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Updated Apr 01, 2024

10 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement

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Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations

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Over the past few years, there has been a big shift in workforce management. Instead of exchanging a paycheck for a job well done, many employers are focused on fostering a highly engaged workforce. While this may seem like an afterthought to some, employee engagement can have a major impact on your bottom line. If you want to improve employee engagement throughout your organization, we’ve outlined 10 easy steps to get you started.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is the measure of an employee’s enthusiasm and commitment to performing their job. Engaged employees are passionate about their work and workplace and feel intrinsically connected to their organization’s success.

Employee engagement is often confused with employee satisfaction. While similar to employee satisfaction, employee engagement has a more significant impact on an organization’s success. According to research by the University of Warwick, an employee who is satisfied at work is 12 percent more productive than an unsatisfied one, but employee engagement can increase productivity by 18 percent, per Gallup.

How do you improve employee engagement?

To improve employee engagement, you’ll likely need to invest money in tools and technology and invest the time required for your leaders and team members to implement best practices. While this is a big undertaking, failing to focus on employee engagement can cost your company much more.

Did You Know?Did you know

Low employee engagement can result in low performance and productivity, high employee absenteeism and employee turnover, sunken recruitment costs and resources, low company morale and a poor company reputation.

Although improving employee engagement takes work, many of the solutions only require a little effort to see a big impact. Here are 10 ways you can improve employee engagement.

1. Conduct employee engagement surveys.

One of the first things you should do on your mission to improve employee engagement is conduct an employee engagement survey. This type of survey is key to understanding how engaged your employees currently feel and what is driving their engagement or disengagement.

“Until you really understand what’s behind employee engagement, it’s really hard to offer more than Band-Aid solutions,” Carla Yudhishthu, chief people officer at Mineral, told business.com. “The best way to do this is by issuing an internal survey that gets at this in a scientific way.”

Conducting the survey

An employee engagement survey will tell you how valued your employees feel at work and how connected they feel with their job and organization. Employee engagement survey questions revolve around topics that can impact engagement, such as leadership, enablement, alignment and development.

Employees can use a Likert scale to rank the degree to which they agree with statements like “I rarely think about looking for a job at another company” and “I have access to the things I need to do my job well.” You may also want to include some free-text questions that give respondents the chance to elaborate on what is or isn’t working.

Acting on the survey results

Conducting an engagement survey is only half of what’s required. After the survey closes, take time to dig through the response data and find themes you can act on. Discuss the results with your team to identify which actions should be stopped, which should be started and which should continue as is.

Once you decide on a course of action, put it into play. Too often, companies come up with solutions but soon push them to the wayside to continue with the status quo. Avoid doing this as it can breed distrust among your employees.

Repeating the process

Wait a few months before conducting your next employee engagement survey. This gives you and your employees time to make the agreed-upon changes and see how well they work. Once you develop a successful employee engagement strategy, administer surveys four to five times per year for optimal results.

TipBottom line

If you want honest employee feedback, make it clear that team members will not be penalized for any negative responses. The goal is to gain real feedback, not reprimand workers for feeling disengaged. One way to make employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts is to use anonymous surveys and feedback.

2. Create an effective onboarding process.

According to Anna Dearmon Kornick, professional time-management coach at ADK Strategies, cultivating employee engagement can and should begin during the recruitment process, before a new hire is officially on board.

“The hiring process is the first opportunity to identify candidates that align with your company values,” Kornick said. “Then, be sure to use your onboarding program to educate and inspire new team members so they begin taking ownership of the company’s purpose at the very beginning of their tenure.”

During the onboarding process, cover the four C’s:

  • Compliance, such as rules and regulations
  • Clarification, such as job expectations
  • Culture
  • Connections

Send out personalized welcome packets, cover essential paperwork and training, review your company culture and assign buddies or mentors.

3. Align employees with your vision statement.

A strong company mission and vision statement are more important today than ever. Job seekers are taking notice of what companies stand for and they want to align themselves with organizations that match their values and purpose. However, reviewing your company’s purpose once at orientation isn’t enough to keep employees engaged.

“If you are a business owner, you will not be able to create the type of company that lives out your vision without a group of motivated employees to help you accomplish your goals,” said Adam Weber, chief evangelist at performance management software company 15Five.

Write employee job descriptions that match your values and regularly explain to your team how their work directly ties into the company’s overall goals and purpose. Engaged employees like to know they have a hand in the company’s success. This reminds them of the impact they have on the organization. [Learn more about the importance of cultural fit.]

