Employee engagement is the level of commitment and connection an employee has with their employer. The best way to address dropping or stagnant employee engagement is by creating a positive and supportive work culture that helps fulfill the needs of employees while keeping them encouraged on the job.
Some employee engagement ideas you can implement are operational, while others are more fun cultural and community activities. But all of these ideas can help increase your employee engagement, providing a host of benefits for your business.
Thinking about increasing employee engagement through operational adjustments may sound like it’s missing the mark. But according to Gallup, only 36% of US employees are engaged in their work. Disengagement stems in part from not feeling like a member of the team.
1. Deliver a Solid Onboarding Experience
Your company sets the tone for your new hire’s experience on the first day on the job. Whether your employee is walking into a physical office or joining your team remotely, they need to feel welcomed and have a clear direction. Ambiguity and confusion are a recipe for a lack of employee engagement.
Your onboarding process should include clear expectations and goals for your new hire. But it also needs to be fun—especially if they’re starting remotely. Zoom fatigue is real if you’re onboarding remotely, so schedule lots of downtime for them. I recommend letting them go early on their first day, but before they do, have a 30-minute happy hour with the people they’ll be working most closely with so they can get to know each other and start putting faces to names.
2. Provide the Right Tools & Systems
Beyond onboarding, invest in the tools your employees need to get their jobs done properly and efficiently. If you have high expectations for their work, you must give them what they need to meet those expectations. Otherwise, it can lead to frustration.
Part of providing the right resources for your employees is asking them what they need. Your employees are the experts in the tasks they perform and often have great ideas, sometimes from past experience, on what will help them do their jobs better.
3. Establish an Appreciation & Rewards Program
Many companies already have these programs, but they’re stale. Employees may privately deride these programs because they do nothing to spur morale—they’re simply a waste of time.
To make your appreciation and rewards program effective, your employees need to come first. You need to reward employees for a job well done, and sometimes you need to give them tangible rewards. A $5 gift card to get coffee isn’t a bad idea, but also consider larger rewards when it makes sense, i.e., like a full day off or even a company-paid getaway. Bigger and sought-after awards incentivize employees, creating higher levels of productivity, as well as loyalty and engagement.
4. Create a Development Program
Many employees won’t come right out and tell you, but they want to develop in their roles and grow with your company. To help them, create a development program that allows them to grow their skills.
Their development courses don’t have to directly align with their job duties. In fact, having them expand their knowledge into other areas can help them see the bigger picture and add value to your organization from more well-rounded and big-thinking employees.
5. Prioritize Workplace Safety
Although not a topic that will inspire lots of fun activities, workplace safety is extremely important. In certain industries, safety measures are required by law because of the inherent dangers.
But even in traditionally safe workplaces, like office jobs, people are concerned about their safety. According to The Conference Board, over 40% of workers have concerns about going back into the workplace amid COVID-19. If your employees can do their work from anywhere, you might consider that calling everyone back to the office may have a negative impact.
6. Offer Flex Work Opportunities
Along with the above, consider offering your employees flexible work options. For businesses that could, remote work helped them get through the beginnings of the pandemic. Over 70% of workers want to continue that trend.
Creating a hybrid environment can be beneficial even if you don’t want to become entirely remote. Besides reducing your company’s overhead costs, it can also make your employees more engaged and productive.
7. Request Feedback Through an Anonymous Suggestions Box
Suggestion boxes give employees the chance to propose improvements to their workplace. It can be as simple as suggesting a new coffee machine or more serious like recommending the company change its values statement.
What matters most is that employees feel comfortable making these suggestions. The best way to do that is through anonymity. Whether you have a physical box or an electronic one, make sure employees know their suggestions are completely anonymous so you can get true and accurate feedback.
8. Employee Management
Effective employee management is crucial to your team’s engagement. Your employees crave structure and direction. Your managers and supervisors must provide your employees with clear and direct feedback, both good and bad.
However, employee management goes beyond just reprimanding employees for not reaching a goal. Employee management requires constant attention from managers to give their team the support they need to succeed. This doesn’t mean micromanagement—this means giving advice, coaching, nurturing, and guidance. The best way to achieve this is to have consistent and regular check-ins, aligning with your company’s employee management process.
9. Increase Pay & Benefits
Stick with me. You’re not sure how this will work, especially if you’re already barely making a profit. But your employees are an investment in your company’s future success. Without them, your company fails.
Increasing the pay and benefits offered to your employees can reduce turnover and increase your competitive advantage. When word spreads, and it will, that you’re paying people what they’re worth and offering them best-in-class benefits, you can attract high-quality talent that sticks with your company. In the long run, reducing turnover will save your company money.
Company culture is the connection between the espoused values and the actions of the people within the organization. Workers want to be a part of an organization that believes in itself and offers employees the freedom to be themselves. A 2021 PWC survey found that 67% of respondents ranked company culture of higher importance than strategy or operations.
10. Assign Mentors & Buddies
Starting with their first day on the job, employees should be paired up. Especially for new hires, a mentor or more senior employee can help answer questions about the company culture that the new employee might not ask of their direct manager.
Over time, this mentorship turns into a friendly relationship. Mutual trust helps employees work through difficult situations. Be careful that employees stay energized and positive. Negativity spreads quickly between employees.
