27 Employee Engagement Ideas That Deliver Results

Gusto Editors

How do your employees feel about your organization? Are they connected to its mission and work? Are they connected to one another?

Employee engagement—which is how connected employees are to their company, work, colleagues, and employer—is a powerful factor that can lead to better business outcomes.

Engaged employees are likely to bring many benefits to your organization, including:

  • Increased productivity
  • Improved customer service
  • Increased profitability and revenue
  • Lower rates of absenteeism
  • Stronger employee retention rates
  • Teams who are committed to individual and group success

For employees, there are major advantages, as well. Engaged employees are more likely to be healthy and positive; and because they have the mental bandwith to focus on their well-being, they’re also more likely to avoid burnout.

Despite the considerable benefits of employee engagement, many organizations fail to see the value in it. However, the negative attitudes and feelings of just a handful of employees can lead to adverse consequences. Employees and employers alike can benefit from a thoughtful employee engagement strategy.

For many organizations, the first step in building an employee engagement strategy is gauging the current level of engagement via employee engagement surveys and conversations to evaluate the current employee experience. With a baseline metric established, organizations can begin to determine what ideas to incorporate.

There are many types of employee engagement ideas for companies to try—the list below will help you identify employee engagement activities that will work at your place of business. It’s a good idea to assess and measure each initiative to ensure it has the desired impact on engagement and overall employee satisfaction.

Below, you will also find frequently asked questions on employee engagement. 

Let’s dive in.

Emphasize work-life balance

There is no better way to show employees they are valued than to protect their time away from work. The bottom line is: people need balance.

Be sure to offer paid time off, ideally with separate time for vacation and sick days. Be flexible with scheduling, with reasonable hours.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, employees’ attitudes towards work have changed dramatically. Employees expect remote work to be an option to allow them more control over their schedules.

Employers also need to respect time off, limiting emails after hours to avoid disengagement. Give your employees time to prioritize their mental health by decompressing and connecting with family and friends.

Promote from within the organization

Promoting internally is a powerful way to achieve several important goals. It helps to retain talent, build on internal experience and increase employee engagement. It’s also a way for employees to see that the organization is committed to their professional growth.

Programs that train employees for advancement and management positions can lead to internal candidates worthy and ready for promotion. These programs demonstrate commitment to growth from within while supporting career growth. They also save on the recruitment costs of replacing employees who may otherwise leave the organization for external positions.

Provide one-on-one training with supervisors

Employees want to be valued and have opportunities to learn. One way to ensure employees have meaningful training experiences is to create one-on-one opportunities. Working directly with supervisors gives employees the chance to learn in a personalized, direct way from a company leader and mentor.

One-on-one training sessions and mentorship opportunities allow for direct feedback, specific questions, and a chance to get to know each other better. For managers, it’s a chance to impart knowledge and understand each employee’s strengths and needs directly.

This work takes a considerable investment of time on the part of managers. However, the impact on employees can be well worth the time spent.

Offer leadership coaching

A company culture that encourages continuous development and learning will boost employee engagement. One powerful way to do so is to offer coaching at various stages of the employee’s growth. Coaching for leaders, especially new leaders, can help them hone new, necessary skills to succeed.

Coaching can help in setting goals for all employees and helping them unlock the keys for success. By carefully monitoring progress, coaches can encourage employees to hone strengths and identify areas for improvement.

Coupled with tools like 360-degree feedback, coaching can be an intensive tool that leads to stronger leaders throughout the organization.

Encourage lateral movement

Employees may be curious about work in different departments of their organization. Employers would be well served to allow employees to explore professional opportunities elsewhere within the workplace.

This flexibility is especially helpful for younger employees who may not know what they want to do career-wise. Providing flexibility and support for career-mapping can help with retention and help improve engagement and employee morale.

Pay for educational resources (college courses or online training)

Employers who are invested in the personal and educational growth of their employees will engender tremendous loyalty. Professional development is a powerful way to demonstrate that investment.

By covering the costs of college courses, degrees or online training, employers can show how deep that commitment is. Opportunities for professional development mean employees are more likely to invest in their own growth. They also will be more likely to speak highly of their employer and the investment made in their development.

Recognize great work

Employee recognition is one of the most fundamental drivers of employee engagement. Employees want to feel valued in the work that they do. Employee recognition can take on many forms.

Recognition begins with the supervisor-worker relationship. One of the most important ways to build engagement is to have supervisors recognize work. Ideally, this recognition happens in the moment or soon thereafter.

Providing positive feedback immediately boosts morale and recognizes work as it happens. It’s a very different feeling, both giving and receiving, than waiting until an annual performance review.

Beyond individual recognition, there’s a chance to build grander programs that celebrate great work and showcase your company values. Annual employee recognition ceremonies allow for bigger presentations in front of the whole organization. Employees can be cheered by coworkers and have loved ones in attendance.

What should you recognize? One idea is to tie the awards you give to the mission and values of the organization. Recognize employees who meet the ideas that are stated as most valuable to the organization.

Acknowledge achievements

It’s important for employees to feel that their work is recognized and appreciated. But, remember, you can also acknowledge achievements that are personal to your employees, as well. Work isn’t everything. As part of a commitment to work-life balance, employers should recognize non work-related achievements.