4. Encourage open communication and feedback.

Communication is one of the most important aspects of any business. Build a culture that encourages open communication and honest feedback. Feedback can be given informally as events occur in real time or it can be delivered in one-on-one meetings between managers and employees. Either way, employees must be able to trust their managers and feel free to express any questions, concerns or ideas they may have.

5. Prioritize employees’ health and well-being.

Employee health has become top of mind for many organizations, especially when it comes to supporting employee mental health. Organizations must create benefits packages and company cultures that support and encourage employee well-being to not only stay competitive with other employers but also give their team members the tools to succeed. When your staffers are physically and mentally healthy, they have more energy to engage with their job and the organization.

TipBottom line

To prioritize employee health and well-being, consider offering popular flexible benefits like remote work, flexible scheduling (also known as flextime), unlimited paid time off, wellness programs, gym reimbursements and employee assistance programs.

6. Offer employee development opportunities.

The 2023 Retention Report by Work Institute indicates career development (or lack thereof) is the biggest reason why employees quit their jobs and it has been for more than a decade. This goes to show that, at the very least, you must offer your team professional development opportunities if you want to retain talent. Providing staff with ample training and growth opportunities can also improve employee engagement.

Managers should work with employees to outline career goals and create opportunities for advancement. Employees can set performance goals that help them prepare for the next step in their career — whether that is a vertical or lateral move. Clear learning and development plans encourage employees to be engaged in their work and grow professionally.

7. Recognize and reward employee achievements.

It’s no surprise employees are happier when their supervisors and colleagues recognize their hard work and accomplishments. You can improve employee satisfaction and engagement by not only recognizing employee achievements but also rewarding staff members for a job well done. Show your appreciation by celebrating employee milestones, acknowledging weekly successes verbally and rewarding top performers.

If you don’t already have a strong employee recognition program in place, ask your employees how they want to be recognized. Use the feedback to establish processes and methods for recognizing achievements.

FYIDid you know

Recent research by Quantum Workplace found that more than half of employees want more recognition from their immediate supervisor.

8. Take advantage of employee engagement tools.

As outlined above, there are many ways to improve employee engagement — and there are also several types of tools that can assist you. For example, Yudhishthu said her team uses the 15Five platform for biweekly check-ins.

“In addition to capturing general information on employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) and how team members are feeling about the impact they are having at work, it also has open fields for giving direct feedback both ways (employee to manager and manager to employee),” she said. “Managers and employees are then able to have a much more forthright discussion about any issues during their one-to-one.”

Some of the best human resources software also has workforce management functions that can track and improve engagement. For example, in our review of BambooHR, we found that the software has performance management features like feedback surveys, employee goal tracking, employee assessments and employee satisfaction (eNPS) reports. Similarly, our review of GoCo revealed features, such as onboarding and offboarding workflows, new-hire orientation checklists and automated performance review workflows.

Kornick also suggests using tech tools like project management software, chat applications, video conferencing services and team calendars to keep hybrid and remote teams in sync wherever they’re working from. These apps can improve communication, build trust and boost productivity and engagement.

9. Develop your managers.

Managers have a major impact on employee engagement, for better or worse. Weber said many organizations make the common mistake of promoting top-level individual contributors to management before they obtain practical management skills, resulting in poor management. He recommends developing each manager to avoid this.

“A good starting place is setting up a recurring meeting with groups of managers where they can share and collaborate with one another on real-time challenges they are facing,” Weber said. “Long-term, the ideal state is consistent outside coaching for your managers. This upskilling effort has potential to unlock the growth of the company and it increases the likelihood of managers’ growth and quality content.”

10. Build a strong company culture.

Companies with strong cultures often have a higher rate of employee engagement than those without. Part of employee engagement comes from when the worker feels connected to their organization, so they are more likely to be engaged if they feel connected to your company culture.

Integrate employees into your company culture as soon as they are hired with the help of a mentor or buddy system and implement engaging events and activities on a regular basis. “Engaging” looks different for every company, of course. One organization’s team might love trivia nights and happy hours while another might have a strong desire to embark on volunteer opportunities.

To ensure your activities improve engagement and don’t exhaust your staff, ask your team members what types of activities they’re interested in. Kornick suggests conducting quarterly team surveys and roundtable discussions to identify what initiatives are worth pursuing. Then remember to put that feedback into action.

Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
Skye Schooley is a human resources writer at business.com and Business News Daily, where she has researched and written more than 300 articles on HR-focused topics including human resources operations, management leadership, and HR technology. In addition to researching and analyzing products and services that help business owners run a smoother human resources department, such as HR software, PEOs, HROs, employee monitoring software and time and attendance systems, Skye investigates and writes on topics aimed at building better professional culture, like protecting employee privacy, managing human capital, improving communication, and fostering workplace diversity and culture.
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