What are your basic expectations for your employees? Probably something like: Arrive to work on time and get in a full eight-hour day, finish assignments and meet deadlines, be a personable coworker who participates in team activities.
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 they’re driven to excel at their job and yield impactful results.
To take your team to the next level, you need to get them engaged.
Why Employee Engagement Matters
Thankfully, there are many employee engagement ideas being implemented out there. So let’s take a look at employee engagement ideas and activities used by a variety of companies that can help you improve your program.
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Employee Engagement Ideas for Celebrations
1. Celebrate Work Milestones
No accomplishment, no matter how big or small, should go without notice. At Cision, they have a number of ways to celebrate success, including a designated celebration Slack channel that is used all day, every day. They also hold a weekly town hall meeting where they celebrate both individual and group accomplishments.
2. Celebrate Personal Milestones
Employee engagement should go beyond celebrating only work accomplishments — it’s important to also recognize the personal milestones. Edtech company RedShelf celebrates all the milestones. From birthdays to work anniversaries, promotions and significant accomplishments. The company loves celebrating its people and sees it as an opportunity to strengthen their culture by acknowledging the big and little ways people contribute to their greater goal.
3. Budget for Team Celebrations
When your team makes a major accomplishment, you should celebrate in a big way. At Laserfiche, success emanates throughout their culture, giving them plenty of opportunities to celebrate and bond as a team. They have a budget specifically set aside for team-bonding, and they’ve used it on everything from “Zip-lining on Catalina Island, to Disneyland outings, to a day at the spa in Glen Ivy or go-kart racing.” And when their recruiting team hit a milestone, they spent the day in downtown Los Angeles at an escape room.
4. Host a Yearly Awards Night
Especially at high-growth companies, it can be easy to get lost in the moment. To shine light on the growth and wins their company hit over the course of a year, Faction hosts an annual awards night. Employees are nominated for some incredible prizes, including an all-expense-paid vacation or a Rolex watch.
5. Celebrate Employees When They Leave
No matter how hard you try to keep your employees engaged and satisfied with their work, most people will leave at some point in their career, and that’s OK. Having disengaged employees at your company will only bring others down and cause a ripple effect of disengagement. Instead, you should celebrate your employees for the time and work they’ve put in at your company and celebrate them as they move into something that will be more engaging for them. This will leave your relationship with past employees in good standing — and they might even return someday down the road.
Employee Engagement Ideas for Social Connection
6. Highlight Individual Employee Interests
Every single person at your company has their own set of interests and skills. Find ways to highlight those unique differences, and if applicable, see if your employees are willing to teach or share their interests at work. At Shopgate, one of their employees is a part-time photographer who offered up his services to take professional headshots and photoshoots for employees. Another employee teaches yoga in the office to help people relax and get some exercise throughout the day.
7. Start a FIKA Program
If you don’t speak Swedish, you may not be familiar with the term Fika. In short, it’s a daily coffee break the Swedes have to take a moment and catch up with someone. Companies have started to adopt a similar system to get employees to interact with one another outside of their department. The team at Statuspage.io has a Friday Fika, where the team sends out a topic and everyone is paired up to chat about it for 10 to 15 minutes.
8. Create a Collaborative Music Playlist
Encourage your team to collaborate on a non-work project and share a common interest by creating an office playlist that everyone can contribute to. The team at AdAction creates a weekly playlist with different themes, ranging from “jock jams and disco, to the occasional movie soundtrack,” said Sarah Greenlee, Director of Strategic Accounts.
9. Offer Mentorship Opportunities
Mentors help employees learn from senior leaders, resulting in improved employee engagement, productivity and retention. Catalant Technologies supports individual team members with mentors, like their Principal Engineer Rick Keilty, who spends the better part of his day mentoring the engineering team and building a better experience for new engineers on their team.
10. Send Weekly Company Update Email
Weekly company newsletters are a great way to highlight employee engagement efforts like team outings, individual interests and passion projects, weekly music playlist themes and celebrate major accomplishments. The team at SEVENROOMS utilizes their weekly internal company newsletter to recognize teams and individuals for their accomplishments that week.
