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Employee Engagement Strategy: Tools Ideas Activities

Employee Engagement Strategy
We all hear about employee engagement day in and day out, especially in the wake of the Great Resignation. But what is it really? How do HR leaders develop and execute a robust engagement strategy? How can brokers support their clients in their engagement endeavors? We’re answering these questions and more to help you drive better business outcomes and employee experiences this year.

Employee Engagement Strategy #

What is employee engagement? #

Employee engagement is the connection employees feel towards all things work: their projects, teammates, leadership and organization as whole. It helps organizations measure how committed employees are to their work and overall business goals. The more engaged an employee is, the more committed they are.

What are examples of employee engagement? #

Engaged employees feel a deep sense of commitment and purpose to their jobs and organizations. This is driven by leadership, culture, development, inclusion and self-government. Examples of cultivating these engagement drivers might look like implementing an new recognition system, a new training program or giving employees more autonomy in their day-to-day.

Employee engagement benefits #

Employee engagement levels in the U.S. have declined in recent years with only 32% of employees engaged and 17% of employees actively disengaged as of 2022. Disengaged employees cost companies $450 billion annually due to low productivity, absenteeism and high turnover. Therefore, implementing an engagement strategy reduces burnout and stress in turn increasing productivity, retention and ambassadorship.

Engaged employees are not only more committed to their organization, but are also:

• Better team players

• Have more positive attitudes

• Increasingly motivated

• More likely to think outside the box

• Perform better

• Collaborative

• Give and receive constructive feedback

Relationship between engagement and retention #

We mentioned that increased engagement equals increased retention, but why? Engaged employees feel more connected to not only their work, but their team, company and leaders as well. They form more meaningful relationships in the workplace and are therefore more likely to stay with that organization. This reduces overall turnover and the steep costs associated with it.

Why is Employee Engagement Important? #

Connection to goals and values #

Company values are the beliefs and principles that drive your business and overall mission. When employees share these values, they work more symbiotically with each other towards the company goals. While you can’t force your employees to share your values, you can increase motivation by creating an elevated day-to-day experience through engagement and small, achievable goals.

How to Improve Employee Engagement in the Workplace #

Engagement Planning #

Employee engagement doesn’t just happen on its own. Organizations must determine their employees’ pain points, understand what will influence their unique workforce and define specific initiatives to prioritize as a part of their engagement plan.

Start by thinking big picture – what does your organization value? What is your mission? Then, survey your employees to understand their values and attitudes towards the company. From there, you can pinpoint specific engagement goals you want to work towards.

Whose job is employee engagement? #

Employee engagement begins at the executive leadership level. They are responsible for setting the organizational culture, articulating the vision and generating buy-in at all other levels. Additionally, managers are equally responsible for creating an engaged team of employees as they work with them more directly.

It’s important that leaders take a look at their management style. Gallup explains it like this: “[Managers are] either an engagement-creating coach or an engagement-destroying boss, but both relationships affect employee behavior.” By taking a “coach” management style, employees feel empowered to take on challenges knowing they have someone in their corner cheering them on and acting as a sounding board. On the other hand, the “boss” mentality to management is more transactional; tasks are handed out and results are reported back leaving little room for a deeper manager-employee relationship.

This coaching mindset to management should be reflected at the leadership level as well. Many things within organizations trickle down from the top, especially company culture. When leaders act as coaches, managers are more likely to adopt that mentality too, leading to a more engaged workforce as a whole.

What are the drivers of employee engagement? #

Before you can gather employee feedback and implement new engagement activities, it’s important to understand what affects an employee’s feelings towards their work. From the leadership level to the team level, there are many influencers driving engagement (or lack thereof).

• Sense of Leadership: Employee engagement levels start at the top of an organization and trickle down. C-Suite leaders set the tone, vision and culture and managers help implement that within their teams. Is your company culture fostering the engagement you want? Has the right vision been communicated properly throughout the organization? An employee’s sense of leadership directly impacts where they see the future of the organization going, and whether they picture themselves there.

