- Employees want to feel invested in and connected to their work.
- Engaged employees are less absent, more productive and more communicative.
- To boost employee engagement, create a strong company culture and be open with your employees.
- This article is for small business owners and managers who want to boost their employees' engagement.
"Employee engagement" is quickly becoming one of the top workplace buzzwords and is often used to gauge work satisfaction and productivity levels. Today's employees are no longer interested in just showing up, performing their tasks and going home – they want to be invested in and enthusiastic about their work, and to feel connected to and valued by their company. Unfortunately, the majority of employees don't feel that way. Research from Gallup revealed that just 36% of employees report feeling engaged at work. With such low engagement levels, employers should actively try to find ways to keep their employees engaged and satisfied.
What is employee engagement?
An engaged employee is enthusiastic about their work and actively involved in achieving the business's goals and interests. They have a positive attitude about the organization and its values and are committed to their work. In contrast, a disengaged employee is someone who may be coasting through their work (i.e., doing the bare minimum to get by) or actively disparaging the company to others inside or outside of the organization.
With employee engagement software, you can create a strategy that tracks the employee experience and job satisfaction, monitors your organizational culture, and analyzes survey results to give you insights into your employees' morale and engagement.
Why is employee engagement important?
Employee engagement is more than employees just being happy with their work – it's about feeling a sense of pride and connection to the work and to the business, which often results in higher job satisfaction, productivity and quality of work.
Engaged employees are committed to bettering their work and the company at large. They are unlikely to leave their position for a higher salary or better title at another company, which reduces your employee turnover rate.
"When employees are engaged, they are more productive, loyal, and committed, which in turn improves employee retention, customer satisfaction, and an organization's overall financial health," Katie Brennan, HR knowledge advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management, told Business News Daily.
Key takeaway: Employee engagement means an employee feels connected to and empowered by their workplace, as well as valued by their employer.
20 employee engagement ideas
If you're trying to boost employee engagement in your company, it's important to be patient and not try too hard. Changing how connected your employees feel to the company takes time and must be organic, not forced. Here are 20 ideas for helping your employees feel more engaged with your organization.
1. Make time for fun.
Humans aren't designed to be work machines. Incorporate fun bonding experiences that allow your employees to relax and let loose. Here are some ideas:
- Go to a sporting event or new brewery in town as a company outing.
- Order pizza for the whole company on a Friday.
- Go paintballing or bowling.
- Visit an escape room.
- Host a scavenger hunt.
- Bring in a cool speaker for a lunch-and-learn.
2. Offer unique employee discounts.
Work perks are a great way to make employees feel that your company offers something special. This could be discounted sports or concert tickets, special employee pricing for items your company sells, or deals on travel.
3. Keep communication open.
Peter Schoeman, founder and CEO of The Dog Adventure, said the most effective way to keep your employees focused and motivated is to communicate with them.
"Effective communication in the workplace is an essential element of a business's progress," he said. "Not only does it enhance employee engagement and the overall effectiveness of a team, but it also improves relationships. Communication assures that team members understand what they are working towards and why."
To improve communication, consider sending out a regular employee engagement survey to gather employee feedback.
4. Use value-based employee recognition.
Most companies have core values, but they are often neglected and only referenced once during the onboarding process. To help your employees connect with and embody your company's values, actively reward behavior that exemplifies them. This shows employees what your values look like in practice and makes it easy to live them out at work.
5. Know your employees.
This is an easy one – to best value and support your employees, you need to know who they are as people.
"The best thing you can do is get to know your people, and have every manager get to know their people," said Jeremy Bedenbaugh, founder and CEO of ReCreate Solutions. "Get to know their names, their kids' and pets' names, their values, their aspirations, and the things potentially blocking those things. There is no program, process or substitute for simply building relationships with your people."
6. Create opportunities for collaboration.
Employees who have strong, positive relationships with their co-workers are automatically more engaged with their workplace, since it's a large source of their interpersonal relationships. Create plenty of opportunities for your employees to work together and get to know each other.
7. Make it clear how your employees contribute.
Employees need to know exactly how they fit into the organization and how their work contributes to the overall goals. Without providing that insight, you risk your workers feeling as if they are an invisible cog in the wheel, doing work that no one appreciates. You might want to create a flowchart or graphic that shows how each employee's work impacts others and the company at large.
8. Prioritize work-life balance.
Again, showing your employees you value them as people is one of the most important ways to boost their engagement. This means encouraging and modeling a strong work-life balance, with plenty of paid time off, reasonable hours and flexibility. Work with your employees on an individual basis to make sure their work-life balance needs are being met.
"Giving your employees a generous amount of PTO, longer lunch breaks or small gifts to show appreciation can all be helpful," said Omid Semino, founder and CEO of Diamond Mansion. "Show them that you appreciate them and respect their time."
9. Offer role flexibility.
Consider allowing easy lateral mobility within your company. This can be especially helpful for younger employees who have not yet figured out their perfect career path. Allowing flexibility and providing support in career mapping can help you retain employees you might have otherwise lost to other organizations.
