Employee engagement is key to a company’s success. Engaged employees work harder, perform better, and take more pleasure in being part of a team.
Not only are engaged workforces 21% more productive, but workers are happier overall and are more likely to stick around.
We know that coming up with a successful employee engagement strategy can be a struggle, and we wanted to help.
Here are some strategies for keeping your team members engaged either in the office or remote.
Onboarding your new hires
Onboarding 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.
Unfortunately, though, onboarding is rarely used as an effective employee engagement tool. A strong onboarding strategy can help improve employee retention by 82%, but only 12% of employees say that their company does onboarding well.
Instead of just ‘going through the motions,’ use onboarding as the opportunity that it is to fully bring a new team member into your company’s culture.
- Start from day one. Your corporate culture should be well established for new hires during your onboarding process. Onboarding is a chance to teach your new employees about what they can expect from working at your company. Create an environment where they know what they can expect from the day-to-day work environment, who they can go to with questions, and what they can expect overall from the employee experience.
- Teach company values. Onboarding is the time to set out your expectations from your employees, and that should include your company values. It may seem like a given that workers are doing their job with honesty, integrity, and enthusiasm, for example, but teach them how important those are to the business.
- Set early goals. If you're looking to set new employees up for success, give them an idea of your expectations in the first few months of their role. Help employees by setting out some deliverables that you would expect to see in a 30, 60 and 90 day plan and work together to determine how to achieve those.
- 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 keep employees engaged in their success early on.
- 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 giving employees an internal resource to help act as a guide can give them some added assistance.
How do you feel when you get feedback? If feedback’s positive, you get an extra boost. If not so positive but provided constructively, you’re motivated to continue on the right path. No feedback? Well, you’re in the dark!
Feedback should never be a one-sided process. Employees are always more engaged when they have the opportunity to give feedback of their own, as well as receive it from management.
- Run surveys. If you're looking to increase employee engagement, get employees engaged in the decision making process. Employee engagement surveys about key processes and decisions will help ensure that you're acting with employee input, and it conveniently maintains an engaged workforce at the same time.
- Get feedback on those surveys. If you're running employee surveys with your head in the sand, they may or may not work well and you wouldn't know. If you want employees to be all in on your surveys, ask how the last survey went, and see what you could be asking differently.
- Provide feedback regularly. The biggest employee engagement strategy mistake that companies make when it comes to employee feedback is only discussing performance annually. Set quarterly, or even monthly check-ins with your team members as a matter of routine. It will keep you involved in their work product, and it helps them know that they're receiving regular support.
- 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. The greatest complaint from disengaged employees is a boss that is 'never there.' An open door policy is a chance to show that you're ready and available.
- Ask what's not working. In the spirit of keeping a positive workplace, it can be easy to try to see everything with rose coloured glasses, when the reality is that nothing is perfect all of the time. Ask for employee feedback on what's not working, and what could be improved. Employees will feel as though they've had a key hand in any subsequent changes.
Help employees grow
You want to feel like you’re moving forward in your career and learning new skills, right? Employees are quick to become disengaged if they feel as though there are no opportunities for them to grow and develop their skills. They often feel as though they’ve ‘maxed out’ in the company, and will move their talents elsewhere if not encouraged to keep rising up.
Giving employees opportunities to develop is a great way to foster engagement helps keep willing employees around for a longer time. Here are some ideas:
- 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 that they learn will usually benefit both them, as well as the company.
- Run a career mapping session. Sometimes people can become a bit stagnant and lack a sense of direction. This will likely decrease their engagement levels. A 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.
- 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, as much as possible. Keep them informed (where appropriate) on what’s happening with the company, and what’s on the horizon. Also, show them your human side—let them know that they too can grow into an upper management role.
- 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, and they’ll use them on things that will serve to your benefit.
- Host a Lunch and Learn. There are countless organizations that would love nothing more than the opportunity to come and speak to your team about an important issue. 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 remains true: no employee has ever turned down a free lunch.
Related Read: 10 Best Workforce Management Software Of 2022
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.
While compliments may be effortless, here are some additional strategies to show employees that you care.
- 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, great employees deserve that little bit of extra recognition.
- Recognize employees in a way that works for them. 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.
- Let employees shine when they live your values. 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 going that extra mile, even when there isn't a financial gain, but just because they care about the success of their team.
