Houston, we have a problem. Employee engagement is crashing.
After a 10-year period of almost constant growth, Gallup’s 2021 “State of the Global Workplace” report reveals that employee engagement fell globally by 2%, from 22% in 2019 to 20% in 2020.
2%. Doesn’t sound much. So, why the panic? Well, another Gallup report estimates that one disengaged employee costs the company 18% of their annual salary.
Linked to low employee retention rates and low productivity, it’s no surprise that low levels of engagement also lead to lower profits. This, we knew.
But what is news is that, in times of crisis, employee engagement takes on even greater importance. In August 2021 (bang in the middle of the global Covid pandemic) the quit rate in the U.S. reached a record high. From limited career progression and a lack of L&D opportunities to toxic work environments, employees joined this “Great Resignation” for various reasons.
But all of those reasons are examples of one thing. Poor employee engagement.
Higher engagement leads to higher levels of workforce resilience. And this, in turn, supports better business outcomes.
So, employee engagement brings financial growth in times of stability and business stability in times of adversity. And the good news is, if you haven’t nailed it quite yet, there’s a lot you can do to catch up.
In this post, we share 13 employee engagement ideas that work for your business and for your employees.
Starting at the pre-interview stage and going all the way through the employee lifecycle, they aren’t quick fixes. But will lead to long-lasting engagement and better resilience for whatever’s around the corner. No luck required.
What is employee engagement?
Before we jump straight into strategies, let’s quickly clarify what those strategies are designed to achieve by asking: “What is employee engagement?”
Some describe it as the feelings (happiness or contentment, for example) an employee has about the organization they work for. But it’s more than that.
It’s what an employee does as a result of those feelings. An engaged employee acts differently. They work with energy, enthusiasm, and motivation to make a difference and exceed expectations. They’ll directly impact your bottom line (in a good way). And they’re worth their weight in gold.
Employment engagement strategies for success
So, what can you do to grow employee engagement? If you’re looking for employee engagement ideas that work, here are 13 to get you started.
1. Hire the right people
Your employees are more likely to feel engaged at work if their values mirror those of your organization. In its state of engagement global study, Officevibe found that 33% of employees don’t believe their company’s core values align with their personal values.
Not only this, but 19% of them don’t even know or understand what those values are.
The solution? Start from the very root by making sure your employer branding reflects your company culture. That done, be sure to evaluate culture fit and discuss values (your candidate’s and your company’s) during the interview process.
Make sure your new hire knows what working with you feels like before they accept the offer. Then, include company culture training in your employee onboarding process. And, once they’re in post, keep following up. 33% of employees say they aren’t reminded of their organization’s mission often enough. So, make sure you have an ongoing internal comms campaign structured around this.
And, don’t forget to cater to your remote or hybrid workers. It’s harder to feel or experience culture from afar so include virtual engagement activities within your campaign.
2. Invest in great onboarding
The experience you give your new hires when they first join your organization has an impact on their short-term and long-term employee engagement levels. It sets the tone for things to come. It also determines how long your new employee stays with you. And how well they perform in their role. So, it’s important to get it right.
Create a meaningful onboarding experience that works for all of your employees, whether they’re in the office, at home, or a bit of both. And make sure this extends beyond their first day and throughout their first year or so with you.
Remote onboarding is now considered to be the most accessible, inclusive, and effective approach to welcoming and engaging new hires. So, if you’re not on board with onboarding software, now could be the time to look into it.
3. Put the right people in the right role
When employees are in the right role, they’re using knowledge, talent, experience, and motivation they already have. This naturally boosts engagement. Why? Because people like being good at their jobs.
Worryingly though, according to research, 20% of employees feel that they’re in the wrong role. This can lead to low levels of morale across the team, poor productivity, absenteeism and, ultimately affect your bottom line.
Being in the wrong role doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not right for your organization. Use internal eLearning training and coaching programs to upskill or reskill your employee. Or, assess the skills and motivation they do have and match them up with a more suitable role if you have one. And, of course, review your hiring practices to lessen the risk of it happening again.