11. Attack Burnout
Employees have recently reported a 21% increase in burnout. Partly as a result of the pandemic, employees are feeling like they cannot shut off. This struggle is particularly difficult for those who work from home, as well as anyone living with them.
Taking action to combat burnout is essential to your employees’ well-being and a way to show your team that you recognize a problem and intend to fix it. Request insight from your team about how they would attack this issue. Ask them about modified schedules, changing workloads, and anything that would help them. If your employees trust your organization, they’ll give you honest feedback you can take action on right away.
12. Encourage Shutting Down
Aligned with the previous tip, your company culture can help encourage employees to log off. One of the most effective ways to combat burnout is to have a clear separation between work and personal life. This might sound counterintuitive when asking how to engage employees, but giving them time to shut down can let them refresh and set boundaries.
Allow your employees to have blackout periods where they don’t get emails or messages. Most software allows you to schedule messages for tomorrow instead of sending a late night message while a topic is on your mind. If you set the example, your team will follow.
13. Encourage Socialization Among Employees
Getting out of the physical or virtual office with colleagues is a good experience. It can help create bonds and relationships between co-workers, increasing communication and a sense of belonging.
You don’t have to have a big grandiose event to make your point. You can have a simple virtual gathering around a theme. Make it a scavenger hunt. Or tell a story about the best gift you received as a child. Anything that spurs communication and bonding between teammates will bring your culture strength.
14. Encourage Time Off
Americans leave lots of paid time off (PTO) unused every year. Many companies encourage this behavior, thinking that it shows an employee’s work ethic. In reality, all it does is increase the likelihood of employee burnout.
Encourage employees to use their time off. A few companies even insist that employees use all their time off. While that may seem extreme, evidence is clear from multiple studies through the years that when employees use PTO, even for just a long weekend away, they come back more refreshed and clear about their work.
15. Start an Employee of the Month Program
Employee of the month programs can be a bore, especially if the employee getting the award is obvious or a favorite. This can demotivate employees.
Done correctly, however, employee of the month programs provide a huge bonus to the company. When employees strive to be their best, they increase their chances of getting the award (which should come with tangible rewards), and that ultimately benefits your company through increased productivity. It’s a win-win.
16. Give Graceful Send-offs to Terminated Employees
Not every employee leaves on good terms. Some may be terminated for cause while others may have been a nucleus of negativity. Part of your people management skills include communication, so talk to your employees about people who left but don’t divulge any confidential information.
Give employees who have served your company well a graceful send-off. The goal is not to encourage turnover, but to give your team the opportunity to say goodbye and thank the employee for their hard work. You also demonstrate that you have no ill feelings toward departing employees.
17. Live the Values
At the heart of every company culture are core values. For far too many companies, their values are nothing more than meaningless words posted on the website. Employees see right through those situations.
While values and mission statements are important, they cannot be hollow. It all starts with you—organizational leadership must live the values. If you don’t, then no one else will.
Part of employee engagement involves the community. Supporting your employees, no matter where they are located, in ways that support their communities will go a long way toward increasing their level of engagement.
18. Give Time Off to Volunteer
If your company has a passion or if your employees have a passion, support them. Employees should be encouraged to give back to the community in whatever way they feel most strongly about.
A volunteer program will help your employees feel like they’re making a difference. While you can have your entire organization rally around a certain volunteer activity, you can also give employees the ability to be themselves by giving them allocated time off to volunteer. As an added benefit, when employees volunteer together, it works even better than team building because employees bond over a shared goal.
19. Charity Events
The same is true of charity events as it is for volunteering. Charity goes a long way to supporting your community and can even be a great holiday gift idea for your team.
Consider holding a canned food drive or a children’s gift drive during the holiday season. Your company can accept donations and provide them directly to local families in need or local charities that can distribute them accordingly. By giving your employees a cause outside of work, they can bond and work toward a common goal.
20. Celebrate Non-Work Accomplishments
Did a team member recently get married, have a child, or buy a house? Even though these events don’t relate to work, they are very important to your employees’ personal lives.
Supporting the non-work lives of your employees can go a long way in supporting your goal of having an engaged workforce. Before you celebrate your employees, make sure they are comfortable with you showing their private lives. By recognizing employees’ non-work achievements, you foster a sense of friendship among colleagues, which leads to engagement.
Listen & Adjust
This tip gets a section all to itself because it’s just that important. You can do everything we’ve mentioned above—implementing all the right programs and paying your team well—but if you don’t listen to what your team needs and make adjustments based on their feedback, you’ll never reach the full potential of your employee engagement.
What works for one company may not work for yours. Try something. And then change when it’s clear that it just isn’t right for your business or your team. Finding the employee engagement strategy that works for your company will take time and will never be complete. It will always require maintenance and attention. The only way to know what adjustment to make next is to truly hear your employees and make changes based on their needs.
For many employees, being engaged in their work takes more than free office snacks. A holistic approach that shows them you care, listen, and respond to their needs and desires is a much better way to ensure your employees are engaged with your organization and motivated to do their best work. From better employee management techniques to tangible employee rewards, choose the right tools to help your company engage your employees.