• Sense of Team: How an employee feels about the team they are on directly impacts their feelings towards work as well. What team dynamics are at play? Are team members collaborative or competitive? Are managers fostering diversity and inclusion? It’s important to make sure the culture envisioned at the leadership level has been properly implemented at the team level.

• Sense of Responsibility: Employees who have ownership over their work, feel their day-to-day aligns with their expectations and understands how their work impacts the business overall are more likely to have job satisfaction. When an employee doesn’t feel responsible for their work or large-scale business outcomes motivation and productivity decrease drastically. 

• Sense of Self: Employees who have say over what their day-to-day looks like and have a healthy work-life balance are more engaged. It’s important for managers to empower employees to take control of their work and foster a sense of autonomy. This not only creates a healthier work environment but reduces stress and burnout.

• Total Rewards: While feelings towards work, teammates and leadership are key engagement drivers, total rewards might be the most important. Culture and goals aside, if an employee doesn’t feel they are compensated fairly, they will not be motivated or engaged. A strong total rewards package should show the organization cares for employees’ physical and mental health and safety via fair pay, PTO plans, core and ancillary benefits and more.

Employee Engagement Tools #

Measuring employee engagement

There are multiple KPI’s and measurement tools to consider when it comes to evaluating your employee engagement goals and success. We’ll walk you through which KPIs to consider, different surveys with question examples and how to analyze your results.

KPI’s of employee engagement #

There are many KPI’s that reflect employee engagement, but the ones you choose to measure depend heavily on your company’s size, business objectives, engagement activities and more. Here is a list of potential KPIs to consider:

• Turnover Rate: How well are you able to retain top talent? Engaged employees are much more likely to continue working at the same company, thus lower turnover rates suggest your engagement strategies are working.

• Internal Promotion Rate: If your engagement strategies revolve around increasing employees’ Sense of Responsibility, then higher internal promotion rates indicate positive professional growth. Additionally, it shows that your efforts towards professional development are paying off as you retain top talent.

• Employee NPS: In the same way many industries look at Net Promoter Scores to gauge customer satisfaction, employers have started adopting that same strategy to measure employee satisfaction.
Absenteeism: Engaged employees are more likely to show up for work and get their job done. If absenteeism is an issue for your company, start putting engagement strategies in place and pay attention to how it affects your absenteeism rate.

• Employee Survey Results: One of the most popular employee engagement KPIs is employee survey results. They establish an engagement baseline and clearly depict whether your strategies are working in the eyes of your employees.

Employee engagement surveys #

There are many kinds of employee experience surveys including:

• Engagement Surveys: Engagement surveys measure the strength of connection an employee feels towards the overall organization including their work, teammates and leadership.

• Lifecycle Surveys: Lifecycle surveys are conducted at key points within employee tenure such as when they are hired, promoted or when they terminate to understand what their experience was like and how it can be improved.

• Pulse Surveys: Pulse surveys, or satisfaction surveys, garner quick employee feedback and opinions throughout the year. These should be shorter and more specific than engagement surveys.

• Culture Surveys: A culture survey measures how an employee perceives the culture both on their team and within the larger organization to see if it aligns with HR goals.

All of these can help you determine how engaged your employees are in different ways. For example, a lifecycle survey helps gauge how employees feel about different tenure experiences such as onboarding, culture surveys are great for measuring employees’ sense of leadership and pulse surveys are used for regular engagement check-ins.

Example employee engagement survey questions #

Within an employee engagement survey, there are a lot of different things to ask about to ensure you’re getting the full picture. It’s important to include a blend of questions, such as:

• Satisfaction Questions: Gauging how satisfied and content your employees are with different areas of the organization.

• Alignment Questions: Gauging if your employees agree with your organization’s direction, leadership values, company culture and personal job expectations.

• Future-Oriented Questions: Gauging employees’ future plans and likelihood of retention to shed light on areas that need additional HR or managerial support.

