Looking for ways to engage your employees and get them excited to be at work? Read on! Here are our top 31 employee engagement ideas from Human Resources (HR) professionals and small business owners around the United States. Many of these will put a spark in your employees’ steps without putting a strain on the purse strings of your small business budget.
Megan Driscoll, Founder and CEO of EvolveMKD
Every employee at Evolve, from Intern to CEO, is challenged to meet their own career potential and define what they want from their job. Each staff member has a weekly one-on-one meeting with their direct supervisor to review what is working and what they need to be doing to ensure they are prepared for the next step in their career. Additionally, we have annual reviews and promotions.
Jeffrey Kelly, Founder/CEO of AssetLab
I have found that the best way to engage employees in a small business is through the culture. If you are able to build a tight bond where people matter and accomplishments and setbacks are a shared experience, everyone wants to pitch in beyond their pay grade.
Marc Prosser, FitSmallBusiness
Encourage a celebratory atmosphere and make your employees feel acknowledged by keeping track of their birthdays and celebrating them. Bring in a cake or another special snack, or just sing the Happy Birthday song to show your employees that you are thinking of them on their birthday. Need an easy way to keep track of Birthdays? Gusto payroll software includes a calendar that makes keeping track of birthdays, time off, and more a breeze. Try it free for a month.
Jennifer Martin, Founder of Zest Business Consulting
Take on a company challenge – think cleaning up the beaches, planting a community garden, initiating a recycling program. Ask everyone on the team to dedicate at least 2 hours a month to the program to give everyone the chance to feel like they are making a difference in a bigger way.
Mike Arce, Founder and CEO of Loud Rumor
Providing education to employees helps to keep employees engaged while at work and on top of their field. Try sending them to conferences, putting them through online courses, providing them books, and providing them coaches.
Dave Collins, Founder and CEO at Oak & Reeds
Practical, skills-based improv training is a great way for a small business to engage its employees. The improv comedy toolset provides a way to solve common organizational challenges in creative ways. Key skills that improv can teach include: public speaking, team leadership, and enhanced team collaboration.
In addition, improv can be used to prepare hiring managers to ask great questions in interviews, to empower young leaders with active listening skills, and to build team chemistry with high-performing groups looking to apply new collaboration tools to their everyday work. Overall, improv enhances individual and group collaboration skills, creativity, and builds stronger, more empathetic teams.
Ryan Shaw, Founder and CEO of Shoreditch
All Shoreditch employees own a part of the business. This means that as the business progresses and increases in value, the entire team will benefit. This keeps everyone’s eye on the same goal and us all moving in the same direction…to that 9-figure exit!
Ketti Salemme, Senior Communications Manager at TINYPulse
Hold brown bag lunches where individuals can present on topics of their choice. Why not leverage your own talent, and offer up opportunities for employees to share their own knowledge and expertise on certain subjects?
Kristen Wasyliszyn, Owner of Atikis Flight Catering
A quick way to get employees engaged is an anonymous compliment board. You sneak (disguise your handwriting) a compliment to someone worthy of credit. All employees walk into work and go there first. “Anne, your seafood tray was incredible” etc… Sometimes being noticed for being great at what you do IS everything.
Catriona Harris, CEO of Uproar PR
At Uproar, one of our top priorities is cultivating an open and inviting culture, which in turn keeps employees engaged and motivated. As a business owner or manager, you have to constantly keep the wheels turning and introduce new initiatives to let your employees know you’re thinking of them and that their hard work is appreciated.
For instance, this year we wanted to go beyond the annual office holiday party to give our team something to look forward to each day leading up to Christmas, so we brought 12 Days of Christmas to the office. Each day, every employee is treated to a surprise, whether it’s a random gift or a team building activity. We’ve done everything from hot cocoa and mimosa bars, to desk decorating contests and tree trimming parties in a span of three weeks. Not only has it kept our employees motivated, but it has also given us unique opportunities to interact with several team members in a setting outside of meetings and calls.