10. Be open and transparent.
It's much easier for employees to engage with a company when they know what's going on, both good and bad. As a leader, you should be as transparent as possible with your employees. This shows that you trust and value them enough to keep them abreast of organizational goings-on.
"We conduct companywide meetings as often as we can to ask for the opinions of the employees before we make the move," said Oliver Baker, co-founder of Intelivita. "This allows us not just to see how these plans would affect the employees, but how it will also be improved according to the POV of our workers."
11. Have a philanthropic mission, and follow through.
With 79% of millennials actively seeking out employers that give back to the community, your company's commitment to a charitable mission can go a long way in promoting employee engagement. Consider offering a couple days of PTO each quarter for employees to volunteer for your chosen cause.
12. Offer wellness perks.
When thinking about perks to offer, try to avoid the cliches – like a pingpong table that might be used once in a blue moon – and focus on ones that will actually benefit your employees. This could include unlimited PTO, the ability to work from home at least a couple days a week, catered lunches once a week, or yoga classes. [Read related article: Why You Should Offer an Employee Health and Wellness Plan]
13. Offer growth opportunities.
One key way to engage your team is to provide a growth-oriented company culture, according to Josh Stomel, founder of TurboFinance.
"Many employees search for greener pastures when they feel complacent and stuck in a role that no longer seems to provide opportunities for enhancement," Stomel said. "This is why managers should keep a close eye on their team members and, as they continue their education or add to their skill sets, offer more responsibilities or even help facilitate a move to a different role."
14. Offer coaching and mentoring.
By connecting employees with others in the company who have expertise to share, you can open up pathways of communication and learning within the scope of your company. Coaching and mentoring can help your employees map out their careers, grow their skills and become more innovative.
15. Provide multiple options for feedback.
Many employees may have feedback to share but are uncomfortable doing so in a large group or public setting. Provide opportunities for employees to share their thoughts in different ways, such as an anonymous employee survey, informal chats or sit-down meetings.
16. Make a point to integrate new hires.
Making a new hire feel welcome and like part of the team is a great way to build up employee engagement right from the start. Be sure to introduce each new hire to everyone, and create opportunities for the new employee to interact with their team members one-on-one to forge strong initial connections.
17. Develop a strong company culture.
Just as you should embody your company values, you should know your company culture and act on it. Make culture fit a factor in all your hiring decisions, and promote your company culture wherever possible. For example, if wellness is a part of your company culture, offer healthy snacks in the break room, or start and promote an office running club.
18. Support your employees' goals.
Dr. Miriam Lacey, professor of applied behavioral sciences at Pepperdine University's Graziadio Business School, encourages employers to find out their employees' personal goals and look for opportunities to satisfy them.
"Discuss their career goals openly, and find growth opportunities within their existing role or in a new position within the organization," Lacey said. "During working-from-home conditions, employers can schedule a one-on-one to discuss employees' goals and ways to grow."
19. Act on feedback.
A great way to make employees feel engaged with the workplace is to show them you're listening by acting on their feedback. Be sure to communicate what you're doing in response and why, as well as when employees can expect to see results of the changes.
20. Celebrate milestones.
"Celebrating different professional and personal milestones are key to keeping morale and make them feel valued," said Azza Shahid, digital marketer at Physicians Thrive. "We make sure to remember employees' birthdays, anniversaries with the company, and recognize them by sending a personalized card or email on the company account or a mention in online team meetings. These are small things but are a great motivation-booster."
Key takeaway: Some ideas for boosting employee engagement are acting on feedback, offering growth opportunities, and being open and transparent with your employees.
Benefits of employee engagement
The benefits of high employee engagement are nearly endless. It has been consistently proven that happy workers are productive workers, which equals good things for your business. Here are six major benefits of having engaged employees.
According to Gallup, employees who are highly engaged with their job and workplace are around 17% more productive than non-engaged employees, since they enjoy their work and are committed to the overall goals of the company. They want to produce high-quality work and take pride in what they do.
When employees care about their job and their impact on the team, they're much more likely to avoid calling out of work if they don't need to. Engaged employees want to work and contribute to the overall success of their organization, meaning they'll take an occasional day off but won't fall into regular absenteeism.
Engaged employees are satisfied with their work, like the people they work with, and believe strongly in the company's mission. This means they are unlikely to look for jobs elsewhere, which helps you retain valuable employees. [Read related article: How to Manage and Improve Employee Retention]
Since engaged employees often go the extra mile, they produce higher volumes of better-quality work, which can increase your company's revenue. A 2019 report from Kincentric showed that every 5% increase in the engagement level of employees leads to a 3% increase in the company's revenue.
Better quality of work
Engaged employees are motivated to do their best on every task. They are also more inclined to take innovative risks, be creative, and build their skills through seminars, mentorships and courses.
When employees feel valued and supported, they will feel comfortable coming to you and other managers with their thoughts and issues. An open lane of communication between you and your employees is vital, as it allows you to address issues quickly and efficiently and keep your business running smoothly.
Key takeaway: The benefits of employee engagement include lower absenteeism, higher-quality work and increased revenue.