4. Provide the right tools
If your employees aren’t properly resourced to do their job, they’ll feel disempowered and frustrated. And neither of these partners well with employee engagement.
As part of your employee engagement initiative, invest in tools that are functional and easy-to-use and which simplify workflows. Being properly set up and connected is particularly important for your remote workers so make sure they’re fully equipped from day one. And that they know who to contact if they need help troubleshooting.
5. Clarify responsibilities and goals
You can’t do a good job (or feel good about your job) if you don’t know what a good job looks like. According to the aforementioned report from Officevibe, 17% of employees don’t know what they need to do to meet their goals and objectives. And this, in turn, leads to lower levels of job satisfaction and employee engagement.
To fix this, arrange for your employee’s line manager to talk through responsibilities, expectations, and goals during the onboarding process. And produce a high-level description of the new hire’s tasks and responsibilities they can access at all times.
If you have onboarding or training software, save these descriptions there. Then, work with employees to create specific, measurable, and time-based objectives. This will give your people greater clarity and a sense of ownership.
6. Invest in employee training
Offering ongoing employee training is high on our list of employee engagement ideas that work. Fostering a culture of continuous learning? That too! Why? Because good employees (people you want to retain) want to know you care about their development.
Unfortunately, according to the Officevibe report, 56% of employees believe that they don’t have any career advancement opportunities. Which indicates up to 56% of disengaged workers.
Help people grow with you, rather than with another company. Give them the chance to learn new skills, stay current with industry standards, and cross-train in different departments. Doing this shows that you care about them as people and not just employees. And a cared-for employee is an engaged employee.
How you provide your training matters, too. Training that’s hard to access, inconsistent, irrelevant, or poorly executed can be worse for engagement than no L&D at all. Using an employee training platform is an easy and effective way of giving your employees a learning experience they will engage with and benefit from.
7. Ask and give feedback regularly
Today’s workforce wants continuous feedback. Quite right too. Not only do regular check-ins provide employees with a sense of how they’re doing, but they also lead to faster course correction.
If you want employee engagement ideas that work by killing two birds with one stone, feedback has to be top of the list. Your employee gets the feedback they crave and you avoid them making costly mistakes.
The reality though isn’t quite so cheery. 32% of employees wait more than 3 months to get feedback from their manager. And this is compounded by 28% who report that feedback is not frequent enough to help them understand how to improve.
The solution? Encourage a feedback culture. Train managers and peers on how to give effective feedback. Make sure your entire organization believes in the value of asking and giving feedback. Set expectations around how often feedback should be provided (weekly is a good standard). And emphasize a corrective approach.
8. Encourage close connections
Humans are social creatures. And, given the amount of time people spend at work, it’s important that work fulfills that need. Meeting targets, goals, and expectations is a great motivator. But if it’s done alone or without any sense of teamwork, communication, or fun, then employee engagement starts to slip.
To get your employees to care about your workplace you have to help them form closer connections with colleagues. Especially given the ever-increasing shift over to remote working. 1 out of 2 remote workers says that chatting with a colleague boosts their motivation throughout the day.
Easier said than done, though.
Which might explain why Buffer and Angelist’s State of Remote Work reports that 20% of remote employees struggle with collaboration and communication. And an equal number experience loneliness.
Combat these feelings and boost employee engagement by providing people with frequent and easy-to-access opportunities to communicate with each other. Make sure they have the tools they need to do so effectively.
Whether it’s face-to-face or online team catch-ups, virtual one-to-ones, online discussion groups, messaging chats, or video conferences, keep them talking. Not only will this boost productivity but it helps form strong emotional connections between colleagues. And, if you can get your employees emotionally invested in their peers as well as their job, employee engagement will follow.
9. Give your employees credit
When it comes to employee engagement ideas that work, recognition is one of the most highly evidenced examples. Studies over the last few years have repeatedly shown that employees value how they feel at work over what they earn.
