12 Employee Engagement Ideas That Actually Work

12 Employee Engagement Ideas That Actually Work

Table of Contents

It’s time to look at employee engagement ideas that actually work.

We’ve known for decades (or, to be precise, since the groundbreaking 1999 report From People to Profits) that employee engagement is a workplace gamechanger. But despite this, and despite Bersin Associates’ estimate that engagement spending is approaching $1.5 billion, Gallup’s reports indicate that only 30% of employees feel engaged at their jobs.

That’s a lot of money for so little impact.

So, how can HR leaders ensure real results from their engagement programs? Take a look at our 12 employee engagement ideas to start fostering a culture of engagement and improving your overall employee experience.

1. Start with competitive pay and benefits

While pay and benefits are not the key indicators of employee engagement, worrying about pay can distract employees. When you’re looking at how to engage employees, start out by offering competitive compensation, benefits, and great working conditions.

Looking ahead: As workplaces and employee needs continue to evolve, consider offering flexible working hours, work-from-home options, and open PTO policies. Flexible work environments not only boost engagement, but help with recruiting efforts as well.

2. Communicate core values

Establishing a defined, well communicated vision grounded in core values — and recognizing behavior that supports that vision — gives employees a sense of meaning and purpose in their jobs.

For millennials, that sense of purpose is critical. In her open letter to employees on why millennials leave jobs, Lisa Earle McLeod sums it up: “I’ll give you everything I’ve got, but I need to know it makes a difference to something bigger than your bottom line.”

Having leadership communicate core values regularly and clearly builds meaning into the employee experience and can help engagement levels soar.

3. Tie employee goals to corporate goals

Gallup’s 2017 Performance Management Report showed that employees who strongly agree that they can link their goals to the organization’s goals are 3.5 times more likely to be engaged. Yet an astounding 93% of employees are unable to tie their work to greater business initiatives!

As such, goal setting has become mission-critical for businesses to not only hit their financial goals, but to re-engage and retain top talent.

To get the ball rolling, train managers to help employees set quarterly or monthly goals, and review progress in regular 1-on-1s. HR leaders may even want to explore goal management software like WorkTango that tracks individual, team, and company goals.

4. Act on engagement survey feedback

Actively soliciting employee feedback can be an incredibly effective way to engage employees. That is, if businesses actually use the feedback to change organizational operations.

Instead of sitting on survey data, start implementing an action plan immediately after asking for feedback. Show your employees you’re listening by making sure survey results are accessible to everyone, and sharing the action plan you’ll take in response to feedback.

If you can’t do this, it’s better not to even ask in the first place.

5. Systematize positive feedback

Giving feedback is powerful, and not just during performance reviews. In fact, winning teams use continuous feedback to foster collaboration, innovation and growth. Frequent, small doses of job performance feedback give employees plenty of opportunities to grow and improve.

WorkTango’s Feedback and Check-Ins features help with the transition from annual, backward-looking performance appraisals to real-time, development-focused conversations – not only between employees and their managers, but peers as well. This way, you can arm managers with the tools to give feedback and make better mobility decisions, while creating a culture of happier, more productive and engaged employees.

6. Reward the behaviors you want repeated

“What gets rewarded gets repeated,” the old adage goes. The good news? There are plenty of ways to meaningfully reward employees (and not all are monetary!)

Giving employees a chance to donate to causes they care about, or earn time off, fun experiences and professional development opportunities improves employee engagement – along with improvements in rewards spending, turnover, and growth in program participation.

WorkTango customers see ROI including: as much as 30% reduction in reward spending; 50% decrease in turnover; up to 50% growth in program participation; and an average payback period of 5 months.

7. Do team-building activities during the work day

In our employee experience study, 1 in 4 employees had quit a job because they didn’t like the people they worked with. Additionally, 67% of the employees said that connections with their managers and coworkers affected how long they stay in a job.

So, as you’re filling out your roster of employee engagement ideas, take a thoughtful approach to team-building. Who’s on your team? How do their responsibilities and values affect how and when they can spend time with the team? Traditional happy hours, for example, exclude team members who don’t drink alcohol, are primary caretakers for small children, or are doing night classes. So take time during the work day to strengthen connections with a team lunch, team recognition, or quarterly birthday celebrations.

8. Offer employee development opportunities

On average, today’s workforce will hold a job for about 4.3 years before moving on to something new. And many will move even more frequently. “Job hopping” used to have a negative connotation; today, driven and motivated workers see lateral moves as the only way to gain valuable new skills and experiences necessary to success. So why not make a way for them to get all the perks of a new job without leaving your team?

Job rotation programs intentionally and proactively move employees through various positions within a company over time, allowing them to gain new skills and work with different teams within the same organization. Job rotation has been shown to increase retention and engagement and encourage collaboration. (Though there are risks to consider, like when a new position turns out to be a bad fit.)

We think job rotation should be one tool added to your engagement toolbox. Employees should know that moving “up” is not their only option for growth — so is moving side-to-side.

9. Create a team environment of trust

When you’re spending 40+ hours a week at work, having a meaningful relationship with your coworkers makes a big difference in your employee experience. Having a supportive team can build each individual’s motivation.

Organizations with a high level of trust — which is to say, psychological safety — also have higher engagement. So, when you’re working to foster employee engagement, ask yourself if your management team is building trust with employees. Are they living up to the expectations that they set? Do their actions match their words? Are your engagement activities authentic?

10. Set clear expectations

Your employees have a much easier time meeting expectations when they know what those expectations are. Giving employees specific goals needed to perform their job will foster employee motivation.

Gallup’s Reengineering Performance Management paper indicates that holding employees accountable for achieving their goals through a regular performance management process boosts engagement and performance. See how Kazoo helps keep you and your employees aligned on goals.

11. Show appreciation to boost engagement

You can’t overestimate the power of appreciation. Glassdoor found that 80% of employees say they will stay at a job longer if they get appreciation from their boss. And Gallup shows that employees who get some form of recognition at least once a week are more likely to stay in a job longer.

12. Measure engagement like any other vital business metric

Finally — and last but not least in our employee engagement ideas — is to dig into the numbers. If you’re in HR, chances are you’re a people person. But don’t let your natural talents and instincts keep you from relying on data! With all of the data at our fingertips these days, there’s no good reason not to treat engagement just like any other vital business metric, which means:

  • Measure it. Whether you survey annually, quarterly or weekly, make sure you’re getting employee feedback data on a consistent basis. Not sure where to start? WorkTango’s pulse surveys give you pre-designed, scientifically validated questions for measuring engagement and deliver the data to you in an easy-to-use format.
  • Track it. Don’t believe that employee engagement surveys will change anything on their own. Track the employee feedback data and watch for dips and rises.
  • Set goals around it. It’s important to aim for something more specific than “high engagement.” What does that mean to you? What numbers are you looking for in your analytics? Which employee behaviors do you want to see? Which areas do you want to improve?
  • Understand the impact on your bottom line. Now you have concrete data around your engagement. So what? Engagement efforts typically create good work environments and ensure people are treated well. But if we’re not seeing real business results, we’re stopping short of everything engagement has to offer. So don’t track your engagement alone; track it in conjunction with other important analytics like sales, labor costs, customer retention, and overall operating profit.

Employee engagement ideas are just the beginning

Investing in your company’s employee experience can have a positive effect on the employee, the customer, and ultimately your bottom line. That’s where we come in.