- Recognize 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? Employees work hard to meet the company's goals, so when creativity happens, acknowledge that extra effort, and take a serious look at how those ideas can be adapted to meet the company’s goals. .
- Find a fun way to 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 team lunch on a small team, a pre-scheduled day off, or even a card signed by everyone, it goes a long way towards making employees feel special.
The rise in remote work has reminded employees that work is only part of their day, alongside personal and family obligations. Parents who were required to work remotely while homeschooling their children at the same time suffered through a tremendous amount of stress, and they will not soon forget that experience.
Even before the pandemic, employee burnout was a direct route towards employee disengagement. If an employee is constantly exhausted from being overworked or feels as though they’re sacrificing their health and wellness in order to meet deadlines, resentment builds quickly. Not only is that employee unlikely to stay long, but that energy can easily spread throughout a larger team.
Show employees that you care about all of them, not just their output on a spreadsheet. Nurturing employees’ health and wellness in all senses can go a long way towards building employee loyalty.
1. Promote flexibility. Flexible work arrangements can take on many different forms (more on that when it comes to remote work) but even in the office some flexibility in the workday can help boost employee engagement. Consider having core hours or days during which you want employees in the office, but if they need to start early or leave late occasionally for family issues or personal appointments then don't sweat the small stuff.
2. Offer healthy snacks. It may sound cliché but, if employees only have access to vending machines full of sugar and starch, they're easily liable to become sluggish. Without actively policing what they're eating (or taking away all vending machines), consider offering some fresh fruit, proteins, or other healthy alternatives for workers who aren't looking for an afternoon nap.
3. Encourage employee fitness. Employee health and wellness looks different to different companies. Some offer a fitness credit or a discount on gym memberships. Others have fitness challenges that encourage healthy behaviors in employees no matter what form they take. Find a solution that works for your team that encourages them not spending all day at their desks.
4. Take mental health breaks. Mental health can be as important as physical health when it comes to employee performance. Just as your workplace encourages physical health, find creative ways to encourage good mental health practices as well. 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 and re-focus.
5. Celebrate employees taking 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, and make sure they know that they will not be penalized for taking the vacation that they are entitled to. More importantly, do NOT expect, encourage, or promote employees working on their vacation. Vacation is meant to prevent burnout, not worsen it!
Employees who constantly see themselves competing against each other can foster an unhealthy work environment. Moreover, great employees can feel dejected and neglected if they’re constantly pitted against their co-workers.
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.
- 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.
- Learn to cook together. With the restaurant industry turned upside down during the course of the pandemic, and most everyone searching for new methods of home cooking, many of us are simply out of ideas. However, local chefs have gotten creative and are usually open to doing cooking demonstrations in a workplace, or many will rent a commercial teaching kitchen. Instead of having them come to your workspace, consider a trip to theirs.
- 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 close to the workplace. Your company culture likely includes a similar goal, so best to include employees in taking action.
- 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 etc. Want something just for fun instead? There are numerous private trivia companies that would be glad to organize a game for your team no matter what the size.
- 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, or some other nearby excursion. These events can have a professional development component while at the same time rewarding employees for all of their hard work.
Remote work employee engagement activities
Giving team members the option to work remotely will likely increase retention in today’s job market. But ensuring when employees lose the opportunity for casual bonding by the watercooler, employers need to make the extra effort to encourage those relationships virtually.
- Have a talent show. The trouble with maintaining remote employees is that they don't get to spend as much time bonding with each other, or seeing what makes each other tick outside of the workplace. A talent show, with prizes of course, can have employees submitting fun videos of how they like to unwind outside the office.
- 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.
- Try a photo contest. During the initial lockdowns, some workplaces organized fun photo contests, and there's no reason that those challenges have to stop if the team is staying remote. 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).
- 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 as you all get covered in flour while preparing a tasty treat.
- Encourage flexible hours. While they became more common during the pandemic, flexible working hours are a great incentive to keep engagement levels high while working from home. Instead of forcing employees to work when it's wildly inconvenient, allow them (outside of necessary meetings) to work when they can be most productive.
Related Read: Skip-Level Meetings: A Powerful Leadership Tool
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 gathered from surveys to track the success of each initiative, and get creative!
If your current employee engagement ideas aren't working then it's time to try something new, these are just 35 ideas to start.
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:
If you're interested in some further reading, these are worth checking out: