Engaging your employees can boost employee retention, decrease absenteeism, and improve productivity. In short, engaged employees are happy employees. One study of employee engagement found that 71% of managers believed that employee engagement is one of the most important factors contributing to overall company success.
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is a measure of how much employees are invested in their work and the organization. Engaged employees display:
- Higher productivity, which can be measured through output.
- Higher levels of workplace satisfaction, which can be measured quantitatively through employee engagement surveys and qualitatively through your company’s culture.
How to improve employee engagement
There are many ways to engage employees and strengthen your workforce; there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. But if you’re curious about where to start, we’ve created this list of simple employee engagement strategies you can implement right now.
1. Let employees be problem solvers.
Employees feel more engaged when they can play an important role in the workplace, especially if they can be problem solvers. Avoid the temptation to fix all problems in the workplace on your own. Ask your employees for ideas and engage them in conversation as you try to decide how to solve organizational, operational, or strategic problems facing your workplace. Make a committee or hold a staff meeting to talk about issues and give your employees a chance to step up and be a part of the solution.
There’s a bonus benefit for managers and business owners here as well. When you allow your employees the opportunity to tackle problems in your business, you can identify the future leaders on your team and where their strengths lie. When you give your high-performing employees the freedom to innovate, they can help your business grow in ways you might not even see yet.
2. Show exiting employees you care.
Showing exiting employees you care indirectly shows remaining employees that they are all valued. For retiring employees, hold a party and give a thoughtful gift. For employees who move on to other workplaces, consider giving a parting gift – even something small, like a card or handwritten note. It’s all about the gesture and the message it sends to your team.
Do this for all employees, unless they don’t want you to. Picking and choosing favorites to send off in a meaningful way can have the opposite effect, making some remaining employees feel insecure in their value to your company. They may start to wonder, who are your favorites? Who is not?
Keep in mind that current and past employee referrals one of the best recruiting sources for new candidates, and research shows that over half of job seekers will abandon their job application after reading negative employee reviews of a company online. Make sure to end your relationship with exiting employees on excellent terms.
3. Set aside time for team-building days separate from daily work.
No, you don’t need to take your entire staff on a weekend retreat in the mountains with leadership hikes and trust falls. But at least once a year, try setting aside a half-day or an entire day (depending on the nature of your work) to get your staff away from their desks – or the sales floor, or the showroom, or the kitchen, etc.
The goal is to pull employees out of their day-to-day work activities and allow enough time for them to unwind, get to know their co-workers in an informal setting, and build trust through familiarity.
That’s not to say that team-building days should be one non-stop party. You can provide structure with activities like:
- An icebreaker exercise or game to help loosen people up
- A sit-down meal (plus, let’s be honest: people love free food)
- An overview of upcoming strategic plans for the business
- Problem-solving sessions
If possible, engage in a team-building day at least once every year. Even one annual team-building day fosters bonding and camaraderie and can pay dividends for your company culture long after the day ends.
On a side note: workplace retreats don’t have to be expensive. Even on-site retreats can be effective and relaxing. Make the event seem more special and unique by giving out swag boxes with useful items that employees can take with them to remember the event later on.
4. Create a plan to solicit feedback from employees.
As a manager, you’re used to delivering feedback to your employees on a regular basis. It’s just as important to ask for their feedback in return. To be clear, we’re not only advocating for you to allow them to come to you with their feedback whenever they please, but we’re advising you to go beyond that and actively solicit feedback from them regularly.
A good place to start is during any regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with your team. Get into the habit of ending these meetings by asking questions like:
- Is there anything I’m doing that you think I should change?
- What would you do differently?
- How can I help you be more productive? What obstacles can I remove for you?
- What should the business be focusing on that we’re not focused on currently?
Pro tip: It helps to ask specific questions rather than a generic “Do you have any feedback for me?”
Regularly asking employees these questions increases their awareness and reminds them to be on the lookout for opportunities to offer helpful feedback for the business. And most importantly – when the feedback is constructive, be willing to accept it and make a plan to act on it.
5. Make the break room a place where people can actually relax.
We get it: you may not have much to work with in terms of break room space. But with a little bit of effort, you can turn even a small space into a place that allows employees to feel relaxed, happy, and comfortable.
Consider giving your break room a makeover by adding comfortable furniture, artwork, and plants (which have been scientifically proven to boost your mood). If costs allow, consider offering free snacks or drinks. These little gestures can go a long way.
As a manager or business owner, you can also commit to keeping the break room clean and avoiding the urge to turn it into a backup storage space. Remember that the goal is to make the break room a place where employees can let their minds rest for a bit.
Lastly, if you’re not sure what will make your break room a more enjoyable place to spend time, ask your employees for their feedback. Invite employees to decorate the room how they would like.
6. Recognize their individual achievements.
Recognizing employees for achievements is one of those things that all managers know they should be doing, but it can often take a backseat to a variety of more time-sensitive day-to-day business matters. So it helps to make a plan for how you’re going to recognize your employees. After all, showing appreciation is a no-cost employee engagement strategy!
Performance reviews are an excellent opportunity to praise your employees for good work and effort. Keep notes on each employee, including good ideas they had, times when they went above and beyond, and anything they did that contributed to the team. Citing specific examples of good performance can help your employee feel more valued overall.
Don’t just save your appreciation for performance reviews, though. Show your gratitude by sending an encouraging email or thanking them for how they handled a tough project or challenging customer. High-performing employees want their work to be noticed by leadership – and you owe them frequent reminders of appreciation if you expect them to stay engaged on your team for the long haul.
One last thing: Whenever possible, make sure to deliver your gratitude publicly (as long as the employee is comfortable with public displays of appreciation) in addition to doing so in private. For big accomplishments especially, remember to celebrate your employees in front of their peers.
Start by incorporating employee “shout outs” at the end of your regular team meetings. Not only does it boost the confidence of your top performers, but it serves as a signal to the rest of your team that hard work is rewarded.
About the Author
Mark Jackson is the Founder (aka Head Swag Sommelier) of Promotion Resource Group. Mark focuses on taking the time to marry a brand story with branded merchandise that is relevant and compelling for its audience. For nearly 30 years, Mark has coached his clients to make a human to human emotional connection so they’re primed to succeed.