When you're planning how to increase your employee engagement, there is a lot to consider. It's not something you can just wave a magic wand at and say you're implementing it. You'll need to get your head around what employee engagement is before you even start thinking about how you want to address it and how you want to measure it.
Once you've got the basic understanding of what it is, you'll be ready to start thinking about how to engage your employees. This falls into a number of different categories, including employee development, effective communications, staff wellbeing and finally company perks & socials.
While HR will form the backbone of any employee engagement strategy, there are a number of ideas that can be implemented alongside this. These involve getting to know your employees, encouraging them to improve their relationships with other team members, nurturing them professionally and communicating in creative and effective ways.
We know it's not a one size fits all; with businesses of all shapes & sizes and different types of workforces all looking to improve engagement from the people they employ. We've put together the ultimate list of creative employee engagement ideas, so you can get inspired and get the most out of your staff.
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Clear, honest communication is at the core of any employee engagement. Whether it's setting up special meetings, making your CEO more available or simply defining your company's values, you need to make sure you're talking to the people you're working with effectively. Here we go through the 24 essential communication initiatives to improve employee engagement.
1. Define what Employee Engagement means for your organisation and communicate it clearly to your team members
The very first employee engagement idea can't be implemented until you know what it means for your business. This will be different for every business, but just saying you're creating an engagement strategy alone isn't enough. You need to work out why you're doing it and understand the impact. Engaged employees can lead to a much more successful business, as well as a better working atmosphere. Define what you want to see from your engagement initiatives and make sure you communicate this with your workforce, ideally in person as well as email.
2. Measure your engagement with employee engagement surveys
It's all well and good to implement new employee engagement initiatives, but if you aren't measuring how it's going, it can all go to waste. Consider measuring your current engagement before you even get going so you can set a bench marker and look at what your employees need. Employee surveys are an excellent way to do this on an ongoing basis.
3. Create clear company values
When your employees know what their company is striving towards, and the values it represents, they're more likely to be engaged. They will help shape your business and give your team members an idea of what, outside of just results, they can do to push the company further.
4. Allow teams to create their own values too
It's not just your company that needs values. Allowing individual teams to set their own values, that fit within the company's own core values, can help give them both a sense of direction and belonging. Being able to help define what their team stands for is a sure fire way to make people feel more included and engaged.
5. Set company KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and specific goals that line up with these values
Without specific goals or KPIs to aim towards, it's hard for your workforce to know what to strive for. It's all well and good to say you want to meet some lofty vague ambition, but without setting clear goals and indicators to aim towards, your team may struggle to be invested. When you have clear KPIs, your employees know what success looks like and will feel good when they hit them. Make these realistic too, and break them down into manageable goals.
6. Define your company culture, make it clear, and hire to it
This may sound like it's the same as your core values, but it's actually a little different. You want to clearly define what your workplace is like to work in. This comes down to the sort of vibe you want around the office, from the decor to the branding and the people. Once you've established what this is, hire to match it. Make sure the people you are employing will fit in and work well with the culture you've created.
7. Make your team proud of what you stand for
When your employees are proud of what they do, and actively see that upper management and the company's brand know what they stand for, it'll help them feel engaged. Whether this is the charity work you do, the types of clients you sign or simply how well you treat your employees, if you lead by example, your employees will have something to be proud about.
8. Be actively transparent with your team to build trust
You can be transparent in a number of ways, and what works best for one may not work best for others. Things to consider include making insider information available to colleagues, setting up Q&A sessions and regular meetings.
9. Find out what your employees are passionate about
Always spend time getting to know your employees. When you do this it's worth finding out what makes them passionate, whether it's in work or outside of it. Understanding this will make it much easier to find the right motivators and roles for your employees. It'll make them feel valued too.
10. Praise your co-workers for a job well done
While constant praise can be a hindrance, praise colleagues when they deserve it, even if it's not from a big win or hitting a stretch goal. You want your employees to feel recognised and like all of their work gets acknowledged. It's not just managers that should be giving out praise either. You should encourage a culture of praise throughout your organisation and let them know when they are doing well.
Maybe you could consider getting employee recognition software, or another formal way to give out praise.
11. Start an internal newsletter
A newsletter gives you a chance to communicate with your team regularly. It can be as formal or as lighthearted as you wish, and you can include anything from financial updates to the employee of the month.
Don't just use it as a way to preach brand guidelines at people though, make it something they want to read and involve your employees in the content. Perhaps you can give people shout outs, or add spotlights to particular pieces of work or teams that others in the agency don't know so much about.
12. Use Glassdoor to your organisation's advantage and pay attention to reviews
Sure, in some cases it may only be negative things that end up on Glassdoor, or old employees with an axe to grind, but this doesn't mean you should ignore it. Many may feel they can provide feedback on Glassdoor that they couldn't in person, and some of this feedback could be things you need to know. Take everything on board and change what you can, responding if it's appropriate.
13. Host open meetings and idea sessions
Every now and then you may find it's useful to host open meetings or ideation sessions. These may not have a defined structure or particular goal, but getting people together with an open invite and an overarching subject could spark a number of new ideas or initiatives.
You could make this about your own business, and ideas for making it better, or you could make it about a client's problem and how to solve it. With an open invite, you may get ideas from people who never normally get a chance to be involved in these kinds of sessions.
14. Provide easy access to resources for learning, referencing and wellbeing
We'll touch on what these resources could be in the 'wellbeing' section, but clearly communicating where these resources are, and how they can be accessed, is essential. It's all well and good to introduce these schemes or resources, but if you aren't telling people how to access them, they may as well not exist.
15. Involve both new and old hires alike
Once you've onboarded a new hire, you want to make sure they stay engaged. Create a plan for their first few weeks and, once that's over, look to create another one to keep them involved. A positive onboarding experience could be what makes them more actively engaged for years to come.
If you're looking at new initiatives, you want to think about your older staff members too. Just because they've been there a while, it doesn't mean you want to stop engaging with them. If new employees get initiatives that older ones didn't have during their onboarding process, it could bring in resentment, so make sure you let your employees have access to these things too.
16. Offer clear paths for promotion and make sure your staff understand them
It feels like it should go without saying, but giving your employees a clear path to promotion can go a long way. Someone who can't see what their next step is, is more likely to look elsewhere or harbour some resentment. You don't want people to feel like they're stagnating.
17. Provide personal feedback on a regular basis, not just yearly
You want to give people feedback outside of yearly performance reviews, and you want this feedback to be as personal as possible. Consider handwritten notes, or a phone call, and look at ways you can add this to your weekly or monthly communications. You want people to feel valued all year round, and like you've taken the time to properly review their work.
18. Provide opportunities for anonymous feedback
Sure, you've implemented an open door policy and let everyone know that they can come and talk to you anytime, but for some people, and certain issues, this may not be something they feel comfortable doing. Offer chances for anonymous feedback or Q&As, whether it's via an anonymous email inbox or a comment box. This gives people a chance to vent or raise issues that may be concerning them.
19. Show how you will act on feedback and provide timescales and plans
Once people have given you feedback, you need to show how you'll act on it. Provide clear answers to your employees and, ideally, dates or timescales on when you'll implement any changes. Be clear on what it is you'll be changing too, and why.
20. Come up with a process that recognises 'invisible' work
In many organisations, a lot of hard work often goes unseen. Many people's jobs don't have shiny exciting outputs that drive huge results or make the company large amounts of money, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be celebrated. Make sure you keep an eye out for hard work and celebrate it where you can.
21. Encourage employees to take risks and be supportive through failure
Taking risks is important for both your business and employees to grow. Without risks there's little chance that they'll keep growing, but with risks come failure. You must be seen to both actively encourage risks, within reason, and to be supportive of employees during any periods of failure. If they know that they are supported during these risks, they'll be more prepared to take them, and more willing to work harder if things go wrong.
22. Explain the 'why' rather than just the 'what' when big decisions are made
When you're communicating any major decisions or changes, simply telling your employees the 'what' is an easy way to make them disengage. If you explain the reasons behind a decision, and how it can affect them, they're much more likely to be on board with the changes and remain engaged.
23. Talk to your employees about their schedules
Making sure that people aren't working in silos, and that they know you understand how much work they have on, will make them feel more comfortable. You'll increase employee engagement but listening to them when they say they can't fit something in, or helping them rearrange their schedules. Constantly piling more tasks on someone without understanding their needs or their schedule will only see them become disenfranchised.
24. Understand it's not a quick fix, that to build long-term engagement, you may need to try, try and try again.
Introducing any new communication initiatives or other engagement plans won't happen overnight. Spend time tracking anything you implement with regular employee engagement surveys and feedback. Be prepared to change things if something hasn't worked too, and try again.
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The chance to develop and improve both professionally and personally is incredibly important to many people. If they feel like their development is being stifled, or that it's simply unclear how the organisation can help them improve, an employee may feel disengaged. These development strategies and ideas will give your employees a complete understanding of how your company can help them better themselves.
1. Provide ongoing training and learning
This will form the basis of any development you offer. You should make training and learning available for everyone at all levels, and it shouldn't stop. There's always something new to learn, and providing employees with new skills will keep them engaged with your organisation, as well as making them more valuable for the running of your business.
Consider internal training if you can't afford to pay for expensive training courses too.
2. Offer to pay for professional development that's not available internally
In the best case scenario though, you'll be able to offer a development budget to each employee. This should be used to allow employees to attend events or training, as well access online resources. What works for one may not work for another, so be flexible about the types of training you can help people access.
3. Create a roadmap to achieve personal and professional goals for both teams and individuals
Sit down with individuals regularly and create a bespoke roadmap. There are a number of different systems in place for creating effective personal development roadmaps, but they should all be goal based. Doing this shows that you're invested in their development, and having regular touch points shows that you care how their development is progressing, keeping them engaged.
In addition, it can be worth looking at team training and team building too. You want to make sure they get to know each other and are gelling as a team, that they are doing everything possible to develop their skills as a unit. Consider setting development goals for your teams, as well as roadmaps.
4. Incentivise these goals
When you're creating goals for people, or teams, consider adding an incentive. Give them a reason, other than a new skill, to want to complete training or hit a target. If they can see a tangible benefit for themselves, like an extra day of annual leave, a voucher, tickets to see their favourite sports team or something else entirely, they may be more willing to strive to hit these goals.
5. Give people a chance to set their own goals
Don't just set people blanket targets either. Work with them to set their own goals. You may want to provide a number of company goals, but you should work with the individuals to get them to set their own as well. When they're in control of their own futures they're more likely to push towards them.
6. Introduce value based recognition
It's not just goals you want to reward. When you're recognising hard work you may want to consider rewarding your employees. When they know that hard work is being rewarded, they're more likely to push a little harder and spend time solving a problem.
There are a number of platforms that make this possible, where recognising people gives them points that can be redeemed for rewards.
7. Start a learning club, or host lunch & learn sessions
Skill sharing, or group learning, can be a great way to get a number of employees engaged with their development. You could consider putting some regular time aside for people to learn in a group, like a learning club. Alternatively you could host lunch & learn sessions, where different people from your business teach others something new over their lunch break. Consider providing lunch if you run something like this too.
8. Promote from within your company
Nothing says 'we like you and you're doing a great job' like promoting someone internally. It can be disheartening when a senior position is filled by an external hire, especially if there are people within the team who know they could do that job.
When it's known that there are opportunities to advance, it keeps employees engaged.
9. Allow employees to move sideways within your organisation
People aren't always adamant about moving upwards. Many people, old and young, find that their chosen career path has stagnated or simply isn't offering the same challenge as it was before.
Providing people with the chance to move to another role within your business, perhaps without starting at the very bottom of the ladder again, can be incredibly valuable. Not only does it mean you're keeping someone who already knows the business, but it shows them that you're willing to invest in them.
10. Create a 'day in the life of...' program
A program where people can gain an insight into other parts of your business benefits everyone. Not only does it give your employees a chance to develop, but it gives them a better understanding of what other people do. This means it can help your business run much more smoothly, as everyone around the company knows each other's roles a little better, but it also means that people may be able to step in and help if you suddenly find yourself short staffed elsewhere.
11. Give your employees the chance for more responsibility, not just extra tasks or workload
By giving someone a little more responsibility, it gives them a chance to shine at something they may not have necessarily been able to do before. This doesn't necessarily mean just giving them more work either. It could be something like the following:
Essentially you want to give them an opportunity to learn and grow at something they may not have done before.
12. Encourage volunteering, charity work and fundraising
Whether it's offering your company's work to a charity or simply incentivising charity work, showing your employees that you are willing to give back is important. Employees will often be more engaged when they can see that an organisation stands for something that they respect.
Give them the opportunity to put their work on hold for fundraising, or match donations they make, and they'll likely be much more engaged with their actual work.
13. Involve your staff in the hiring process
When it comes to finding new employees, involving your old ones could work wonders. Whether it's incentivising referrals, getting them to help with job descriptions or actively involving them in the interview process, it's a chance for them to develop and learn something new.
14. Assign mentors to new hires to immerse them in your organisation
When new employees join your business, they may feel a little lost. Assigning them with a mentor or 'buddy', is a great way to not only make them feel more comfortable, but also to give that mentor a development opportunity.
This additional responsibility can help them feel more valued by companies and allows them to help in other people's development too.
15. Encourage personal projects and recognise that they have interests outside of work
Understanding that your employees have interests and passions outside of work is important, as is getting to know them on a personal level. Actively encouraging them and helping them develop those passions is even more so.
If someone in your team feels like their manager can help them make their passion a reality, they're going to be more invested in the company. Encourage your employees to pursue their passions and, where you can, help them to do it.
16. Encourage innovation
Making sure that your employees have time to not only learn new things, but to innovate too, is important. Developing new ways of working, new tools and other things is essential for keeping your business growing and relevant, and you can't do this without giving people time to do it.
Consider giving people open development time that's not just tied to training, or creating 'show & tell' sessions where employees can talk through ideas they have or innovations they have made.
17. Show them the outcome of the results of their work and other positive results from the work they undertake
It's all well and good to let your team know that sales are up, or that clients are happy, but if you can it's worth showing them what that actually means. At the very least, you should be showing them the impact their work is having, whether it's an increase in awareness or visibility, money raised or sales made. Then on top of this, you should be telling them what impact that's actually had on people.
Pass on positive feedback from clients or customers too. It all helps.
And, last but not least:
18. Focus on aspects about yourself as a leader too, like your own emotional intelligence
You can introduce as many employee engagement activities as you like, but if you aren't willing to work on yourself as a manager, it may only go so far. Working on your own emotional intelligence and development can go a long way to improve engagement levels.
Being able to manage your own emotions and then identify others emotions and help manage those is an important aspect of a leader.
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Employee wellbeing is a phrase thrown around by many organisations. A number of these focus on a couple of key ideas without thinking about why they are doing it, other than to say they are. Viewing wellbeing as part of an overarching employee engagement plan is an important way to make sure the effects don't just work, but last too.
Making sure your business runs more than a couple of workshops and concentrates on a number of activities and long term initiatives can make your employees significantly more engaged, as they'll feel more valued and comfortable in their place of work.
1. Create a bespoke health & wellness program
Every team member may need something different to help improve their health or wellness. It's never a one size fits all approach, what works for one business may not be right for another, and the same can be said about individuals in your organisation. Get to know what your team wants and then lay out a plan for the coming months.
Look at a number of different initiatives, from workshops to discounts and subscriptions. Get in specialists if you can too and consider incentivising your employees.
2. Offer wellness and mindfulness workshops as part of a wider strategy
Sure, offer wellness and mindfulness workshops, they're a good starting point, but don't just run a couple of these and think your work is done. They should be used as part of a much wider plan that focuses on long term wellness and mindfulness of the people within your organisation.
3. Understand what office space works best for your team members
In recent years there's been a huge shift away from the office cubicle to open plan offices, and more recently still there's been an increase in people working from home.
The key is to find the environment that people work best in, and the one that promotes the best wellbeing for your employees. Research shows open plan offices to be stressful and distracting (source), while others find a cubicle to be soulless and bad for their mental health (source). While it can be tricky to accommodate everyone in one workspace, it can be worth talking to your team and finding out what they'd prefer to do. If working from home is best, consider letting them work from home either full time or for the majority of their work hours, but again, this isn't best suited for everyone.
4. Emphasise good work-life balance
Expecting your employees to work all hours of the day or be on-call whenever you wish is unhealthy and not sustainable. Promoting good work-life balance is important and encouraging people to focus on themselves outside of work hours is essential.
It's been written about at length that working too much overtime causes burnout, fatigue and a number of other problems. One report, by Harvard Business Review, actually shows that getting people to put in extra hours is detrimental to the company and is the problem of the organisation to fix, not the individual.
5. Consider flexible working hours
Every employee works differently, and there's an increasing realisation that fitting your work hours around the times you're most productive and other aspects of your life is important.
Research shows that allowing people to have flexible working hours is beneficial for employee engagement and overall better performance. Sure, set core hours, but encourage flexibility. Let people avoid the worst of the rush hour commute, pick up their kids from school, go to the gym on their lunch.
6. Set clear boundaries and expectations for additional hours or out of hours communications
As we've already mentioned, promoting a good work-life balance is important for the wellbeing and engagement of your employees. If you may expect additional hours or out of hours communication, be up front and set clear boundaries on what's expected.
7. Offer sick days above statutory sick pay and in addition to annual leave
It's not just annual leave that's important to your employees. As annual leave tends to be restrictive on how it's booked, offering sick leave can be important. Many people have underlying health problems, and everyone gets sick sometimes. Without sick days they'll feel like they have to come in and work, and statutory sick pay often doesn't cover enough of someone's pay to make them feel like they can afford to be sick.
