9 Employee Engagement Strategies That Actually Work

The best tactics for keeping employees engaged, plus tips to get started.

Written by Kate Heinz
9 Employee Engagement Strategies That Actually Work
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
Matthew Urwin | Jun 23, 2023

Engaging employees is a highly effective business strategy, but it’s easier said than done. Your first inclination might be to build out a new benefits package or offer office perks like cold brew on tap or a wellness room. While your team will likely appreciate the new stuff, these changes do more to increase job satisfaction than boost employee engagement — two related but different concepts.

Employee Engagement Strategies

  • Take employee surveys. 
  • Uphold your company’s core values.
  • Carve out career paths and provide opportunities for growth.
  • Promote employees from within.
  • Recognize top performers.
  • Promote transparency.
  • Allow for honest feedback.
  • Hold employees accountable.
  • Hold leadership accountable.


What Is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement is defined as the degree to which an employee is motivated and passionate about their work. While it’s often confused with job satisfaction, employee engagement has much more to do with an individual’s connection to their organization. 

Employees who are engaged feel invested in their work, their teammates and the company as a whole. As a result, they do more than clock in and clock out, waiting for a paycheck. They care about performing their roles to the best of their abilities and demonstrate a deeper commitment to a company’s goals and values.


Benefits of Employee Engagement

Building employee engagement takes time, but companies that put in the effort can enjoy long-lasting returns.

Raised Productivity

When employees feel an emotional connection with their work, they’re more likely to invest the energy and focus needed to perform their jobs well. Strong bonds with teammates and the company also motivate employees to boost their output since their individual performance contributes to the well-being of the company and, consequently, other employees.    


Reduced Employee Burnout 

Supporting employees with employee engagement strategies can help reduce employee burnout levels in the workplace. A Gallup study found that only 1 percent of employees who were engaged, high in wellbeing and rooted in a strong strengths culture experienced the high stress tied to burnout. This stands in contrast to the 43 percent of employees who did feel high stress and were disengaged, low in well-being and had no strengths culture.     


Lower Employee Absenteeism

Employees who are excited to show up to work are less likely to take days off and stay away from the workplace. This is crucial because the average cost of a missed workday is at least $340 for a full-time worker. Employees who slip into absenteeism may be gone for extended periods of time, so these costs can add up if businesses don’t take steps to maintain their employee engagement levels.   


Less Workplace Stress

Employees who become disengaged from their jobs and workplace may feel more stress, which can cloud their focus and judgment and result in more errors. With the prospect of having to play catchup, employees can feel even more anxiety and stress and commit more mistakes. This can have a major impact on workplace safety, considering that there’s a 64 percent difference in safety incidents between the most and least engaged workforces.   


Higher Retention and Less Turnover

In a 2021 Pew Research Survey, 57 percent of employees reported having left roles because they felt disrespected at work. Leaders who dedicate resources to employee engagement can cultivate an environment where employees develop mutual respect for one another and enjoy healthier relationships with coworkers. Companies can then more easily retain talent and reduce their turnover rates since workers are more likely to stay in a supportive workplace.      


Stronger Company Culture

From mentoring newer coworkers to offering to help another team with a project, engaged employees tend to go the extra mile for each other. This kind of team-first mentality allows employees to develop closer bonds with one another. Healthy relationships, in turn, solidify a company’s culture and make a business more welcoming for current and future employees.    


Greater Collaboration and Creativity

An environment where employees regularly reach out to help is bound to foster cross-team collaboration. Teams can then bring in perspectives from different departments, informing projects with creative approaches to problems. This constant exchange of ideas also accelerates innovation, giving a business a competitive edge in its sector.    


Improved Customer Service

Engaged employees are more passionate about the company and the work they do, and this can lead to more positive customer experiences. Employees who care about their organization may demonstrate this through excitement for the company’s mission and products, and customers can sense this. Because engaged employees are committed to a business’ values, there’s a good chance they’ll deliver on-brand experiences as well. 


Higher Employee Advocacy

Company websites and posts can only do so much to sway job-seekers, but employees voluntarily sharing content about their company can leave a lasting impression. If a business implements employee engagement strategies to take care of its workforce, employees may advocate for the company by posting on their social channels, enhancing the company’s employer brand in the process. 