11. Establish a New Hire Buddy System
First impressions can make a big difference when you’re starting a new job. At Rue La La, new hires are welcomed on their first day with a bunch of branded swag and a new hire buddy. To help the new hire get acquainted with the culture and team, the new hire buddy takes them out to lunch and acts as a point of contact from day one. New hires are also called out at the company wide meeting as well as in their weekly company newsletter.
12. Create a Local Guide of Things to Do
Whether your team is full of locals or you’re hiring out-of-towners, get your team together to create a guide of all their favorite local places to go and things to do. This can be used as a resource for team outings, as well as a great way for employees to connect and chat with each other about non-work matters — like the best place to play shuffleboard or grab drinks after work.
13. Host Happy Hours
Happy hours and company outings are important opportunities for employees to bond and discuss topics outside of work. It’s certainly easier to understand a person’s real intent through an email when you know them on a personal level. “There’s never pressure to attend, but they offer an opportunity for us to get to know each other on a personal level outside of the workplace,” says Leigh Fowler, Senior Instructional Designer at Inspirant Group.
14. Go on Company Outings
There are a number of different occasions to get employees out of the office and bonding over mutual interests, but you don’t always need a special holiday, event or occasion to do so. The Bouqs Company, a flower bouquet business, decided to switch up their monthly all-hands meeting and bring their entire team to the farm where their flowers are grown. This gave them the opportunity to come together and get their hands dirty — literally. They even had a chance to meet the farmers and learn how to create their very own bouquet.
15. Organize a Bring Your Family to Work Day
Let’s face it, you probably spend more time at work with your colleagues than you do with anyone else in your life, including your family. Get to know your teammates and the people who matter most in their life by hosting a bring-your-family-to-work day. DFIN loves hosting a bring-your-kid-to-work day, where kids can test out their Mario Kart skills and see what their parents do at work all day.
16. Establish Culture Committees
While everyone has plenty of work to do, it’s still important to make time for your colleagues and work environment. The team at Digital Pharmacist encourages its employees to create new culture committees as they find mutual interests and areas for improvement among their culture. The process is employee-driven from the conception of a committee to running and leading a committee, which allows for employees to commit as much as they want.
17. Have Theme Days or Weeks
Who doesn’t love a good theme day? Whether it be a simple Flannel Friday or a yearly spirit week, your team will have fun getting creative to represent the theme. Gem’s team has a spirit week with a different theme and activity each day. They also have unique traditions for different holidays throughout the year, like Bitcoin Day, Independence Day and Halloween. But who says you need to have a holiday to have a theme day?
18. Encourage In-Person Communication
It’s easy to get lost in the tech-driven workplace we now call home, but it’s still important for your teams to get some face time whenever possible. To combat the challenges of impersonal digital communication, set some boundaries for your teams. Designate an hour or a day each week, where people have to communicate in person if your team is in office. Your team will likely be more productive during that time, and it will help your team members engage with one another.
Employee Engagement Ideas for Career Development
19. Establish Career Pathing
Providing employees with a clear career path that includes specific goals and milestones, will help employee development and have a goal to work toward and better understand the purpose of their work. Cedar insists on having career paths in place, no matter the experience or seniority level of the employee. They also make sure employees have the right resources and initiatives to continuously move forward in their career and, ultimately, remain engaged with their work.
20. Help Employees Network
No matter where your employees are in their career, it’s important for them to continue networking with peers in and outside of your company. Doing so will help them learn from and share knowledge with other professionals, which will ultimately benefit the company and team at large. Director of Demand Generation at Wowza Media Systems, George Sturgis, told us in an interview that “making meaningful connections has helped me get to where I am in my career.” For him, networking has been a helpful resource to learn about new marketing tools and strategies and bring his newfound knowledge back to his team.
21. Allow Employees to Move Laterally
Just because an employee is tapped out in their current role doesn’t mean they don’t still have a place at your company. Sometimes the best move is to a different team or department. At Singpost, the leadership team is all in when it comes to helping employees transition to a new role within the company. When Michelle Reger transitioned into a product manager role, her new supervisor went above and beyond, sending her helpful reading materials, scheduling one-on-one meetings twice a week, assigning meaningful projects from the get-go and most importantly, letting her fail and learn from her mistakes in the new role.
