How to Improve Employee Engagement
Has employee engagement taken a hit in your office? If so, don’t panic — every organization is susceptible to changes in their team’s engagement levels, which is usually a result of a shift in their company culture.
Improving employee engagement requires buy-in from your entire leadership team, and a successful engagement strategy warrants thoughtful planning. Don’t let that deter you; a highly engaged workforce will boost your organization’s profitability, productivity and retention.
There are, however, several low-lift employee engagement initiatives you can enact now to yield real results. In this article, we’ll explore 16 employee engagement strategies that you can implement as quick fixes and long-term tactics to boost employee engagement.
Table of Contents
- Let's Review: What Is Employee Engagement?
- Low-lift Ideas to Increase Employee Engagement
- Long-term Strategies for Improving Employee Engagement
Let’s Review: What Is Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement is defined as the degree to which employees are motivated by, passionate about and invested in the work they do. Engagement also indicates the individual’s commitment to the company and their emotional connection to the people they work with.
Workforce engagement is often misunderstood to be synonymous with job satisfaction. Though the two concepts are related, employee engagement is vastly more complicated as it is influenced by a variety of factors including location, culture and individual characteristics. These factors are variable and prone to fluctuate over time, which is why measuring employee engagement is crucial to staying up to date with your staff’s needs.
Check out this article for more on the basics of employee engagement. If you’re all caught up, let’s dive in.
Low-lift Ideas to Increase Employee Engagement
If you’ve noticed a change in your team’s engagement or are just getting acquainted with what employee engagement is, there are several steps you can take to quickly make a positive impact in your office. In this section, we’ll outline eight manageable strategies you can implement to increase employee engagement immediately.
1. Model your core values and emphasize your mission
Employees are more engaged when there’s a goal they can get behind and a purpose to inspire them. Your core values and mission statement are the foundation of your company culture, which plays a large role in how engaged your employees are. Start by creating a concise list of company core values, then train each employee in these values. Doing so will guarantee employees understand the importance of the company’s values, how they positively impact the business and what’s expected of each individual. Lead by example and hold every member of your team accountable. Failing to do so will foster a bad company culture of distrust that will disengage employees.
2. Prioritize feedback
Optimal amounts of feedback correlate with positive manager reviews. Even managers who give their direct reports too much feedback are rated higher by their team than those who don’t provide enough. The gist? Employees crave feedback, and it influences their level of engagement. Start by scheduling check-ins for each employee with their manager, then encourage middle management to establish regular review sessions with their team as an ongoing initiative to improve employee engagement.
While it may be tempting to implement a company-wide schedule for feedback, keep in mind that every team is different and frequent touchpoints may feel unnatural to some. Managers should talk to their direct reports about their preferred methods for receiving feedback in order to engage employees in a way that’s meaningful to them.
3. Concentrate on engaging management
Your managers’ levels of engagement directly affects their teams. Let’s take a look at some stats: in the U.S., 34% of employees are engaged at work, which nearly aligns with the 35% of managers who report being engaged. Plus, employees report that 75% of great managers are passionate about the work they do — that kind of positive attitude is contagious. While your workforce engagement strategy should account for the individual needs of every employee, focusing on middle management is an effective way to quickly increase employee engagement across the board.
4. Coordinate volunteer opportunities
Employees want to know they work for a company that cares about making a positive contribution to society. Volunteering unites employees toward a larger purpose, offering an opportunity to connect on a deeper level. Indeed, 70% of employees believe volunteer events improve morale more than happy hours and 89% believe companies that sponsor charitable activities have a better work environment.
Look for a volunteer opportunity that’s located near your office and plan an event for after work. This is an easy way to come together as a team and give back to your community. Additionally, offer a “Volunteer Day” as an employee benefit. This should be a day outside of your PTO policy that employees can take off to donate their time to a cause they’re passionate about.
5. Prioritize physical and mental health
It’s easy for individuals to engage with their work when the organization makes an effort to enhance their overall wellbeing. A company-wide wellness initiative is a great way to improve employee engagement. Sponsor workout classes as company outings and, as a long-term solution, consider offering fitness subsidies to encourage healthy lifestyles beyond the office.
Offer meditation classes and encourage employees to take mental health days when they need to step away from the office and focus on themselves. Additionally, stock the kitchen with healthy snacks that will fuel employees during the busy work day.
6. Recognize top performers and reward achievements
Engaged employees will go out of their way to go the extra mile. However, they still want to know that leadership sees and appreciates their efforts. Take time to acknowledge your employees and allow them to do the same of their peers.
Since feedback is a top priority among employees, encourage managers to make positive recognition part of their day-to-day. Utilize your communications channel or HCM system to promote acknowledgements to the whole company. Additionally, consider engaging your HR department to implement an incentive program.
7. Conduct employee engagement surveys frequently
Not only will regular employee engagement surveys help you understand what’s working in your organization, but it will make your employees feel valued. Giving each individual the opportunity to voice their opinions encourages honest, open communication. Employee feedback is essential to successfully engaging your workforce. You can look to notable corporations for inspiration, but at the end of the day, your team is unique and will respond best to certain employee engagement strategies. Quick pulse surveys give you the data to do just that.
8. Plan company outings
The level of employee engagement in your workplace has a lot to do with how your employees relate to one another. Set up opportunities for them to connect on things outside of work and foster personal relationships. You don’t have to go far or break the bank to do so — plan an on-site happy hour, game night or potluck dinner. Make sure to provide some variety in your events to promote inclusivity.
