8 Employee Engagement Ideas That Actually Work

Employee engagement is one of the key metrics in the world of business. Without an engaged workforce, you run the risk of higher turnover, lower productivity, lower workplace satisfaction, lower customer satisfaction, and a drop in employee happiness. Getting engagement right changes all of this. Here are 8 ideas that actually work.
8 Employee Engagement Ideas That Actually Work
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Employee engagement is quickly becoming one of the most talked about terms in the world of business. From the HR department to the C-Suite, employee engagement is top of mind and for good reason. Study after study finds employee engagement to be a primary driver of things such as employee productivity, work satisfaction, higher customer satisfaction, a reduction in staff turnover, and overall employee happiness. The benefits of great employee engagement are seriously unmatched. So the question to ask yourself is: What employee engagement ideas are rolling out to your employees?

What is Employee Engagement?

Let’s be sure we’re on the same page when it comes to the term employee engagement. An engaged employee is one who is enthusiastic, excited, and absorbed by their work. It’s an employee who takes positive action, cares about the company’s interests, values the company’s reputation, and strives to push the company’s mission and vision forward.

The focus of an employee engagement program is to move all your employees towards this state of positivity and enthusiasm. Employees who show resistance to such an ideal are likely unengaged, and may need to be removed from the company if their behavior persists without progress or change.

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How Do You Measure Employee Engagement?

Measuring employee engagement is not an exact science. A simple Google search will show you that there are no shortage of ways to supposedly measure this increasingly important metric. Everyone has an opinion on the best way to go about it.

To save you the Google search, we’ve linked to a few methods of measuring employee engagement here:

We like to stick to a few basic indicators that we think, when measured consistently over time, give a pretty good indication of how engaged an employee feels at work. To get a measure of employee engagement, we conduct surveys that ask telling questions. With these questions, we try to get specific about things that matter most to the employee (such as their day-to-day work, their relationship with their manager, etc.) We’ve found that broad questions (like using the Employee Net Promoter Score Framework which simply asks, “how likely are you to recommend working for our organization?”) aren’t as effective for measuring employee engagement.

So what does a typical survey from EddyHR look like? It might include some of the following questions:

  1. On a scale of 1-5, how happy are you working for EddyHR?
  2. On a scale of 1-5, how happy are you with your manager?
  3. On a scale of 1-5, how much do you enjoy your day-to-day work?
  4. On a scale of 1-5, how challenging is your work?
  5. On a scale of 1-5, how would you rate the level of stress you feel at work?

As we look at the answers for each employee, we must consider the question and the desired response. For example, answering a “5” for question number one (meaning they are extremely happy to work at EddyHR) is very different from answering a “5” for question number five (meaning they are extremely stressed at work). Internally, we must determine what the desired response is for each question and then measure employee scores based on their distance from the desired response.

We will then take this data and add information from the employee’s performance review, attendance record, and other relevant information to gauge an employee’s overall engagement.

Again, this is not an exact science! You’ll have to tinker with various ways to measure it most effectively for your company. The important thing is that the measurement is being done. Once you get a baseline, you can incorporate some of the employee engagement ideas we’ve listed below to improve upon your current scores. 

Ideas to Improve Employee Engagement

Employee engagement cannot and will not improve on its own. It takes a coordinated plan with real effort behind it in order to make a difference. While there are many ideas about how to best improve employee engagement, not every idea is a good one.

To save you time and help you get the best results, we’d like to recommend eight employee engagement ideas that actually work. Here’s where to start:

  1. Empower employees
  2. Create proper incentives
  3. Clarify goals and objectives
  4. Invest in training
  5. Develop career paths
  6. Encourage innovation
  7. Think beyond work
  8. Have fun

Learn how these five companies are creating incredible experiences for their employees.

Employee Engagement Ideas That Work

1. Empower Employees

Engagement starts with trust. For an employee to be enthusiastic and excited about working for your company, they must first feel like you trust them. This trust will empower them to make decisions on behalf of the firm that move the company forward. This trust will also help them feel comfortable to speak their mind, share new ideas, take time off, and act like owners.

So what does it really mean to empower employees?

This can take on many forms. You may start by looking at your various company policies. Is your employee handbook riddled with hundreds or rules? Are some of your policies dated? If your company insists on controlling every aspect of an employee’s life while working for your firm, then we promise you, they feel everything but trusted.

Maybe you could take a page out of Hubspot’s book. While Hubspot is now a public company, their policies haven’t changed much since the company’s inception. Hubspot’s code of conduct, and their policy for just about everything (including their dress code and guidance on solving customer problems) boils down to three words, “Use good judgment.” 

Rather than spell out every little detail for their employees, Hubspot chooses to extend trust, empower their workforce, and treat their people like adults. The counsel to “use good judgment” has allowed them to scale quickly and has created an environment of trust.