22. Promote From Within
Before you start hiring people from outside your company, make sure to first consider promoting from within. Employees are actually interested in taking on more tasks and challenges and are more likely to stay with a company if they are promoted. Employees know that the fastest way to a promotion and raise is to change employers, and the best way to avoid this issue is to keep your employees engaged and loyal to your company by promoting from within.
23. Implement Diversity and Inclusion Training
There is always room for improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and companies are investing in employee training, bringing in experts and partnering with external organizations to meet their goals. Medallia is constantly reviewing their recruiting process, analyzing hiring rates for diverse demographics and evaluating the language they use and requirement qualifications in job descriptions. They also partner with external organizations to help them find diverse talent and create internship opportunities to support candidates transitioning into full-time careers.
It’s one thing to hold annual diversity and inclusion training, but it’s important to continuously educate your team and keep diversity and inclusion efforts top of mind throughout the year. Ellevation decided to create a company newsletter that includes a section with information about diversity and inclusion efforts, holidays and traditions. They also highlight differences among individual employees’ cultures and traditions.
24. Support Side Projects
Side projects allow employees to pursue an independent passion, which often leads to greater accomplishments for the company as a whole. Providing opportunities to work on passion projects is a big perk for a certain Colorado tech company. “We have benefits like flexible working hours and home office which makes pursuing projects easier, and the team also frequently works on open source projects,” said Andy McEvoy, Co-founder of PickNik Robotics.
25. Host Hackathons
Hackathons and brainstorming sessions get the creative juices flowing and provide an opportunity for people to share ideas and get involved in new projects. Formlabs frequently hosts hackathons for employees to take an idea 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.
26. Grow Skills With Job Training
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 another easy way to help your team grow their skills and network with other experts and exchange ideas.
Fintech company Braviant Holdings offers employees up to $4,500 to use toward relevant professional development programs. They also have an internal leadership program to provide managers with the knowledge and resources to enhance their leadership skills. According to Braviant, “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.”
27. Attend Conferences
Candidates are constantly asking prospective employers about learning and networking opportunities. In addition to training and courses, it’s important to support employees’ ability to reach outside of your company’s resources and tap into the greater industry network. Madison Escobar, Recruiting Coordinator at Updater, utilized her wellness benefit to attend an educational conference that allowed her to bring back new ideas and knowledge to her team that she wouldn’t have had access to without the support of her company.
28. Organize Lunch and Learns
Lunch and learns are a quick and convenient way to educate employees about a topic of interest. Sisense regularly hosts lunch and learns that feature different teams to help others better understand what different people do and build a more connected organization. These types of events are fairly low lift, and teams gain a better understanding of how everyone contributes to the greater mission.
29. Bring in a Speaker
While you may be a team of experts, there’s always going to be someone out there that’s more experienced and knowledgeable on any given topic. Keep your team informed by bringing in an outside speaker who can speak on anything from industry topics to work-life balance. Formlabs’ employees look forward to a regular speaker series called “HeyGirl,” where they bring in “successful female leaders from all industries to share their stories about career development and growth.”
Employee Engagement Ideas for Company Feedback
30. Utilize a Suggestion Box
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. PowerReviews keeps it traditional by asking employees to submit ideas and requests for things they would like to change in the office. They recently used this feedback to guide the decision making process when they redesigned their office. Ensuring your team feels heard is critical for employee engagement, so don't overlook the basics.
31. Ensure Transparency From the Top Down
Having open conversations with your team about uncomfortable topics can be tough, but they are critical to keeping your employees’ trust. FORM doesn’t shy away from those tough conversations — they embrace them. Brian Nishi shares why transparency is key to their team: “Transparency shows trust and mutual respect, which ultimately strengthens the relationships we share here.” It’s one thing to gain your team members’ trust, and it’s another thing to keep their trust over the years, and once it’s lost, it’s extremely hard to get back. Instead, be open to having tough conversations and create a positive culture that’s open to discussing anything and everything that comes up.
