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Employee disengagement is increasingly becoming a critical issue, silently undermining the success of businesses globally. While good employee engagement software can help, coming up with a strategy is often a struggle, no matter where the business is located. In fact, a recent Gallup report found that only 20% of employees globally are engaged at work (the number is 36% in the US).

So, we're here to help. Here are some strategies for keeping your team members engaged and performance numbers up, whether they're in office or remote.

Onboarding your new hires 

Onboarding is when a company introduces a new employee into an organization and provides the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to succeed.

This is crucial for employee engagement and sets the pace for strong employee retention. The onboarding process is the first real opportunity to instill passion for the company’s culture, values, and goals, and yet, only 12% of employees say that their company does onboarding well. So, this is what we advise to do better:

1. Start from day one 

Start integrating new hires into the company culture right away. This is crucial for building a sense of belonging and understanding of company values, and research shows that effective onboarding can improve employee retention by over 80%.

2. Teach company values 

Onboarding is the time to set expectations from your employees, and that should include your values. It may seem like a given that workers are doing their job with honesty, integrity, and enthusiasm, but teach them how important those are.

3. Set early goals 

If you're looking to set new employees up for success, share your expectations in the first few months of their role. Set out some deliverables that you would expect to see in a 30, 60 and 90 day plan and work together on how to achieve them.

4. Set some deadlines 

Your new employees have their sleeves rolled up and are ready for hard work. Consider giving them some early deadlines on when you expect to start seeing deliverables. Measurable, attainable goals are a great way to get things started. 

5. Assign a buddy 

The 'buddy system' worked in elementary school and it can work in the office as well. Every employee is going to have questions that they're hesitant to ask a manager, so an internal resource can act as a guide and provide added assistance.

6. Organize a welcome event

Hosting a special event to welcome new employees helps them feel valued and integrated. It can significantly boost their initial engagement and connection with the team.

7. Set up check-ins 

Regular check-ins with new hires ensure ongoing support and adjustment, aiding in smoother acclimatization and reducing early turnover. Consider setting up for more frequent check-ins during the first few months.

8. Provide a tour 

A thorough tour helps new hires understand the company's operations and culture, fostering a sense of belonging and clarity about how their role fits into the bigger picture. Introduce them to all of the departments and all senior leadership.

Nailing feedback

Nailing feedback means perfecting your reaction to an employee's performance of a task (or all their tasks) in a way that it can be used as a basis for improvement.

If your feedback is positive, the employee will receive an extra boost and feel rewarded. If not positive but provided constructively, they're motivated to continue on the right path. No feedback? Well, that leaves them in the dark completely. Ask employees to provide their own feedback in return, and try these other tactics:

9. Run surveys

If you're looking to increase employee engagement, get employees engaged in the decision making process. Employee surveys about key processes and decisions will help ensure that you're acting with employee input and fostering inclusion.

10. Get feedback on surveys  

Asking employees for their thoughts on the effectiveness of surveys ensures continuous improvement in the feedback process. It shows respect for their input, fosters open communication, and helps you to get the most out of your surveys.

11. Provide feedback regularly 

Regular feedback sessions help employees understand their progress and areas for improvement, without leaving them guessing or making assumptions. Set quarterly or monthly check-ins with your team members as a matter of routine.

12. Keep your door open 

While it may be distracting every time that someone walks by, a literal open door policy helps show employees that you're present, engaged, and available to discuss issues at any time. An open-door policy signifies approachability and openness.

13. Ask what's not working 

This involves seeking employee input on challenges and inefficiencies they face, and maybe their proposed solutions. It's an important step in creating a responsive and adaptive work culture, leading to increased employee empowerment.

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14. Try a 360-degree system   

Try a system where employees receive confidential, anonymous evaluations from the people who work with them. This feedback method provides a well-rounded perspective on performance, enhancing personal development and dynamics.

15. Schedule performance reviews   

Whether bi-annual or quarterly, regular performance reviews help in setting clear expectations and goals, leading to improved performance and employee engagement. By scheduling them, employees also have a chance to prepare.

16. Create an anonymous suggestion box   

An anonymous platform for suggestions encourages open and honest feedback, helping to identify areas for improvement. Make sure that employees are aware of its existence, and that it's in an area where anonymity is fairly easy to maintain.

Helping employees grow

If employees feel as though they've 'maxed out' in the company, chances are they'll leave it. Growth can mean promotions, new certifications, or more responsibility.

In fact, according to research by the Pew Research Center, 'no opportunities for advancement' was the second most popular reason for people quitting their jobs. Giving employees opportunities to develop is a great way to foster engagement and keeps willing employees around for a longer time. Here are some ideas:

17. Allocate time for development 

If you view employees’ training and development as time away from the office then you’ve got it backwards. Allow employees opportunities to develop their skills through courses, seminars, enhanced reading, etc. The new skills benefit everyone!

18. Run a career mapping session

career mapping session is an effective method of getting employees excited about potential career opportunities. This helps employees get a better sense of where they’re going, and what potential lies in store within the company.