Another way to empower employees is by making sure they are heard. Regular opportunities to interface with management and executives, opportunities to ask questions, and opportunities to submit ideas for consideration are just a few ways to ensure that your employees have a voice.

When you’re searching for ways to help improve employee engagement, make sure employee empowerment is at the top of the list.

2. Create Proper Incentives

For many employees, it’s easy to be engaged at the beginning of the employment period, but as time wears on, it’s hard to remain motivated. If an employee doesn’t have incentives to keep them excited and enthusiastic, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay engaged.

Creating employee incentives is a proven way to help employees continue to progress. If an employee has nothing to work for (other than their base salary), they may jump ship at the first opportunity they can find when offered a higher salary elsewhere.

There are many great ways to incentivize employees, and not all of them depend on direct financial compensation. However, if we’re being honest, money is a universal motivator and a great way to kick start an employee’s internal engine.

Bonus plans for individuals, teams, and the company as a whole can be introduced to keep motivation high and employees engaged. Allowing employees to earn bonuses more frequently (quarterly instead of yearly) will help maintain energy throughout their employment lifecycle.

We wrote extensively about how to create an employee bonus plan here. Just remember, engagement often stems from motivation, and a great way to spark motivation is through incentives. 

3. Clarify Goals and Objectives

It’s hard to be engaged when you don’t know what you’re working towards. Unfortunately, many employees live in a constant state of uncertainty. They know what their job description is, and they accomplish their daily tasks, but they don’t know how it’s impacting the company or if they’re doing great work. Without clear goals and objectives, employees feel lost and quickly disengage.

Rectifying this situation takes effort, but it’s worth it. Start with the executive team. Company leadership should be able to clearly articulate the overall goals for the company, whether those be yearly or quarterly goals.

Next, the heads of each department should be able to determine how their department can contribute to those goals. Department goals should be made that propel the company towards the company goals.

Finally, individual managers should work with each of their employees and help them align their work to the department goals. If an employee can understand exactly what to do and why to do it, they’ll be much more motivated because they’ll see the direct link between their work and the company’s progress.

Once the goals and objectives have been clarified, it’s important that managers follow up with their direct reports regularly. These check-ins will help the employee understand how their work compares to others in the same position, and will help them see the impact of their job. If an employee is falling behind, a manager can intervene and encourage better performance.

Combine this behavior with the incentive structure we discussed in point number two, and you’ll have yourself a motivated team that can achieve just about anything.

4. Invest in Training

When a new employee starts working for your company, they’ll typically begin their job with passion, energy, and something to prove. They’ll also have to learn a lot in order to become competent in their new position. Companies that invest heavily in training help employees manage this learning curve, which results in increased confidence and engagement. Companies that forgo an investment in employee training are often left with unhappy employees.

We find it extremely rare that an employee does not want to be great at their job–at least when they first start. When an employee begins at a new company or in a new position, the vast majority hope to prove their worth and have great success. The company can either pair this excitement and eagerness with sufficient training that will result in the skills and abilities that bring success, or they can let the employee figure things out on their own.

Companies that choose to invest in training and development are the one’s rewarded in the long run. Yes, it’s challenging to develop an effective training program, and yes it can be cost intensive. But when you know how much value an engaged employee brings to the workforce, you realize that there’s almost no cost too high when it comes to effective training.

Getting an employee trained and prepared is a great way to ensure their long-term success in the company. This continued success will help keep the employee engaged and excited.

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5. Develop Career Paths

The Proverb says, “where there is no vision, the people perish.” This can be directly applied to an employee’s career. If they do not see a long-term vision where they can rise in the ranks and take on new responsibilities, then they’re likely not going to be engaged for much longer. 

Earlier, we talked about the importance of employee incentives. While this discussion focused mostly on bonuses and financial incentives, another critical motivator for an employee is to see a clear path forward. When an employee understands what it takes to take the next step in their career, they’re more likely to do the work to take that step. When the next step is completely ambiguous, the employee will not be as likely to do the work because they’ll be uncertain if a reward lies ahead.

One thing that we’ve found works wonders when it comes to employee engagement is the development of career paths. This means that when the new, rookie salesperson is hired in your company, they know exactly what it’ll take for them to get a title change, get a pay raise, and move up in the company.

Knowing this ahead of time gives employees a lot of clarity and keeps them engaged. Employees who can clearly see what they need to do to get to where they want to be will have the motivation and enthusiasm to do the work.

The opposite is also true. When an employee cannot see how they’ll ever be promoted or get a pay raise, they’ll be disincentivized to work hard. This will also result in disengagement, which will eventually lead to turnover.

