By Bailey Reiners  |  December 7, 2018

What are you basic expectations for employees?

  • Arrive to work on time and get in a full eight hour day
  • Finish their work and meet deadlines
  • Be a personable co-worker who participates in work activities

Sure, those are key expectations for any work environment. They don’t, however, reflect how engaged an employee is with their work. Anyone can complete their work in a timely manner and be pleasant to work with, but that doesn’t mean their driven to excel at their job and yield impactful results.

To take your team to the next level you need to get them engaged. No...not like marriage engaged. That’s probably illegal. We’re talking about employee engagement, and it’s hugely important.

Before we dive in, let’s start with the definition.


What Is Employee Engagement?

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Employee engagement represents the degree to which employees feel invested in and motivated by their work. It sounds like a simple concept, but it plays a huge role in the performance of your business (more on that in just a minute).

Employee engagement levels are influenced by a number of different factors that vary by location, company, culture and individual characteristics. And not only are those factors different for each individual, they also change over time.


Why Is Employee Engagement Important?

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No matter how good of a work ethic and overall fit a person is to your company, their engagement levels will decrease significantly if you don’t have a plan to support their interests and needs throughout their career. Only 32% of employees are classified as engaged at work, which is a major issue for employers. Employee engagement can improve outcomes in a variety of ways, including:


1. Improved employee satisfaction. While 89% of employees are somewhat to very satisfied at work, that doesn’t mean they’re engaged. An employee can be totally satisfied chillin’ at their desk, sending emails and doing minimal work. That person is happy, but they certainly aren’t engaged. We don’t mean to scare you, though, because there is good news. While satisfaction does not equal engagement, engagement does typically lead to satisfaction. Engaged employees believe in the company and its mission, and they give their work everything they have every day. That engagement naturally leads to improved satisfaction. It’s a win-win.


2. Higher retention rate. Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their current employer. That’s great news, but it gets even better. While more than half of disengaged employees would consider leaving their job for another offer, that number drops to just 25% among engaged employees. Once you’ve gone through the process of hiring a great employee, the last thing you want to do is start from scratch because they left for greener pastures. Engagement is the best way to make sure that doesn’t happen.


3. Enhanced productivity + profitability. Yup. Companies with higher levels of employee engagement see a 21% increase in productivity and a corresponding 22% increase in profitability. If you’re not sold on the importance of employee engagement programs at this point, best of luck to you!


Creating An Employee Engagement Program

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You understand the importance of employee engagement, but actually doing something about it can seem like a daunting task. As with most things in life, it helps to have a solid plan in place. That’s where employee engagement programs come in.

An employee engagement program is simply a documented plan for monitoring and improving employee engagement among your team. But, like anything involving humans, there’s a lot that goes into the process of creating an engagement program at your company.

Rather than diving into minutiae that may not be relevant to your company, let’s examine a few low-lift areas of focus when designing an employee engagement program.


Mission and Value Statements: These statements are actually much more important than you may think. 80% of people feel more engaged with work that aligns with the company’s core values and mission. It’s easy to write a couple of sentences or full of buzz words to portray your company’s mission and value, but substance is always more important than style. Instead, take the time to talk with your entire team to establish core value statements that are meaningful and accurately represent your company and its people.


Job Descriptions: A job description is often the first touch point a potential candidate will have with your company. If you’ve ever tried to write a job description, you’ll know that it is no simple task to incorporate all of the responsibilities a job entails along with candidate requirements and a summary of the company and its mission. But nailing the job description will help you attract candidates who understand the expectations and are excited to engage in the role.


The Hiring Process: Creating a culture of engaged employees starts with a cadre of engaged candidates. A positive candidate experience can transform your role from a job they need to a job they want, which will pay dividends in the form of improved employee engagement.


Onboarding: Even under the best of circumstances, starting a new job is stressful. From meeting new colleagues to meeting new expectations, everything is an unknown. Setting your new hires up for quick success will improve productivity and leave them feeling ready to tackle even more.


Perks and Benefits: Companies spend a lot of time crafting perk packages to attract top talent, but they often overlook how those offering impact engagement. Game rooms and 401(k) matches are great, but offerings like professional development opportunities or health and wellness programs may be more impactful.


Open Lines of Communication: The issues behind poor employee engagement are often relatively minor, but if you don’t know what they are there’s no way they can be addressed. Open lines of communication — be they anonymous surveys or face to face sit downs — are the only way to understand what’s influencing the engagement of your team.