19. Promote transparency   

Employees can easily feel disengaged if they believe that they’re working in an ‘ivory tower’ scenario, with no access to top-level management. If you are the top brass, it’s always good to meet and engage with employees at all levels.

20. Allocate a training budget   

Usually in tandem with allocating time for development, consider giving each employee a training budget they can use to pay for courses, software, books, accreditations, etc. Employees should be encouraged to use those funds, too.

21. Host a lunch and learn   

Find issues that are important to your team, and causes that your employees are passionate about. Whether the company picks up lunch or the speakers have food brought in, one thing is true: no employee has ever turned down a free lunch. 

22. Establish mentorship programs   

The leadership or management teams at your current company are a ready-to-tap gold mine for knowledge, and mentorship programs facilitate knowledge transfer, career development, and stronger interdepartmental relationships.

23. Offer skill-based workshops   

Workshops focused on specific skills cater to employees' professional development needs, enhancing their capabilities and confidence in their roles. An example of this can include forming a study group and working towards an online certification.

24. Set up a library or resource center 

Self-learning is a fantastic way to gain a new skill or learn more about a topic at your own pace. Providing resources for self-directed learning underlines the company's commitment to continuous personal and professional development.

Employee recognition

Employee recognition is one of the simplest and most straightforward ways to let employees know that you value their work and their contributions to the team. 

Statistics show that 92% of workers feel valued in companies with recognition programs. Whether you celebrate accomplishments in front of the team or provide rewards in your one-on-ones, there are a number of different strategies you can take to show employees that you care. And remember, compliments are effortless!

25. Celebrate the wins   

If your employees are putting in the hard work, make sure they know that you see it. Whether it's a celebratory cake, an office happy hour (with non-alcoholic options available, of course), or just a simple email acknowledgement, every bit counts. 

26. Personalize recognition  

Some employees will want public acknowledgement for their successes, but that would humiliate and turn off others. Learn what sort of recognition your employees prefer, and try and customize your feedback accordingly. 

27. Recognize value alignment  

If your workplace culture is one that prizes values, recognize when employees are living those values. Make sure that you're not just rewarding monetary success, but also success within the culture as well. Employees should be commended for it all.

28. Reward creativity and innovation   

Did your employees find a way to do things differently than you expected? Have they come up with a new process or strategy that will make everything more efficient going forward, and perhaps improve profitability? Be sure to reward it.

29. Acknowledge birthdays   

There's no rule that every birthday needs a cake, but birthdays should at least be acknowledged in some fashion. Whether it's a company pizza party, a scheduled day off, or even a card signed by everyone, a little happy birthday goes a long way.

30. Select an 'Employee of the Month'  

One of the more classic ways to recognize and reward individual performance is through the implementation of an 'employee of the month' program. Recognizing an outstanding employee each month boosts morale and encourages excellence.

31. Create a company newsletter

A company-wide, internal newsletter celebrating employee achievements and successes fosters a culture of appreciation and communal achievement. For larger companies, you may be able to send this weekly. Otherwise, try sending it monthly.

32. Host annual awards ceremonies  

Annual ceremonies to recognize significant contributions and achievements create a sense of prestige and recognition, fostering motivation. It's also a great way to bring employees together and celebrate all that was achieved the previous year.

Employee Recognition GIF

Work-life balance

Work-life balance means the ability to maintain a harmonious relationship between your work and personal life. This includes your job, health, family, and leisure.

The rise in remote work has reminded employees that work is only part of their day, alongside personal and family obligations. If an employee is exhausted from being overworked or feels they’re sacrificing their health and wellness in order to meet deadlines, resentment builds quickly. Here's how to show you really care:

33. Promote flexibility   

Flexible work arrangements can take on many different forms, but even in the office some flexibility can help boost employee engagement. Consider having core hours or days to have employees in the office, but don't sweat the small stuff.

34. Offer healthy snacks   

It may sound cliché but, if employees only have access to vending machines full of sugar and starch, they're likely to become sluggish. Consider offering fresh fruit, proteins, or other healthy alternatives to improve concentration and productivity.

35. Encourage employee fitness   

Promoting physical activity through gym memberships or fitness challenges shows investment in employees' health and leads to improved job performance. Find a solution that works for your team and encourages them to leave their desks.

36. Take mental health breaks   

Just as your workplace encourages physical health, find creative ways to encourage good mental health practices. Encourage employees to grab a coffee, take a walk, stretch, or just take a few minutes to meditate if they need to take a breath. 

37. Celebrate employee time off   

Too many workplaces have historically viewed vacation as a weakness when instead it might be the workplace's greatest strength. Remind employees about vacation policies and expectations, make sure they take it, and celebrate that.

38. Set boundaries out of hours 

Respecting employees' time outside of work hours demonstrates a commitment to their well-being and work-life balance. An example of this would include setting a 'no-email' policy on weekends, or no phone calls or meetings outside of the 9-5.

39. Offer flexible leave policies 

Flexible leave policies offer time off for employees when they choose it and means they generally don't have to accrue or count the hours. Acknowledging the diverse personal needs of employees leads to increased satisfaction and loyalty.

40. Organize workshops 

Workshops on wellness and stress management show care for employees' overall well-being, leading to a healthier and more productive workforce. Consider hiring a professional in your area to come in and host the training for your team.