6. Encourage Innovation

In our experience, most companies fall into one of two categories; they either punish the failure of a new initiative, or they celebrate it.

The companies that consistently punish employees for failure are among the least innovative companies on earth. They also have consistently low employee engagement scores because no employee wants to be punished for trying something new.

On the other hand, innovative companies celebrate failure because they know it brings them closer to success. They encourage employees to go out on a limb, take a risk, and try something different. They welcome this behavior because they see the value that it brings to a business. In turn, employees love working for innovative companies because they feel safe, they feel trusted, and they feel excited about what they might accomplish.

Innovation encapsulates more than just a risky venture or an attempt at a new marketing slogan. Innovation can happen in any job, within any department.

Take, for example, an employee working at a call center. From the outside looking in, you might assume that there is little to no innovation happening for someone who simply answers the phone all day. For eight hours, they pick up the phone, listen to customer complaints, resolve those complaints, and then do it again the next day. Boring, right?

Wrong.

This call center is different. They know that employees burnout more quickly when they are disengaged and when the work is monotonous. So, they switch things up and innovate at every chance they get.

For example, every week, they give one half of the call center reps a new phone script, and the other half sticks with the previous script. At the end of each week they compare the numbers to see which script was most effective. If the new script wins, that becomes the baseline script the following week and it’s matched against a newer script.

They also give employees challenges every hour. Some challenges involve who can solve the most customer complaints in the timeframe, while others reward employees for solving the most difficult complaint. Prizes are given each day and celebrations are had at the end of every month for the employees who win the most challenges.

This non-stop push for innovative solutions keeps the employees happy, excited, and enthusiastic about their jobs. Despite being a call center, retention is rising and employee engagement is at an all-time high. Why? Because innovation is celebrated, not punished.

7. Think Beyond Work

Each one of us carries more important titles than the one’s we’re given at work. While someone might be an entry-level marketing assistant between 9-5, they could be a mother, sister, daughter, and friend during the rest of the day. To forget about the human side of work is to forget about the humans themselves. If we hope to keep employees engaged and happy, we must think beyond work and value them outside of the office as much as we do inside.

This starts with helping your employees understand that they can attend to family emergencies or other family events without being questioned or looked down upon. If it’s critically important to the employee, it should be treated as critical to the business. When employees know that their company will have their back in a tight spot, they’ll be more loyal and more productive.

Additionally, a company should care for the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of their employees. This may come in the form of providing health insurance as a benefit. It may also come in the form of other perks like paying for a gym membership, giving employees access to a mental health counselor, or providing opportunities for employees to attend events or conferences to further their skillset. There are so many ways for employers to promote the health and wellbeing of their workforce.

Finally, companies can do more to emphasize personal relationships with their employees. To do this, a company might celebrate the employee’s birthday at the office, or reward them for good work with a gift card to their favorite store. These personal touches go a long way in building lasting relationships that result in an engaged workforce.

8. Have Fun

Yeah, it may sound cheesy, but this is seriously one of the most effective ways to keep your employees engaged. If work is nothing but work, then employees will become disinterested. As we just discussed, we cannot forget the human-side of work. People naturally want to have fun. They want to participate in experiences that are exciting, memorable, enjoyable, and satisfying. If you don’t emphasize the need for fun in the workplace, it will not magically appear. Like everything else on this list, ensuring that your employees are having fun is something to think about, plan for, and work towards every single day.

The good news is that there are hundreds of ways to have fun with your employees. At Eddy, we have a few favorite rituals and events that work well for us.

For example, Eddy likes to have a quarterly event with the entire company and their families. These events are held outside of work and they give us a chance to connect with each other, get to know each other’s loved ones, and have a great time. In the past, we’ve rented out water parks, ice-skating rinks, movie theaters, and more. Everyone in the company looks forward to the next event and it gives us the opportunity to consistently have fun together.

Your “fun” does not have to be as extravagant or expensive as renting out a movie theater. Rather, you can have small, fun, exciting challenges, events, or competitions in your office every day. Play a game. Participate in a company-wide challenge. Do something that gets people moving, gets them smiling, gets them to stop thinking about work, and gets them to feel legitimate feelings of joy because they’re having so much fun.

Do this and you’ll see engagement go up, turnover go down, and overall happiness and satisfaction soar!

Conclusion

Employee engagement is one of the metrics any business leader or HR department should be most concerned about. Once you have systems in place to monitor employee engagement, you’ll next have to determine how to improve it.

These eight suggestions have been carefully studied and researched. We believe that by focusing on these eight things, your company can dramatically improve the engagement scores for your employees. By carefully implementing these recommendations, we are certain that employee turnover will decrease, employee productivity will increase, and that your business as a whole will run more efficiently and profitably than ever before.

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