Giving someone the safety blanket of proper sick days means they're more likely to rest up and be healthy when they need to, and not bring a bug into the office too.
8. Make sure they take annual leave, consider a minimum
Annual leave is essential for avoiding burnout. It's all well and good for you to increase your annual leave allowance, or to announce that you're moving to unlimited holiday. The key is to make sure people actually take it. Many people get into a mindset that taking holiday looks bad and some just don't book anything in until it's already too late and they're exhausted.
One option could be to set a minimum on the days people have to take. This could be particularly important if you move to an unlimited annual leave program, as people may not track their days well and end up taking significantly less.
9.Recognise the signs of burnout
Spend some time getting yourself clued up on what burnout actually looks like. The earlier you can catch it, the better. There are numerous guides available online, but training could be more useful as it could give you a better insight.
When you spot it, work out a way to try and help too. You need to be able to act once you have seen that someone is close to burnout.
10. Nominate mental health champions and provide mental health first aid training
One option is to nominate mental health champions within your business. This is both a chance for personal development but also it means people know there's someone in your organisation they can go to for help.
There are a number of Mental Health First Aid courses available that vary in intensity and length. It could be well worth sending yourself or someone within your business on one of these.
11. Provide mental health resources and support
In addition to this, it could be worth creating a centralised place for mental health and wellbeing resources. This could be either on your intranet, or a physical location in your office. Whatever it is, it gives people a chance to find information anonymously, but also provides resources for the wider team to educate themselves.
12. Maintain fair and ethical work practises
This one sort of feels like it should go without saying, but when you maintain fair and ethical work practises, your company will notice. They'll notice when you don't, and it will likely make them feel uncomfortable.
13. Hold exit interviews, respond to feedback and don't ignore staff as they're leaving
When people are leaving your business, it can be easy to just ignore them and collect their things on the way out. We'd recommend holding exit interviews, if you aren't already, and acting on any serious feedback they provide.
Sure, some of it may not be constructive, but you may uncover important information that can help you improve any negative situations and improve engagement for those still in your business.
14. Show people respect and be transparent about diversity and inclusivity
This is another one that feels like it's stating the obvious, but show respect to your employees and they're more likely to be engaged with your business.
In addition, make sure you are transparent about the diversity and inclusivity in your business and hiring process. Improving employee engagement can start with something this basic, just respect your employees and be inclusive.
15. Make sure your staff feel safe and set a clear roadmap for the organisation for those that don't
Feeling physically safe, both in your role and as a person, is incredibly important for anyone. If anything toxic happens in your office, or any bad apples act inappropriately, you may find your employees feeling unsafe. Make sure you act in an appropriate way and make them feel comfortable and safe.
If anything is raised about anything that's making them feel uneasy or like they aren't safe, act on it. Come up with a plan and help them through it.
16. Introduce team walks
Encouraging your team to get outside and stretch their legs, as a group, can make a world of difference. It gives them time away from their screens, encourages socialising and can increase productivity. It's a simple, and free, method of team building that has other benefits too.
17. Let people drop a task they hate
Some people just have one task they really, really hate doing. They put it off, don't do their best with it and generally dread it. What about if you could offer people the chance to drop one particular task that they really hate? This could increase their wellbeing in one simple step, and if it's just one task, it's probably something that's easy to pick up elsewhere.
18. Consider an email or meeting free day each week
This isn't something that's possible in every single business, but for many, having a day where they know they can just put their head down and work, without worrying about their inbox, can work wonders.
19. Give your employees autonomy
Giving your team employees the freedom they deserve and let them make their own decisions. It's amazing how a little freedom can have such a positive effect on someone's overall wellbeing, performance and engagement.
While company perks and socials often lean more towards job satisfaction than engagement, they are still important parts of an engagement initiative. You'll want to understand the difference between employee engagement and employee satisfaction when you're implementing your strategy.
Remember, perks are more than a subscription to a discount platform, an employee's salary or their basic annual leave package. You should consider including these perks & social ideas in any engagement strategy that HR create. We've gone into a little less detail with these as they're more based around staff satisfaction.
So you've gone through our employee engagement examples and are ready to implement an engagement strategy that will help employees be more productive, engaged and comfortable in your workplace. As we said above, now you need to make sure you can measure it.
This is where SmartSurvey comes in, with our employee engagement questionnaire, that offers you the ability to get direct feedback on your new strategy and measure its effectiveness.
If you're still unsure about how to measure employee engagement, we're here to help.
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