One question is what to acknowledge. Consider volunteer commitments and awards, educational achievements, and professional achievements outside the workplace. Also consider personal milestones, such as birthdays, work anniversaries, new children or grandchildren, and family milestones. Happy hours or outings to celebrate personal milestones can go along way, especially if you’re bringing together remote employees.

The key is to be consistent, recognizing the non-work parts of employee lives across the board. One important note: Be sure employees are OK with these achievements or milestones being shared in the workplace.

Provide for employees 

Employees spend a great deal of time at the workplace and commuting there. The commitment to work can make it challenging to complete other necessary life tasks.

Employers can alleviate that burden by providing items, large and small, within the workplace. Having these items available can simplify the lives of busy professionals.

Having one’s needs met can lead to more appreciation, gratitude and employee engagement.

Let’s start with the simple. Employers can provide meals, snacks, basic medications, menstrual products, or umbrellas to use on a rainy day. These basic necessities alleviate the stress of having to divert time at lunch or a break if something is forgotten at home.

On a larger scale, employers can consider having dry-cleaning pickup and drop-off services or on-site medical care. Shuttles to area mechanics or emergency services for drained batteries or flat tires can take the stress away. Gym memberships are another common benefit provided to boost overall wellness. Each gesture offered provides an opportunity to deepen employee engagement.

Have the right tools

Employees need to know that they will have the right tools to succeed at their work. “Tools” today can mean many things, including machinery and physical tools to accomplish tasks.

Increasingly, “tools” refers to technologies, including software and hardware that allow them to do their work. With the rise of remote teams, tools that connect employees to each other (like slack), shared files, and customers are also critical. It’s also about the resources, budgets and personnel to achieve success.

Providing the right tools today also involves policies and procedures that are effective and reasonable. For example, workers will grow frustrated if four or five passwords are necessary to access software apps. Being pragmatic while ensuring proper safety and security, in the workplace and online, is smart.

Focus on strengths

A strengths-centered mindset helps employees feel valued and that their growth is important. One way to help employees understand what they do best is to use strengths assessments. These tools identify what employees are good at.

Often, the results of these assessments are shared among teams, helping others understand at which things their coworkers excel. The insights can be surprising and illuminating for all who participate.

Hold regular team-building events

Team-building events, when done well, can deeply connect workers to their teammates. Connected teams that are invested in each other’s success lead to more productivity and better business outcomes.

Team-building events should be held regularly and assessed for efficacy and impact. Be OK with sunsetting those events that do not seem to be working. There are hundreds of ideas for team-building activities for teams large and small.

Be open to feedback

Employees who are allowed to honestly express their feedback can dramatically help how an organization performs. Allow your employees to share feedback about their work, their experiences, and the workplace.

There should be multiple ways provided to gain employee feedback. To get the most candid insights, use surveys that are anonymous and encourage candor. Group and one-on-one meetings are other ways to gain feedback on the workplace or ideas.

Employees who feel heard and that their ideas are considered are apt to feel more valued. One key is to loop back on the feedback heard and what will be done with it. Employees need to see that their suggestions are heard, even if not all are implemented.

Have employees review job descriptions

How often have you looked at your job description and realized that it doesn’t reflect what you really do? Your employees probably feel the same way. Over time, jobs change and evolve to match the skills and talents of those doing them.

Ask employees to take a look at their job descriptions and suggest what should be added or removed. While all their changes may not be made, it’s a good step for employees to show what they do.

Find champions

Employees who are positive influences on the workplace and their coworkers are powerful forces. Asking managers and employees to identify the champions in their work areas can give management more insights into the workplace.

Ask the champions about what keeps them so engaged and positive. How do they influence others? What is going well and what are opportunities for change?

Conversations with your workplace champions can redouble their engagement. They will provide you with insights you may not get elsewhere.

Make work meaningful

How can you be engaged as an employee if the work you do is not engaging? It’s incumbent on employers to help employers find meaning in the work they do. It needs to matter to them and be important to who they are.

That’s not always easy. However, countless surveys show that meaningful work leads to more motivated employees and increased employee loyalty.

A Deloitte survey illustrates the key opportunity. Forty-two percent of respondents looking for a new job felt current employers did not make the most of their abilities. Finding what people are good at and tying it to mission is essential for keeping work engaging.

Articulate your vision

Employees are looking for a sense of belonging and purpose. They want to know what their employers are about and the change they are bringing to customers and communities.

Leadership needs to articulate the mission, vision, and company values for the organization. These foundational documents need to speak to purpose and impact, making a compelling case for why the organization exists. Employees want to have a clear understanding of mission and vision and how it relates to their work.

Connecting the grand to the day-to-day is a responsibility of every manager and senior leader. They need to help employees see the impact of their work and understand why they are valued.

Create engaging onboarding experiences

Employees begin feeling engaged from their first day of work. Employee engagement is everyone’s responsibility and it starts with the onboarding experience you provide. Be sure that you cover more than the boilerplate information about pay schedules and benefits eligibility.