Michael Giotis, Strategy Facilitator at inHabit Business Systems
Find ways to include employees’ own language in mission-oriented and outgoing messaging. They often have a very accurate sense of what phrasing resonates with customers and other employees. It feels great to see the company speak your own words and know that you are being recognized for making a valuable contribution.
Simon Slade, CEO and Co-Founder of SaleHoo
One of the best ways to increase employee engagement is to include your staff in high level decision-making. Solicit input from your staff on company matters at any scale. While the final decision still lies with the CEO, staff feel more invested in a company where their opinion is respected and considered.
Perryn Olson, CPSM; Marketing Director at My IT
Our open door policy is more of a culture than a written policy, but our executives/owners do literally keep their doors open and when they need to focus or have sensitive information on their desks, they will close their doors with a door hanger that says “knock.” The door hanger can be flipped to say “do not disturb”, but it is rarely used and I don’t think I’ve seen it in the past 6 months. Only our executives have offices and our four managers are out in the open with the employees in our bullpen area. Our culture gives employees a voice, whether they are just venting and need to get something off their chest or if they have an idea.
Jacob Dayan, Partner and Co-Founder of Community Tax
As an employer, it is really important to recognize that employees are more fulfilled when they have opportunities to pursue purposeful activities beyond work. We want our employees to engage in volunteer or other philanthropic work, and connecting with employees as they do these things is a great way to drive engagement.
For example, granting employees a paid time off allowance to perform community service is something they really value. When employees are out in the community, when it’s feasible, send someone out to get photos or video and post it to internal and external social media channels (or ask the employee to take photos or video).
Recognize employee community service in newsletters and emails. Give awards for employee volunteer achievements. I guarantee that doing these things is a win all-around – the community benefits from employees’ volunteer work, employees feel good about themselves and the company, and the company gets positive exposure in the community.
Robin Throckmonton, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, President of Strategic HR
One of the top reasons employees are passionate about working with Strategic HR is our flexible workplace. We don’t fight rush hour traffic but avoid it with flexible hours. Plus, if we need to meet the plumber, pick up kids, or have an appointment, we can work from home with no sweat.
Kes Thygesen, Co-Founder and Head of Product at RolePoint
Engage your employees by giving them a voice in the way your company will grow. For example, when it’s time to start hiring more employees, start an employee referral program.
This way, employees are participating in the recruitment process and helping to build the company culture. When you tie incentives into your program to encourage participation, you are bound to see an increase in participants.
Jessica Stephenson, SHRM-CP, PHR; VP of Marketing & Talent for ExactHire
We enjoy having “Monday Funday” on the 3rd Monday of each month. Our three-person Fun Committee plans a friendly inter-office competition, such as remote-controlled car racing and paper football punting contests, and generally includes a themed snack, too. These sessions last between 15-20 minutes and are very informal. The idea is to give the team something fun (and perhaps quirky) to look forward to each month. This is especially important because many of us work from home regularly and don’t always connect in person outside of one or two days per week.
Becca Le Blond, HR Supervisor at FM Outsource
Employee engagement is always at the forefront of our minds at FM. Our house system sees new starters sorted into their work family within a family, and from then on they’ll have the support of their house mates. We have monthly house events that always involve free food, and the opportunity to win house points by participating in office games.
Jason Whitman, CEO at JustWorks
For our own employees, we have been piloting a wellness program in partnership with one of our customers, which includes in-office offerings like yoga, meditation, and massages. We want to help employees alleviate stress with easy access to quality services, understanding that it can be hard with busy schedules. Having wellness offerings in the office matches our employees-first culture and also contributes to the long-term health of our workforce.
Here are 12 additional employee engagement ideas from our own HR professional, Christy Hopkins.
20. Create an Employee Party Committee
If you hold monthly, weekly, or other office events and parties, why not let the employees themselves plan them (with a budget)? Creating an employee party or gathering committee can really get employees excited not just about planning the events, but about going to them too!
