Employee engagement is crucial to employee retention. When you see turnover rates rising, you’ll likely see employee engagement falling. 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 or learning and development focused, 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.
Although it might not be the first thing that comes to mind, some of the most basic operational decisions you make can have a huge influence on employee engagement. Let’s discuss a few.
Did You Know? According to Gallup, only 21% of US employees are engaged at work—which is a 15% drop from the prior Gallup survey.
1. Deliver a Solid Onboarding Experience
Your onboarding process should include clear expectations and goals for your new hire, as this 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.
Besides that, 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 often 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. For instance, a $5 gift card to get coffee isn’t a bad idea, but also consider larger rewards when it makes sense, 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. 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. If your employees can do their work from anywhere, you might consider that calling everyone back to the office may have a negative impact.
5. 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.
6. Request Anonymous Feedback
Suggestion boxes, both physical and virtual, give employees the chance to propose improvements to their workplace. It can be as simple as suggesting a new coffee machine or something 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.
7. Focus on 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.
8. 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 that you’re paying people what they’re worth and offering them best-in-class benefits—and it will—you can attract high-quality talent that sticks with your company. In the long run, reducing turnover will save your company money.
Learning & Development Ideas
Providing learning and development (L&D) opportunities is one of the best things you can do to drive employee engagement. It illustrates an investment in the employee by your business—an investment that may even pay off for them at a new company. A strong L&D program not only improves an individual’s skills but surrounds them with well-developed colleagues and leaders.
9. 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 align directly 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 by becoming more well-rounded and big-thinking employees.
10. Develop a Library of Resources
Setting up an easily accessible library of resources that contains tutorials, templates, or guidebooks related to the organization’s operations will help give employees the tools and knowledge they need to succeed.
Many companies take this idea and set up a company intranet or a fully encompassing knowledge database. Having access to tutorials and templates related to the organization’s operations can help equip staff members with the tools they need to succeed, encouraging them to stay informed and grow within the company.
11. Promote Reverse Mentoring
Reverse mentoring occurs when less experienced employees mentor more tenured employees. Often this occurs when a company introduces new technology or tackles emerging trends. Taking this approach can help bridge the gap and promote collaboration between employees.
12. Implement a Cross-department Shadow Program
Implementing a shadow program where employees can shadow colleagues in different departments or roles can help build understanding and empathy across teams. This also promotes career development opportunities as people see what other paths may be available within the organization.
13. Establish a Job Swap Process
Similar to a shadow program, a job swap allows employees to swap roles for an hour, day, or week. While there should be limits on these swaps, it can build a deeper understanding and empathy of what the person in the role deals with on a daily basis. It also provides opportunities for individual growth and development.
14. Create a Talent Exchange Program
Implementing a talent exchange program where employees can spend time working in different office locations or with partner organizations can help promote cross-functional understanding and build relationships with colleagues and partners the employee might otherwise not have had. A talent exchange also provides great opportunities for personal development and growth.
15. Have a Personalized Coaching Process
Offering personalized coaching to employees can help develop their skills and prepare them for future leadership roles within your organization. This shows a commitment to employee growth and development. It can also encourage better relationships between employees.
16. Promote Employee-led Innovation
Your employees are on the front lines of your organization. This unique perspective often gives them the best insight into how your company can adapt and grow. Creating an employee-led innovation program where employees are empowered to share their ideas for process improvements and new products with leadership can help foster a culture of innovation while also demonstrating that the company values employee input and creativity.
Many successful companies have adopted the idea of a hackathon, which includes setting aside a specific period of time to focus on those innovative ideas that employees can’t get to during their day-to-day work.
17. Create an Intrapreneurship Program
Like an employee-led innovation program or hackathon, intrapreneurship programs allow employees to pitch and develop their own business ideas within the organization. Giving employees time to focus on passion projects helps engage employees by promoting creativity, risk-taking, and entrepreneurship. As an added bonus, your company can gain from this culture of innovation.
18. Provide Learning Sabbaticals
Many companies offer sabbatical leave to employees, where they can take a few weeks to several months off work to travel, spend time with family, or manage other aspects of their personal lives. A learning sabbatical takes the same approach by giving employees time away from work to focus on their personal development goals. This could include attending conferences or pursuing advanced degrees. Not only does this help the employee, but it can also benefit your organization as the employee returns with everything they’ve learned.
19. Host Knowledge-sharing Sessions
Hosting regular knowledge-sharing sessions where employees can share their expertise on topics relevant to the organization is crucial to engaging employees. Topics could include industry trends or emerging technologies. These sessions promote learning and development, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.
20. Conduct Leadership Retreats
Organizing leadership retreats where senior leaders can take time away from the office to reflect on their leadership style, set goals, and bond with each other can help promote self-awareness, team building, and long-term strategic thinking. It also shows leaders that you want to give them the time and space necessary to think about the big-picture ideas and ways they can improve their departments and the company. Giving leaders a chance to engage with each other outside work also builds stronger bonds between them.
