get my point).
    • Per the previous example, give something other than cash if possible. Cash goes into the general fund and ends up paying the electric bill. The best gifts remind the employee of their great job when they see or use the gift.
    • Send roses to an employees wife. This is one of the best boss tricks ever. We all have had times we really rely on a key employee and work them REALLY hard. Sometimes, there is no way around this. Send a dozen nice roses to their wife with a note saying, “We know we have been taking Bob away from you for the past couple weeks, but we want you to know that we appreciate you and Bob’s efforts. Bob is doing a wonderful job here and we greatly appreciate his work and your sacrifice.” She will be “wowed” and will not be letting Bob “have it” every time he comes home late. If the key employee is a gal, find a gift appropriate for their husband or significant other.
    • Allow employees to stay for a day of fun after a trade show
    • Hire a maid to clean their house
    • Hire a landscaping company to mow their yard
    • Create an employee of the month parking spot
    • Rent a Mercedes or a convertible for a month and let them drive it. If you want to know how to turn this into a great salesperson motivation game, drop me an email

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