21. Play Ice-Breaker Games Often
Keeping employees getting to know each other can be helpful to keep them engaged at work. If employees know they are going to learn something new about their coworkers, or have to share something themselves, it will keep them excited to come to work. This idea is especially good for companies that employ lots of millennials.
22. Create a Mentoring or Buddy Program
A top complaint of young employees is that they do not have a mentor. A popular wish among more experienced employees is that they want to teach what they have learned. Solve both of those issues by creating a mentoring or buddy program at your company, where you can pair up company employees in different ways and in different time frames (think outside of the department or field box). Allocate some resources for the mentor to take their buddy to lunch or happy hour off site.
23. Encourage Networking & Guests to the Office
Let your employees bring family, friends, and networking connections to the office, and encourage them to be proud of where they work. Encourage employees to network and create follow up meetings where they can give tours of the office and take new connections to coffee or lunch. Depending on your business, you never know- your next client might come from this!
24. Have Office Pets
On the west coast, it’s become trendy to have dog-friendly offices where employees can bring their furry friend to work with them (bearing that the dog is up to date on vaccines and good with people). If that seems a bit too far out there, we recommend having a fun office pet like a Chia pet, sea monkeys, or a fish tank. Just like in kindergarten, you can have a calendar and rotate who takes care of these pets each week.
25. Have the Entire Office Brainstorm Solutions
Business or client problems in one department? Have the entire office team gather to brainstorm solutions. You never know, maybe Bob in Accounting might have a brilliant idea to solve the Marketing team’s problem with a new client. Aside from solving the issue, it also makes everyone at the company feel tied into the business in a more encompassing way.
26. Take an Employee Survey (and Use the Results)
First, let me caution you–do NOT take an employee survey if you do not intend to take action on the results. But, if you do take an employee survey and then take visible actionable results (like finally fixing that squeaky bathroom door or dripping faucet), you can expect to have happy, engaged employees who feel like their voices are being heard. Better yet, share with them the survey results and the changes you plan to make (and when). You can make the survey anonymous if you wish to.
27. Start an Office Design Team
Letting your employees arrange the office (within reason) or starting an office design committee can be a great way to bring some feng shui into your space, and also save you some bucks from hiring a fancy designer or decorator. Give the team a budget and have them provide you with some plans on how to improve the office design so that employees can do their work more effectively in an environment they enjoy.
28. Have Company Music
Use music to keep your employees pumped about working there. You could have a weekly dance party in an empty conference room, a song of the week, or a karaoke contest on Fridays. You can also use Spotify for company playlists where employees can share their music and make office-related playlists.
29. Encourage Face to Face Conversations
Ban internal emails and make people talk to each other 1-2 days per month (or more!) to make employees feel more connected to each other and to the work they are doing together. It gets too easy to send emails to people even sitting across from you versus having a quick talk. Not only should face-to-face communication improve employee relationships, it should also improve efficiency since it eliminates the back and forth 1-liner emails clarifying details.
30. Hold Complimentary Monthly Classes
Bring in a monthly speaker or guest or offer a class to keep your employees excited about coming to work. From yoga to self defense to a local motivational speaker, have someone once per month come in and give a talk or class to your employees on your dime. You could also do a survey to find out if your employees have a wish list for types of classes and who could teach them (maybe they even know someone who would come in for free).
31. Have Themed Office Days
We all have heard of the old “Hawaiian shirt day” at the office. And guess what? That can be a lot of fun, especially if you do it once per month and have a young workforce who will get into the theme without abandon. Get even wilder and turn it into a contest for “best dressed” each time with an in-office lunch or happy hour celebration in your silly get ups.
32. Give them Job Variety
Letting employees work in other departments for 1-2 days per month can provide job variety. Job variety stops people from being bored at work and engages them by letting them work in other teams or on projects that personally interest them versus their same old routine. This idea is especially worthwhile if many of your employees’ roles have a repetitive nature (e.g. telemarketers).
Over To You
What has your business done to keep employees excited about coming to work, beyond the usual health benefits, PTO, and such? We would love to hear your employee engagement ideas too!