According to one survey, employees whose work is recognized are 2.7x more likely to be highly engaged. And this driver of employee engagement takes on even greater importance during periods of uncertainty when, a Gartner poll shows, an employees’ need for recognition rises by 30%.
Make your employees feel that they are seen, heard, and valued by recognizing them and their work publicly and privately. Internal comms engagement campaigns centered around this are particularly effective.
Use channels (intranet, newsletters, emails, podcasts, or video conferences) to share employee success stories, illustrating how employees have made a difference to customers and your business. Include credits in press releases where relevant and do shout-outs in team meetings, at company events, and away days.
Encourage colleagues and managers to share recognition privately, too. And keep it digital by incorporating virtual engagement ideas where you can. This way you can give quick and instant spot recognition as well as more planned callouts.
10. Support wellbeing
To be engaged at work, employees need to feel well in their personal lives, too. Without good levels of energy, focus, and stamina, employees may feel engaged in their work but not actually capable of putting that feeling into action. And what’s worse, experience feelings of worry, anxiety, depression, and, even anger, as a result.
Recognize all aspects of work-related and personal wellbeing (financial, career, community, physical, mental, and social). And take steps to address these within the workplace. For example, you can:
- offer flexible work schedule arrangements
- produce a meaningful and practical package of benefits (including health and childcare)
- uphold family-friendly policies
- offer financial wellbeing training, support, and resources
- provide counseling and mental health workshops
- regularly review workload
- be uncompromising about bullying and harassment
- encourage physical activities and social interaction
- make it easier for employees to eat healthily
- celebrate community-mindedness
- include wellbeing into everyday conversations
- offer wellbeing (and even happiness) training,
- support career development
- communicate important company news clearly and transparently
11. Upskill managers
Managers can make or break employee engagement. In fact, according to Gallup, their influence accounts for 70% of variance in levels of employee engagement.
Help managers develop their communication skills by providing relevant training. And encourage them to set aside regular, dedicated catch-ups with individuals in their team. Strengthen their employee engagement skills by including leadership training, too.
12. Think remote-first
We’ve touched on it in almost every strategy we’ve included here, but it’s such a big factor it needs pulling out in its own right. It’s time to talk remote working.
It was a mandatory requirement for many during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. But has since become the preferred choice for increasing numbers of employees. In fact, 1 in 3 people in tech says a lack of remote work options is a reason that would make them want to quit their job.
But engaging employees you might never see in person is a challenge.
How can you achieve that? Having the right infrastructure and technology (particularly communication tools) in place is a given. But more than that, successfully engaging remote or hybrid employees is about having the right mindset. It’s about having a “remote-first” approach.
And, for every tactic on your list of employee engagement strategies, ask: “What do I need to do to make this work for remote employees?”. Or, “What virtual engagement ideas or virtual engagement activities do I need to use to make this a success?”. Embed that in your approach, and you’ll have employee engagement ideas that work wherever your employees are based.
13. Include everyone
When you’re looking at your employee engagement strategies, it’s important to remember that one size doesn’t fit all. Engaged employees feel safe, secure, and respected. Which is where DEI comes in.
Demonstrating, and living by, an unswerving commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is at the heart of employee engagement. But it’s so much more than that, too. It’s simply the right and only approach to take. So, support DEI for those reasons. And engagement will follow.
If you need support to structure your approach, don’t forget there are diversity and inclusion courses out there that can help.
Employee engagement in the long run
There are many different types of employee engagement activities you could use to boost motivation at work. But if you really want them to work, they have to be part of an overall employee engagement strategy.
Pizza Fridays or annual retreats are nice and fun. But they’re not enough to keep your people happy and motivated. Employee engagement should be a long-term commitment—and not a one-off event. Try out some of the employee engagement ideas and see what resonates the most with your teams and company culture. And remember to check in with your employees often to find out what truly keeps them happy at work.
Originally published on: 29 Jan 2018