21. Offer Leadership Coaching
Offering leadership coaching to employees in management positions can help develop essential skills, like communication and delegation. Your leaders manage the employees’ experience with your company, so they must be well-versed in your company’s communication practices and how to effectively make decisions that affect their team. By giving regular coaching to your leaders, you ensure a single voice, engaging employees through transparent and effective communication.
Company culture is the connection between your business’s 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. According to FlexJobs, the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs is a toxic company culture—which is why it’s important to focus on creating a positive one.
22. Set up a Culture Committee
Establish a culture committee that is devoted to creating a work environment that is meaningful and enjoyable for all employees. This could involve developing initiatives such as team-building activities, rewards systems, and recognition programs.
A culture committee allows employees to contribute their ideas and opinions. This offers an opportunity for them to take ownership of a project and have their voice heard, thus promoting collaboration among staff members.
23. 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 among employees.
24. Attack Burnout
Partly as a result of the pandemic, employees are feeling like they cannot shut off. But this trend is increasing, with 59% of employees saying they have at least moderate levels of burnout. This is nine points higher than 2021.
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 any input that would ultimately help them in the long run. If your employees trust your organization, they’ll give you honest feedback you can take action on right away.
25. 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 an example, your team will follow.
26. Encourage Time Off
One of the best ways to shut down is to take 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.
27. 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.
28. Build Interest Groups
Creating interest groups—i.e., for parents, LBGTQ+ members, or even just gardeners or crafters—allows staff members to explore topics that are meaningful to them together. This gives employees a chance to build relationships outside of work, allowing them to make connections on a deeper level with each other, which enhances engagement within the workplace.
29. Swap Knowledge
You and your employees come with varying backgrounds and potentially vastly different knowledge bases. From random trivia to easy meals, colleagues can connect by sharing insights.
30. Establish Employee-led Committees
Employees at all levels want to feel heard and like they have a voice in the organization. Creating employee-led committees can ensure that happens. Focused on areas like sustainability, volunteering, or cultural events, these committees can help promote engagement by allowing employees to take ownership of initiatives they care about while also building skills in project management and event planning.
31. 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.
32. 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.
33. 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.
34. Develop a Sunny Day Fund
Many companies prepare for economic hardship by funding a rainy day fund. They do this through budget cuts, reducing staff and overhead, not giving raises, and other business tactics to keep cash on hand.
Companies should also put money aside for a sunny day fund. Whatever fun activities you deem appropriate for your company, you’ll have money set aside to engage employees. Whether you have ice cream parties, take everyone out to dinner, or take your small team on a cruise, you’ll have the funds ready to use as you see fit, giving you a good ROI on your investment.
35. 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.
36. Give Time Off to Volunteer
If your company has a passion, or if your employees have a passion, then 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.
37. Organize Community Cleanups
Organizing volunteer cleanup days in local parks or other public spaces is a great way for employees to give back to their local community. Cleaning up the local community can give employees a sense of purpose and connectedness. It is also a great way to foster team spirit and collaboration, as well as provide employees with an opportunity to give back to their local area.
38. Establish Community Mentorship Programs
Setting up mentorship programs with local schools or nonprofits helps support youth development and can be incredibly rewarding for employees. By connecting with youth in the community, employees have an additional opportunity to develop relationships outside of work. Working alongside someone who is committed to learning can motivate and inspire individual growth within the workplace as well.
39. Participate in 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.
40. Support Your Employees’ Favorite Charities
When selecting charity events to support, consider the causes that are close to your employees’ hearts. Supporting these initiatives benefits your employees and the community. This could be things like food drives or charity fundraisers. These help employees feel empowered to make a positive impact beyond their professional roles.
41. Sponsor Local Events
Sponsoring local events like a community sports team or festival can help promote your company’s values while also giving back to the community. This approach helps create goodwill and positive brand recognition for employees, customers, and potential applicants.
Bonus Tip: 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.
Why Employee Engagement Is Crucial
Engaged employees are more likely to be ambassadors for the organization, going above and beyond what is expected of them and developing innovations that can benefit the company as a whole. Investing in employee engagement is an important factor in securing the long-term success of any organization.
Increasing employee engagement has many benefits, including:
- Improved Retention: Engaged employees are more likely to stay with an organization for longer periods of time. This reduces recruitment costs, as well as the time and energy required to onboard new staff.
- Increased Productivity: Engaging employees encourages them to take ownership of their roles and use their strengths to reach organizational goals. This leads to higher levels of productivity within the company and higher revenue. Companies with high levels of employee engagement experience profits up to 23% greater than those with lower engagement levels.
- Improved Employee Happiness and Satisfaction: Employees who feel valued by their employers tend to be happier and have a greater sense of job satisfaction. When workers feel happy in their work environment, there is a positive effect on customer service as well as the morale of colleagues.
- Increased Employee Loyalty and Commitment: Engaged employees are more likely to be loyal to their company and demonstrate consistent commitment over the long term. This translates into improved business performance, customer retention, and brand reputation.
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.