Leadership: Leadership always sets the standard, and they are key motivators when it comes to engagement, but don’t expect people to be born into a leadership role. Even if they seek out the opportunity, be sure to provide adequate training to set your managers up for success. Here’s some hard stats to consider:

  • Around 50% of people leave their job due to the manager.
  • 42% of managers develop their leadership style based on their previous managers.
  • 67% of millennials will leave a position that doesn’t have leadership opportunities.



33 Employee Engagement Ideas / Activities

Jumpstarting your employee engagement program will be much easier with a little inspiration, so let’s take a look at some tried and true ideas that can help get you started.


Professional Development

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42% of employees say that career development is the most desired benefit when choosing an employer. Employees that are hungry to learn are much more likely to be engaged, so make sure to support this drive.

  • Regular job training helps employees develop skills and feel more satisfied and engaged with work as they apply their learnings to new challenges.
  • Conferences are an easy way to help your team grow resources for employees to network with other experts to share and exchange ideas.
  • Mentorship opportunities help employees learn from senior leaders, leading to improved employee engagement, productivity and retention.
  • Education reimbursement and stipends encourage employees to learn outside of the office and bring new ideas back to their daily work.
  • Pet projects allow employees to pursue an independent passion, which often brings greater accomplishments for the company as a whole. Just take it from Google.
  • Celebrating major achievements lets employees know their work is valued. Whether it’s closing a deal or launching a new product, the people who made it happen will feel appreciation for their hard work.


Real Examples


Professional development

Fintech company Braviant Holdings offers employees up to $4,500 to use towards relevant events, conferences, workshops or professional development programs. They also have an internal leadership program to provide managers with the knowledge and resources to enhance their leadership skills. For them, “it’s especially important for us to foster an environment where employees are encouraged to stretch their abilities and think about new ways to add value.”



Tuition and training

At Pitchbook, one of the top characteristics they look for in new employees is a desire to learn, and they quench that thirst with various education-related benefits. Some of their top benefits include industry training, tuition reimbursement programs, an annual education stipend and they even sponsor volunteer opportunities.


image via redshelf

Individual milestones

RedShelf celebrates all the milestones. From birthdays to work anniversaries, promotions and significant accomplishments, the company loves celebrating its people and see it as an opportunity to strengthen their culture by acknowledging the big and little ways people contribute to the greater goal.




image via shutterstock

60% of people feel that a formal communication systems are crucial to ensure smooth communication and social life at work. Here’s a few different communication outlets to provide employees.

  • Suggestion boxes may seem old school, but they’re still a great way for people to submit ideas and opinions and remain anonymous if they so choose.
  • Scheduled open door time provides employees of all levels with an invitation to chat with higher-ups about their ideas and concerns.
  • Surveys provide managers and HR with direct feedback on how they can improve communications, culture, benefits packages and individual issues.
  • Hackathons and brainstorming sessions get the creative juices flowing and provide an opportunity for people to share ideas and get involved in new projects.
  • Lunch and learns are a quick and convenient way to educate employees about a topic of interest without taking time from the work day or personal life.
  • Happy hours and company outings are important opportunities for employees to bond and discuss topics outside of work. It’s certainly more effective to hear a person’s tone and voice through an email when you know them on a more personal level.


Real Examples

image via powerreviews

Suggestion box

PowerReviews keeps it old school by asking employees to submit ideas and requests for things they would like to see change in the office. They recently used this feedback to guide the decision making process when they redesigned their office.


image via formlabs


Formlabs frequently hosts hackathons for employees to take an idea they have and run with it, and the results have led to some major inspiration and changes around their office. Employees have created stunning art installations, custom foosball players and a rock climbing wall.



Open door policy

Ayzenberg Group is invested in understanding the personality of its team, so they have regular ask-me-anything town hall meetings and encourage an open door policy to ensure that people are always comfortable to share their ideas and opinions.



Health & Wellness

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64% of employees say that health benefits are extremely important in their workplace. Depending on your office and resources, there are a variety of ways to promote health and wellbeing at work.

  • Great insurance packages are a must. Depending on the demographics of your employees, certain packages will be more beneficial than others so take the makeup of your workforce into account.
  • On-site gyms make working out before or after work more convenient, and employees may even band together to reach personal fitness goals.
  • In-house athletic classes are great if you are in a building without a gym but you have the space to host a quick morning yoga or Zumba class.
  • Fitness subsidies are a great option for offices that can’t offer on-site fitness programs, They also allow employees to explore their own health interests.
  • Recreational clubs & teams motivate people to stay active and bring them together via common athletic interests.
  • Healthy snacks & meals provided at work encourage people stay balanced even when they have unhealthy cravings. It also saves them time and money planning meals in their personal life.
  • Mental health services are far too often overlooked. Mental health is as important as physical health, and it’s important to ensure employees are getting the health resources they need.