32. Have Regular Q&A Forums With the CEO
Especially as your company grows, it’s important to keep your team connected from top to bottom. But let’s be honest, your leaders don’t necessarily have time to answer every question every employee has about the company at large. Not only that, but employees may feel intimidated to ask someone in the C-Suite directly. Instead, ask your team members to submit anonymous questions that can be condensed and brought up during an all-team meeting, where the CEO or leadership team can respond honestly and openly. Because the likelihood is if one person has a question, there are a number of other people wondering the same thing.
33. Encourage Employee Surveys
Employee surveys provide managers and HR with direct feedback on how they can improve communication, culture, benefits packages and individual issues. MatchCraft utilizes online engagement tools to monitor employee happiness and streamline semi-annual reviews. “We host brainstorming sessions and conduct surveys to ensure that all of our employees’ opinions and suggestions are heard,” say Nicole Webb and Alisa Redgrift, members of MatchCraft’s People+Culture team. These employee surveys help them set quarterly goals with measurable metrics.
34. Establish an Open-Door Policy
Scheduled open door time provides employees of all levels with an invitation to chat with higher-ups about their ideas and concerns. Ayzenberg Group is passionate about 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.
Employee Engagement Ideas for Your Office Space
35. Have Social Areas in Your Office
Create areas of your office that are designated for team members to eat, relax and bond. Acquia’s team prides itself in eating together at lunch. For Beth Linker, Acquia’s Senior Product Manager, these spaces are important because, “You can connect with people throughout the normal course of the day and for me that’s really great.” If your team isn’t connecting over lunch, consider bringing in games like ping pong, video games or other team bonding activities that can be utilized throughout the day to get people engaging with one another.
36. Create Relaxing Areas in Your Office
Sitting at a desk all day can be harsh and exhausting on the mind and body. Many companies are incorporating relaxing seating arrangements so that people have options to get up, change work positions and refresh their environment and the people they work near. One of the conference rooms at LifeWatch Security is known as the ‘bean bag room’ which is full of bean bag chairs and a coffee table, making for a more relaxing meeting environment and change of pace from the typical meeting space.
38. Make Your Office Pet Friendly
Pets help reduce employee stress and improve happiness by allowing them to engage with something that’s always happy to see them. 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.
39. Furnish With Flexible Seating
Flexible ergonomic seating is majorly beneficial for health and wellness, and having the flexibility to change the way you work can enhance creativity. Realtor.com offers just that. In their office, every employee is equipped with an adjustable ergonomic chair to keep comfortable and healthy. Other companies, like Indigo, invest in adjustable standing desks, so that people can mix it up throughout the day.
40. Utilize Office Hot Seats
When you only work near and meet with people on your own team, it can be difficult to get better acquainted with colleagues across departments. If you have the space in your office, you can designate several seats with monitors as ‘hot seats’ or seats that anyone is welcome to sit in. This will encourage employees to sit among a different department for a day. They’ll learn more about what different departments are working on and they will connect with their colleagues without having to schedule a meeting.
41. Optimize Your Office Design
Natural light and color pallets have surprising effects on mood and productivity, so don’t be afraid to slap on a fresh coat of paint. The photo above is from the inside of Amperity’s office. The huge walls of windows provide optimal natural light in the Seattle office with views of Mount Rainier in one direction and Mount Baker in the other. Not only are the views gorgeous, but on sunny days, they can reduce fluorescent lighting, a common contributor to eye strain and blurred vision.
42. Create Office Game Rooms
Games give people a quick outlet to step away from their desk and challenge their minds and bodies all while bonding with colleagues in a fun way before returning to work. Markforged’s office is decked out with ping pong tables and video games, including a conference room with gaming consoles, bean bags and couches to help employees step away and play a few games or just relax.
43. Provide Healthy Food Options
Healthy snacks and meals encourage employees to stay balanced even when they have unhealthy cravings. It also saves them time and money planning meals in their personal life. As a platform that gives people insight into their health, fitness and diet, Helix encourages its employees to take on healthy habits by providing nutritious daily meals, comprehensive health insurance, fitness subsidies and FSA options.
Employee Engagement Ideas for Benefit Programs
44. Prioritize Mental Health
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 resources they need. 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-network providers.
45. Reimburse Tuition and Education Expenses
Education reimbursement and stipends encourage employees to learn outside of the office and bring new ideas back to their daily work. 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 and and an annual education stipend.