Employer Brand Toolkit

4 ready-to-use templates to effectively plan, execute and measure your employer brand.


How to Develop an Employee Engagement Strategy

You can’t successfully launch an employee engagement strategy without first polling your staff and evaluating recent data, so plan to measure engagement before you get started. When developing an employee engagement strategy it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

Be Realistic

You’re not going to knock it out of the park on day one, and you’ll probably miss the mark on a few strategies every now and then. The important thing to remember is to set realistic standards for your team and outline specific goals when possible. For example, if turnover has been an issue, you could strive to reduce turnover by 15 percent in a year’s time. 


Be Clear About Responsibilities

You won’t get anywhere in the way of improving employee engagement if you don’t clearly delegate responsibilities to the right individuals and keep track of their progress. To successfully get your strategy off the ground, involve the key people from the start. This should include HR representatives, middle managers, executives and long-term employees. 

Know who’s responsible for what before you get started. Form an employee engagement committee composed of the same key players and task them with carrying out initiatives for your strategy.


Be Flexible

You won’t find the perfect strategy immediately, so don’t close yourself off to new ideas. Make sure you’re regularly measuring employee engagement and analyzing the data to find out what works for your unique workforce. Be open to suggestions and adjust your strategy as needed. 

Deciding to elevate your employee engagement strategy is a huge win for your company. By following our guidelines and using these strategies, you’ll soon see the positive impact a highly engaged workforce can have on your business.


9 Employee Engagement Strategies That Work (With Examples)

Having a thorough and thoughtful employee engagement strategy that is tailored to your staff’s unique needs is crucial to your long-term success. A highly engaged workforce has been shown to improve productivity, increase profitability and reduce turnover. 

Let’s take a look at some widely used and effective employee engagement strategies and how real companies put them into action.

1. Take Employee Surveys 

Before you set out to implement a new strategy, take stock of where you’re at as a company by measuring employee engagement. One of the most effective — and efficient — ways of measuring engagement is through an employee engagement survey. The beauty of surveys is that they can be quickly distributed to every employee, which means you get a more accurate understanding of your entire team’s engagement. Plus, you can alter questions to create short assessments that can be conducted more frequently. These help you keep a pulse on employee engagement as your business grows and your company culture evolves. You can save more robust surveys for quarterly or annual assessments.


2. Uphold Your Company’s Core Values

Your core values should be the heart of your company culture and clearly explained to every employee from day one. Company core values should explain what truly matters to your team and the ideals that you’ll strive to uphold as you expand. Employees need to establish a sense of belonging to your company to become truly engaged, and having a code of values to follow will help them do so. By consistently promoting your core values to the entire team, you’ll create a positive work culture and encourage employees to form an emotional connection to your organization.

IntelePeer, a communications platform, makes it easy for employees to learn and live out its core values. “Our CEO conducts core values training with all new hires,” Ana Milian, director of human resources, said. “He shares real-life examples of employees living our values and sets the tone of importance and commitment from the top.”


3. Carve Out Career Paths and Provide Opportunities for Growth

Providing employees with opportunities to grow their skill set keeps them engaged, and having something to work toward keeps them motivated. Not only that, but learning and development initiatives demonstrate that you value your employees as individuals — you choose to continually invest in your people, rather than replace employees with candidates that have the skills you desire.

For example, market intelligence platform CB Insights offers a $1,000 education stipend to all employees after they have been with the company for six months, and also organizes monthly peer-to-peer learning opportunities during which colleagues teach a new skill. 

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4. Promote Employees From Within 

One big way to keep employees engaged and motivated is to show them the opportunities to grow and change jobs within the company. Similar to helping employees develop career paths, promoting from within will motivate employees to take on new challenges within their role and stay engaged with their work. Instead of changing employers to gain a promotion and raise, employees who work at companies that frequently promote from within are more likely to stay. 

It’s also important to encourage movement and change of roles in a lateral fashion. Even if an employee is disengaged with their current role, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t thrive in another position or on another team.