Gym Membership GIF

Team-building activities

There's such thing as healthy competition, but too much competition can foster an unhealthy work environment. You don't want to pit co-workers against each other.

Instead, team-building can help foster a healthier and more engaged workplace. These activities turn colleagues into true teammates who care about each other and work to support each other’s successes. According to research from 2023, nearly 75% of employees see teamwork and collaboration as essential.

41. Try a scavenger hunt

A team scavenger hunt, especially in small groups, is a fun way for colleagues to bond. Consider mixing up teams and placing people from different departments together to find clues either around the office, or even around the neighborhood. 

42. Learn to cook together

To try something a little more creative that can also have benefits in work-life balance (hello, eating well!) consider a cooking class. Local chefs are usually open to doing cooking demonstrations in a workplace, or in a teaching kitchen.

43. Volunteer together

Giving back is a core part of employee well-being, and group volunteering initiatives can keep employees engaged while also showing off the company's values. Look for local initiatives that support the community, and those in need.

44. Trivia anyone?

Trivia is a fun team-building activity that can fulfill multiple purposes. Looking to add a human resources twist? Challenge employees to some trivia on the company and its values, history, and policies. There are companies that can help with this!

45. Consider a company retreat

Job perks can be a great motivator for employee satisfaction, and a corporate retreat might be just the ticket. Retreats don't need to be a week in the Caribbean (although they can be!)—smaller companies can consider a day at a local spa. 

46. Organize sports leagues   

Sports and fitness activities foster team spirit and healthy competition, while also promoting physical wellness. Whether it's dodgeball, pickleball, baseball, or a friendly game of flag football, pick the sport your team shows most interest in.

47. Plan a company picnic or family day  

 A company picnic or family day helps build a sense of community and allows employees to connect on a personal level. Not only will they get to know each other better, but they'll get to know each other's families, deepening the connection.

48. Host team-building workshops or retreats   

Regular workshops or retreats dedicated to team-building strengthen relationships and improve teamwork skills. This doesn't have to be trust falls or a ropes course (though it certainly can be). Again, see which activity interests your team the most.

Remote work engagement activities

An Upwork study predicts that 22% of all workers will be remote by 2025, proving that remote work is here to stay. Providing this option is likely to increase retention.

But taking away the opportunity for casual bonding by the watercooler leaves a gap that needs to be filled. Employers must make the extra effort to encourage those relationships virtually, and thankfully, there are a number of ways to do so:

49. Have a talent show

To create more time for bonding with each other, or seeing what makes each other tick, consider hosting a talent show (with prizes of course). Encourage employees to submit fun videos of how they like to unwind outside the office. 

50. Bring back show and tell

It can be tricky, without face time in the office, to learn about what's special to an employee. Consider doing a virtual show and tell, not unlike primary school, where team members get to show off something special to them and explain why.

51. Try a photo contest

Try organizing a contest to submit pictures of fun pets at home, best sourdough bakes, favourite home office decor, etc. Post the really fun results to your company's social media feeds (with employees' consent of course).

52. Do a virtual baking class from home

There are some superb pastry chefs that have established themselves to do virtual baking classes, some of whom will even send out pre-measured ingredients kits to make the process foolproof. Have a laugh with each other while preparing a treat.

53. Encourage flexible hours

Flexible working hours are a great incentive to keep engagement levels high while working from home. Instead of forcing employees to work certain hours, allow them (outside of necessary meetings) to work when they can be most productive. 

54. Organize virtual coffees or happy hours 

Virtual social gatherings help remote employees feel connected and part of the team, reducing feelings of isolation. Consider downloading an app or integration that will bring team members together randomly for a fun virtual coffee break.

55. Set up online gaming or movie nights

Online social activities like gaming or movie nights offer fun and relaxed ways for remote teams to bond and engage. Depending on your company, the theme may be easier to agree upon, but trust me when I say that everyone will have fun.

56. Create a virtual book club or group 

Virtual clubs or groups centered around common interests promote engagement and intellectual stimulation among remote workers. These don't have to be professional books, either. Fiction, non-fiction—it's all up for grabs here!

Engagement over time

The goal of these strategies is to reduce employee disengagement and improve productivity and working relationships throughout the employee life cycle. 

Implement some of those strategies that you think will work for your team. Use metrics from surveys to track the success of each initiative, and get creative!

There are also tools you can utilize to help increase employee engagement. For more, check out our pick of the top employee engagement software on the market today.

For more on maintaining employee engagement, check out Rob Catalano's excellent presentation from People Managing People's Remote Work Summit:

While you're here, be sure to check out our membership opportunities and subscribe to our newsletter for more great content like this.

By Tim Reitsma

Tim has deep experience in HR, people & culture, leadership, business strategy and operations with a focus on building great teams who are excited about their craft and their organization. With over 15 years of leadership experience, Tim has always been guided by his core values: faith, family, curiosity, and fun. He is a coach, mentor, speaker, advisor, and an active volunteer in his community. Tim loves spending time outdoors with his wife and two kids as well as mountain biking in the north shore mountains.