46. Offer Fitness Classes and Subsidies
In-house athletic classes are great if you are in a building without a gym, and even if you don't have a gym, you can probably find space to host a quick morning yoga or Zumba class. Golden Hippo has an on-site CrossFit gym with showers and lockers, and they offer yoga and meditation classes three times each week. Fitness subsidies are another great option for offices that can’t offer on-site fitness programs, and they also allow employees to explore their own health interests.
47. Offer Wellness Activities
On-site gyms make working out before or after work more convenient, and employees may even band together to reach personal fitness goals. CA Technologies is growing rapidly, and along the way, they are 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.
48. Support Athletic Clubs
Recreational clubs and teams motivate people to stay active and come together via common athletic interests. As an electronic health records company, it makes sense that athenahealth offers a wide range of wellness benefits, including an in-house gym, bi-monthly chair massages and running and biking paths. Their team also created several athletic clubs, including a company-sponsored kickball team, soccer club, running groups, rock climbing and cycling. If that wasn’t enough, they also have a two-person kayak for employees to paddle around the nearby lake.
49. Provide Competitive Insurance Packages
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. TripAdvisor offers 100 percent coverage on employee medical insurance along with competitive contribution rates for family coverage to ensure everyone at their company receives the medical attention they need without worrying about any financial burden.
50. Help Employees Get Outside
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. 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.
51. Offer Sabbaticals
Sabbatical leave is a long term paid leave that allows employees to travel or dive deep into a passion project they’ve never had the time to pursue. In addition to paid holidays, Drift offers its employees 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.
52. Utilize Floating Holidays to Represent All Cultures
It should come as no surprise that different people at your company come from different backgrounds, beliefs and traditions, meaning they also celebrate different holidays and events. In order to help their employees better balance their personal lives, beliefs and traditions with work, CrunchTime offers its team floating holidays so that they can pick and choose which holidays are important for them and continue to work on the holidays they don’t personally celebrate.
53. Prioritize Family Life
Parental leave helps new parents adjust to the major change of adding another member to their family without sacrificing their career. Alteryx offers a wealth of perks and benefits for working parents, including adoption assistance and 100 percent 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 work-life balance.
54. Support Flexible Work Hours
Flexible work hours allow people to better incorporate their personal lives into their busy work schedule, reduce stress and improve overall satisfaction. Flexible work schedules and parental leave are some favorite benefits at Workiva, helping employees better balance their lives and excel at work and home.
55. Encourage Remote Work
Remote work is said to increase productivity by 50 percent, and it further allows employees to work around their daily schedule. 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.
56. Provide Time Off to Volunteer
Paid volunteer time encourages people to engage in some social good without sacrificing pay or feeling guilty about leaving work. Volunteering is core to VMWare Carbon Black’s culture. The company has a dedicated culture club that plans social responsibility outings to take time off, bring the team together and give back to their local community.
57. Sponsor a Charity Event
Sponsoring a charity event or donation drive brings your team together to support your local community and make a change. PHMG hosts charity events year round along with two flagship fundraising events to help community members in need around the holidays.
58. Boost Your Child Care Benefits
Child care benefits help parents choose the right care and feel more at ease without having to weigh the steep cost of child care. To help new parents adjust, RetailMeNot offers primary caregivers up to 16 weeks of paid parental leave and non-primary caregivers four weeks of leave. When they return to work, employees are able to work 75 percent of their original schedule with full pay to adjust to a life with a new family member. They also offer new parents a generous baby bonus to help with the new cost of raising children in addition to local childcare discounts and subsidized childcare costs.
59. Offer Adoption Assistance
Adoption assistance helps families grow no matter how they choose to do so and supports them as they adjust to a new member. For families looking to adopt, Paylocity offers six weeks of paid parental leave. They also provide $5,000 of pre-tax assistance to help offset adoption expenses.
60. Reduce Stress With Family Medical Leave
Family medical leave reduces the stress that employees undergo when a family member requires medical attention. MojoTech has an all-inclusive family leave policy that considers more than just parents or gender. Everyone receives a six week paid family leave that can be used to either welcome a new family member or to take care of a sick or elderly family member.
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