The leadership team at Singpost often helps employees transition within the company. When Michelle Reger transitioned into a product manager role at the company, she had plenty of support. Her new manager sent her helpful reading materials, hosted frequent one-on-one meetings and made sure she got the opportunity to work on exciting new projects as well as make mistakes and learn from them. 


5. Recognize Top Performers 

Employees are engaged when they feel their work is valuable to the company and helps the organization achieve its long-term goals. Regularly showing employees that you recognize and appreciate their efforts is a simple gesture that goes a long way in making them feel valued. 

Reward top performers for their achievements with a cash prize, free day off, a gift card to their favorite lunch spot or a massage gift certificate — whatever makes sense for your team and aligns with your core values. In addition, give employees a platform to acknowledge their peers; feeling respected and appreciated by their team members will help employees become more engaged.

Subsplash makes employee recognition part of day-to-day operations. “Tiny flamingos and lions are a significant part of our employee recognition program, called ‘Animal of the Week,’” Melanie Leué, office experience manager, said. “On a weekly basis, employees get to nominate anyone in the company who exhibits our core values of humility, innovation and excellence. The winner of ‘Animal of the Week’ is recognized and celebrated at our all-hands company meeting, which includes a lot of clapping and cheering!”

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6. Promote Transparency 

Bringing employees into the fold as frequently as possible is a highly effective employee engagement strategy. If your team doesn’t know what’s happening behind the scenes, they can’t fully invest themselves and their energies into the company. Plus, if they get the sense that they’re intentionally being left out of the loop, they may start to distrust management and lose confidence in leadership.

Of course, it’s well within your rights to be discreet as situations unfold or priorities change, but you should aim to inform team members about decisions that directly affect them as soon as you are able.

The team at All Web Now strives to improve transparency across the board. “At AWN, transparency means there are no secrets when it comes to how we run our business, how our business is performing, and how each of us, as individuals, are doing versus our team and personal targets,” Bill Daniel, president and CEO, said.


7. Allow for Honest Feedback

This strategy is twofold. First, create a platform or system that enables employees to share their thoughts and ask questions of the right people. This will most likely be your HR department, but c-suite executives should also be accessible to all employees, even if it is only for a few days out of the quarter and by appointment only. 

Second, use your team’s feedback. Nothing will frustrate and disengage your employees faster than if they feel they’re wasting their time sharing matters that are truly important to them. Listen to what your team members have to say and act on it.

For BRD, an app-based cryptocurrency platform, feedback is a central part of its culture. “Our leadership team ensures employees have regular one-on-one check-ins with their manager,” Bob Lehto, former vice president of human resources, said. “Status updates are handled in stand-up meetings so that one-on-ones can focus on long-term goals.”

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8. Hold Employees Accountable

Engaged employees are willing to do more than what’s asked of them, but that doesn’t mean you should expect them to operate at an above-average clip all the time. Make sure they’re not left in the lurch and expected to work on behalf of their peers. Relying solely on the efforts of your most engaged employees will likely lead to employee burnout.

For the engineering team at Catalant Technologies, accountability and flexibility are the cornerstones of success. “I have two expectations for every engineer on my team: deliver daily customer value and contribute to the team,” Laura Miyakawa, former vice president of engineering, said. “These expectations lead to better accountability and flexibility. Engineers do what they say, communicate what they’re doing and indicate when they need help.”


9. Hold Leadership Accountable 

Make sure managers, HR heads and executives lead by example. If employees feel like the office rules only apply to a select few — or only apply when it’s convenient for leadership — they’ll begin to distrust management. An inkling of distrust between team members is a slippery slope that can lead to a negative work culture. A toxic office environment and culture can disengage employees and send them looking for a new job.

Centerfield, a marketing and sales technology company, ensures its leadership team is not exempt from what’s expected of employees: “We have a robust, three-month leadership training program that focuses on how managers can be strong leaders, create a safe environment for feedback and provide clear goals for tracking,” Gena Romano, former director of human resources, said. “Managers are paired with one another as accountability buddies and are tasked with keeping each other on track for maintaining a comfortable and open feedback environment.” 

Employer Brand Toolkit

4 ready-to-use templates to effectively plan, execute and measure your employer brand.

Lisa Bertagnoli contributed reporting to this story.

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