Real examples

image via helix

Free meals

As a platform that gives people insight into their health, fitness and diet, Helix encourages its employees to take on healthy habits by providing daily meals, comprehensive health insurance, fitness subsidies and FSA options.


image via shutterstock

Onsite gyms & wellness

CA Technologies is growing rapidly, and along the way, they’re adopting healthy benefits anywhere they can. In addition to an onsite gym, they also offer a flexible spending account for wellness. And, of course, they offer traditional benefits like health, disability and dental insurance as well as vision benefits.


image via quartet

Mental health

Quartet provides up to 12 in-person therapy sessions for employees and their family members each year. They also offer a behavioral health co-pay reimbursement, which covers outpatient mental health visits for both in-network and out-of-networks providers.



image via shutterstock


65% of employees agree that environmental factors like lighting, ventilation, temperature and noise affect performance and productivity. If people feel uncomfortable where they work, they won’t remain engaged for long, so don’t overlook this topic.

  • Open offices encourage communication among colleagues and feel less isolating than cubicles or individual offices. Not everyone loves the concept, though, so make sure to gather feedback before going this route.
  • Flexible ergonomic seating is majorly beneficial for health and wellness, and having the flexibility to change the way you work can enhance creativity.
  • Natural light and color pallet have surprising effects on mood and productivity, so don’t be afraid to slap on a fresh coat of paint.
  • Outdoor spaces are a great way for employees to grab a breath of fresh air without having to go too far afield or wait for a longer break to enjoy some time with mother nature.
  • Games give people a quick outlet to step away from the desk and challenge their minds and bodies and bond with others in a fun way before returning back to work.
  • Pets are said to help employees reduce stress and improve happiness by engaging with something that’s always happy to see you.


Real examples

image via rx bar

Outdoor area, standing desk & onsite gym

RX Bar designed their office with their values in mind to optimize creativity, productivity and innovation. The office is set up with open seating, bright walls and fantastic views of Chicago. They also have an outdoor space and standing desks with different layouts on each of their floors.


image via lumi


Lumi has an official dog-in-residence named Flexo who serves as their ‘official goodwill ambassador.’ Every new hire is first greeted by Flexo, and he is sure to bring a smile to everyone he encounters throughout the day. More and more companies are realizing the benefits of having pets in the office as an outlet for reducing stress and providing a constant source of joy (and potential havoc).


image via dish

Open & collaborative

Dish created an open atmosphere by removing the ceilings to expose the building’s structure with high ceilings and lots of natural light. To foster an environment for creativity, they built an innovation lab for team members to explore the Internet of Things and is equip with devices and special access to resources and information.



Work-Life Balance

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80% of people identify work-life balance as an important factor when considering potential employers (frankly we’re surprised it isn’t more). Make sure to respect your employees; personal lives and they’ll repay the favor with engagement and loyalty..

  • Flexible work hours allow people to better incorporate their personal lives into their busy work schedule, reducing stress and improving overall satisfaction.
  • Remote work is said to increase productivity by 50%, and it further allows employees to work around their daily schedule.
  • Sabbaticals are long term paid leaves that allow employees to travel or dive deep into a passion project they’ve never had the time to pursue.
  • Paid volunteer time encourages people to engage in some social responsibility without sacrificing pay or feeling guilty about leaving work.
  • Parental leave helps new parents adjust to the major change of adding another member to their family without sacrificing their career.
  • Child care benefits help parents choose the right care and feel more at ease without having to weigh the steep cost of child care.
  • Adoption assistance helps families grow no matter how they choose and supports them as they adjust to a new member.
  • Family medical leave reduces the stress that employees undergo when a family member requires medical attention.


Real examples

image via drift


In addition to paid holidays, Drift offers its employes a month long sabbatical after working there for three years. A month is a long and much-deserved time to work on a passion project, travel or get some good ol’ R&R.


image via invision

Remote work

InVision considers itself a “remote-first” company that allows its employees to work anywhere  they want. Each employee receives a MacBook on their first day, along with unlimited, free Starbucks and half-day Fridays, the company genuinely supports its employees work-life balance with remote opportunities.


image via alteryx


Alteryx offers a wealth of perks and benefits for working parents, including adoption assistance and 100% salary for six weeks after birth. Mothers are also eligible for maternity disability leave for another six weeks of paid leave. They also have an annual bring your children to work day along with other kid-friendly events throughout the year to help enhance their employees’ work-life balance.


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