9. Form Employee Resource Groups and Create an ERG Program
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are highly valuable tools for helping employees feel visible in the workplace and are an excellent way to highlight cultural uniquenesses and diversity throughout the workplace. ERG’s typically represent marginalized or underrepresented groups, are employee-led and are voluntary to join. These groups can have a profound effect across your entire organization and allow employees to take the lead in creating a sense of community, amplifying voices and driving the change that they want to see in order to form a more equitable workplace. Organizations will also feel the impact of their employees creating ERGs, which reportedly lead to increased productivity and a positive impact on the ROI of the hiring process.
However, in order for employees to take the steps toward forming effective ERGs, it is crucial for them to know that they will be supported by leadership at all levels. Forming an established ERG program is a great way to do so and will provide employees with the structure to build their ERG on while creating a path for additional ERGs to come to fruition.
10. Foster innovation
Employees at all levels who feel like they can contribute meaningfully to the company’s mission and use their own personal skills and expertise to do so will not only feel more engaged while working, they will feel more passionate about their jobs as well. And with GoRemotely reporting that only 20% of Americans are passionate about their jobs, helping bring passion into the workplace is a key area of improvement when it comes to employee motivation.
Bonusly combats lack of passion by allowing employees to innovate within the workplace, reserving a week out of every quarter to allow teams to work on something outside of their day-to-day projects. This allows teams from across the organization to work together and support each other — even leading to new products and streamlined processes being developed.
Long-term Strategies for Improving Employee Engagement
Because it’s so complex, having a robust employee engagement strategy is essential to ensuring your team is continuously invested in their work and your company culture. Take a look at these five long-term approaches to improving employee engagement. Implement a few or all of these strategies concurrently with your low-lift initiatives to continually improve your team’s engagement.
1. Button up your onboarding process
You’ll never disengage an employee faster than in their first few weeks on the job. By providing new hires with effective onboarding, you let them know they have a place in your company and its culture. Take the time to explain the nuances of the team, the goals and values of the company as well as their position’s purpose. This not only sets them up for success in the role but also conveys their value to the organization’s mission.
2. Offer professional development opportunities and carve out career paths
Employees who feel like they are making career advancements are 20% more likely to hold the same job in a year. Outlining a path for growth will keep employees engaged and help you retain top talent. Not only that, but contributing — financially or otherwise — to your employees' individual growth shows that you value them, in addition to their work. Knowing that their talents are appreciated by the company is a motivating factor for employees. Moreover, regardless of which industry you serve, the market will constantly evolve and professional development is key to staying up to date and relevant.
3. Encourage and Provide Training Opportunities
The top driver that motivates people to seek a new job is “career growth opportunities,” according to Gallup. Incorporating opportunities for employees to bolster their skill set, learn from their peers and undergo structured training programs will not only make them more productive and engaged in the workplace, it might even stop them from pursuing a new role elsewhere.
Building structure around an employee training program can be as simple as providing all employees with a stipend for them to use toward job-related training courses or scheduling meeting times for senior team members to teach junior employees new skills that will help them along their career path. Sometimes, bringing in outside consultants to host workshops or present new insights can be the most effective way to provide training to entire teams. Regardless of how an organization structures its training programs, they can be sure that the more engaged they are in providing direct opportunities for employees to develop new skills, the more likely it will be that their employees will remain consistently engaged in their daily work.
4. Evaluate processes and address inefficiencies
Unnecessary tasks slow down processes and can cost your business revenue. More than that, though, it’s frustrating for employees. Tedious extra steps prompt employees to switch on cruise control, which essentially means they’re not engaging with their work.
For example, if a writer has to individually log every minor change that’s made to a piece of sales collateral, they’ll probably spend twice as long on the project while being half as invested. Automating the process — in this case, a simple switch to Google Docs to utilize the Track Changes functionality — allows the writer to focus on writing. While certain tasks can’t be eliminated, you should operate with the mindset of optimizing processes and implementing resources that enable employees to be successful in their roles. Carefully analyze each team’s processes and look for ways to smooth out operations for long-term success.
The impact goes beyond just employees in an office setting as well — contractors must provide their employees with tools that will allow them to complete a job safely and on schedule, while service employees need to be able to use specific tools in order to provide the level of service expected of both them and their employers. From hardware to software to things as simple as a comfortable desk chair, corporate employees must be provided with top-tier tools in order to meet the needs of their employers, and those tools must be evaluated regularly.
5. Provide employees with flexibility
Flexible work schedules and remote work opportunities are almost guaranteed to increase employee engagement. This kind of flexibility caters to the elusive work-life balance employees crave. 87% of employees expect their organizations to support them in balancing work responsibilities with personal commitments. Provide employees with the ability to adjust their work hours to accommodate for after-school pick-up schedules, a fitness class they enjoy or passion projects in order to show that you value your team members on a personal level. That kind of respect and consideration will keep employees engaged.
6. Train your managers in employee engagement best practices
It’s estimated that how an employee rates their managers accounts for roughly 14% of that individual’s level of engagement. In addition to ensuring that management is engaged, give your senior and middle managers the tools they need to connect with and empower their direct reports.
Offer training programs and leadership development seminars to better equip managers for their roles. In addition to their individual responsibilities, a manager should act as a coach for their reports, offering encouragement, constructive criticism and paths for growth. Proper training ensures that managers know how to effectively engage their team, but it doesn’t replace the vital step of talking to employees. Having a conversation about how they enjoy receiving feedback and being recognized will enable managers to engage employees in a way that’s meaningful to them.
Be thoughtful with your approach to increase employee engagement, and you’ll reap the rewards of an engaged workforce for years to come. Remember that employee engagement isn’t a temporary project — engaging and keeping employees engaged is a serious endeavor that requires your constant consideration. Refer to our comprehensive guide on 60+ employee engagement ideas for additional suggestions to incorporate into your strategy.