Your onboarding process should include conversations about the organization’s mission, vision, and values. If possible, senior leaders should be used for some of these conversations. At the end of these sessions, employees should be able to see how their work contributes to these organizational pillars.

In addition, consider involving the entire company in aspects of orientation. Every employee should help welcome and acclimate new employees and communicate expectations. They should help new colleagues access and use resources and introduce them to other team members.

Follow through

Words that are not followed up with actions are going to ring hollow. Bold promises, ambitious visions, and other platitudes may sound nice. But unless they are followed by actions that demonstrate follow-through, they are just words.

Be sure that leaders, from the C-suite to line managers, are following through on what they say they will do.

Offer learning lunches

Learning lunches can serve multiple purposes. They’re a great way to bring the team together informally to break bread together. They’re also a great place to share new insights from leaders or ask teams to share updates.

These events should not be formal but comfortable ways to learn together. They can also be a great place to celebrate birthdays or other personal, non-work achievements. Make the events short and simple, with a focus on fun and team building, not formality.

Make opportunities for collaboration

Most employees want to work as a part of a team. And high-functioning teams that are successful become attractive, valued, and destinations for employees. To improve employee engagement, managers must actively seek out and provide chances to collaborate.

Teams with positively engaged employees will want to work together towards shared goals. They’ll be invested in each other’s success and be more inclined to help. The positive engagement is infectious and can spread goodwill throughout permanent or ad-hoc teams.

Create social opportunities

Teams are vitally important for organizational success. However, there is often not enough time to build these relationships between team members. That’s where the organization can come in, carving out scheduled time for team members to get to know each other better.

Emotionally engaged employees are those who feel connected to their work and each other. Scheduled breaks, with provided coffee or lunch, that are designed to allow a small number of employees to connect, are ideal. The key is to provide opportunities for connection.

Some companies accomplish this with fun and games, such as ping pong, pool or cornhole in the workplace. Others encourage departmental holiday meals, potlucks or happy hours. No matter what ideas are tried, involving employees and getting feedback helps in achieving the desired connections and engagement.

Sponsor service projects

A shared goal of helping others can be a compelling way to build affinity and engagement. Creating service opportunities within the community are a wonderful way to bring employees together. When these service projects can connect to the organization’s mission, it’s all the better.

A few words of caution about service projects. They should not be seen as extra work, occurring after hours or on the weekend. Doing so can feel like encroachment on personal time and work-life balance.

Instead, schedule service days for during the work day. Arrange for coverage so that employees do not feel the day of service will put them behind. Otherwise, the service project can erode, not enhance, employee engagement.

Use software

Employee engagement can be simplified with the right software. Applications that survey and tabulate, simplify payroll and time off, and detail employee benefits are beneficial tools. Let them do the heavy lifting.

Hold special days

Consider incorporating some special days into the office. A “bring your pet to work day” or casual Fridays can bring some levity and a chance of pace to the normal grind.

Some organizations even have shorter office hours in the summer, allowing employees to take off early on some days to enjoy nicer weather.

Special days give employees some time to express who they are, whether in or outside the office.

Add stay meetings

Many organizations offer exit interviews to obtain feedback from employees as they’re leaving. Consider adding “stay meetings” to the mix.

Stay meetings let employers measure employee job satisfaction and levels of engagement regularly. They can identify stressors and areas of discontent that can be acted upon and addressed. In many cases, stay meetings will unearth patterns that require broad organizational attention.

Leave room for fun

Fun activities, and not forced fun, are employee perks that can be very meaningful. Surprise the organization with a free pizza party or a half-day off after a major work accomplishment. Bring in a celebrity speaker for a motivational speech.

Planning a company outing at a local brewery or sporting event can spread appreciation and fun for all. The activities help to set the tone that you value hard work and want employees to take a breath and relax.

FAQs on employee engagement

How much does employee engagement cost?

Employee engagement costs vary greatly by the type of activity and the size of the organization. Clearly, there are some initiatives, such as paying for education, that carry some expense.

However, many of the ideas mentioned above take little to no cost. They can be accomplished with few financial resources. What they do take, however, is a deliberate commitment, careful planning, and evaluation.

What are employee engagement activities?

Employee engagement activities are those that keep people feeling connected to their work. Employee engagement is an indication of how connected workers feel to their work and their employer. Activities that strengthen these connections are going to deepen employee relationships.

Some employee engagement activities are institutional in nature. These include commitments to learning and development, coaching, and employee wellness. Others are more visible, such as service days, employee recognition, and providing the right supplies and tools.

A mix of activities is smart, along with feedback opportunities that allow for evaluation and consideration of new initiatives.

How can I make employee engagement fun?

Keeping things like can make employee engagement activities feel less … corporate. Fun activities include social outings organized for small groups of employees to connect with each other. Other fun ideas include awards programs, community service days, and special office days.

Employee engagement can have such a profound impact on the workplace. Creating the right mix of employee engagement ideas can boost morale and improve employee retention. It can have a notable influence on business outcomes.

At Gusto, we help employers connect with their employees through employee benefits, onboarding, and payroll solutions. To learn more about how Gusto can help boost your employee engagement, contact us today. 

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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