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Ask a Trainer: How Can I Protect My Organization’s Employee Experience Budget?


Wed Feb 17 2021

Ask a Trainer: How Can I Protect My Organization’s Employee Experience Budget?

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In this week’s Ask a Trainer guest post, Peter Brussard offers advice for how HR and L&D teams can connect employee experience programs to business success.

Dear Peter,


I work for a small organization on the HR team in a role that focuses on employee engagement, learning, and development. Our team’s budget was cut in 2021 in response to some lost revenue because of the pandemic.

I often read about amazing work that’s being done in learning and development or employee engagement. I would love to do some of that work at my organization, but I’m worried that any programs I start are going to be eliminated in the next round of budget cuts. Do you have any advice for how to protect my budget for employee experience programs going forward?

I think there are some things you can do. If budgets are constrained and everyone is taking 20 percent off theirs, it’s hard for any one department to resist that. But if you can connect the dots between employee experience and business success, it can become much clearer to other decision-makers that your department is useful. I think it’s easy for a person on the finance team to look at a cost and say, “Well, there’s $25,000 a year that we could save,” because in their mind, that program isn’t connected to the business.

But in reality, programs that keep people happy can have a big impact on the business—with retention, for example. Losing an employee that you didn’t want to is incredibly expensive. I’ve seen numbers saying that between a third and two-thirds of that person’s salary is spent when you’re trying to recruit and train a new person for that role. You must deal with the fact that there’s nobody in that role for a couple of months. If you have an effective program that deals with churn, it’s probably extremely cost effective to keep that program in place versus dealing with the risk and challenge of losing employees.

When the decision-makers outside of the HR or L&D teams don’t know that, it’s hard for them to be advocates. I always encourage people on those teams to share data. There’s all sorts of good information out there that shows that engaged teams produce more. There are a lot of fact-based, research-based ways for L&D and employee development programs to be measured with a return on investment (ROI) yardstick, and usually the ROI yardstick is what senior leaders and finance folks need to be convinced to keep those programs from getting removed.


One challenge that some HR programs may run into is that they launch with great fanfare, and then a year later, people ask, “Did we do that, and how did that work out?” It’s really up to folks on the HR team to regularly update senior leadership about how a program is going. Tell them how well your motivation program is doing and how many people have shared their accolades to one another.

If you have an actively used recognition and rewards program, it’s a different story when someone says, “Well, we’ve got to find some money to cut. How about that thing? You can say, “Well, 80 percent of our team uses that every month. I don’t think that’s the right place to look.” It’s great if you’ve been having that conversation the entire time, as opposed to just around budgets.



Learn more from Peter about employee development and company culture on the ATD Accidental Trainer podcast. His episode aired on February 17, 2021.


If you have a question for Ask a Trainer, send it to [email protected]. You can find answers to previous questions by visiting the Ask a Trainer hub.

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Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

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