• Open-Ended Questions: Providing an opportunity for employees to elaborate on what’s working, what isn’t working and share any other feedback they may have.

Asking a few questions from each category will give you a holistic view of your employees’ engagement levels.

Analyzing your results #

Determining your KPIs, choosing survey types and questions, and deploying your survey(s) are the first few steps to understanding engagement levels. Now you must make sense of your data and determine what areas you want to focus and improve on.

Great Places To Work recommends you start with high-impact areas even if they don’t align with your lowest scoring areas. Although compensation and fair promotions are among the most common low-scoring fields, the less tangible, more impactful areas such as appreciation and inclusion are more important to improving engagement.

Also consider looking for gaps between managerial levels. For example, if there is an area where individual contributors score poorly but managers score highly, it’s important to investigate why there’s an inconsistency.

Employee engagement software solutions #

In this day and age there are software solutions for everything and employee engagement is no exception. This type of technology can look like a lot of different things including a rewards platform for showing and rewarding recognition, surveying platforms and communication and knowledge platforms.

Employee engagement platforms #

There are platforms designed to make engagement easy for both employees and employers alike. They put company news, HR initiatives and benefits information and access right in the palm of employees’ hands.

These mobile platforms are key to not only communicating conveniently with employees but to store pertinent company and benefits information to remove ambiguity when it comes to important engagement strategies.

Employee Engagement Strategies #

Employee engagement platforms #

Inspired leaders cultivate inspired teams that are engaged and dedicated to the company’s mission. Trustworthiness, positivity and an understanding of work/life balance are among the top qualities people seek in leadership.

Employee engagement and company culture #

Engagement and culture are related, but they are not the same thing. Company culture refers to the organization’s overall values, beliefs and norms that drive how they go about business and working together.

If your company culture does not reflect what really goes on behind the scenes, then engagement will likely be low. It’s important to ensure your company culture is not just written out but truly acted out as well – and that starts with leadership.

Employee engagement ideas #

Feedback & recognition
Simply put, recognition makes employees feel good. It demonstrates that others have noticed their hard work and the effort they put into driving the company’s success. Equally, if not more important is feedback both positive and constructive. When leaders provide thoughtful feedback, they invest in their teammate’s growth.

Employee incentives are rewards that drive motivation and increase satisfaction and engagement in the workplace. They can be monetary or non-monetary in fashion and are designed to encourage ambitious goal achievement, make deadlines and/or go the extra mile in the workplace.

Here is a list of incentives that might perform well for your workforce:

• Financial Incentives: These are monetary incentives such as gift cards, profit sharing and bonuses.

• Rewards Programs: This type of incentive usually lives within a platform and enables leaders and peers to give each other recognition for positive work.

• Points System: Leaders give out points for positive work that can be cashed in for some type of award or prize.

• Team Building Activities: This incentive works particularly well for teams as a whole. If the team achieves their goal, they are rewarded with a group activity or outing.

• Employee Perks: This can look like a lot of different things including flexible work hours, additional time off, discounts to local places, or anything that would resonate with your workforce.

Employee engagement activities #

Employee engagement activites are all about bringing the team together and investing in their development and skills. Whether its team –building activities for the group or learning opportunities for individuals, giving employees an activity to be a part of is a great way to increase engagement.

Other engagement activities include:

• Work parties or lunches

• Lunch and learns

• Town hall meetings with leadership

• Mentorship programs

• Volunteer events

Remote employee engagement #

Many companies have adopted remote and hybrid workspaces in recent years. But how do you keep these employees engaged? When teams aren’t together every day in person, it’s increasingly important to create engagement opportunities to keep motivation and productivity rates high.

Remote employee engagement ideas:

• Communication platforms: If your workforce is mostly remote or hybrid, having a communication platform is of the utmost importance. Consider platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams that allow employees to communicate easier and instantly.

• Project management tool: Collaboration looks very different in remote environments than it does in person. Since your employees can’t simply walk over to a peer’s desk to ask a question, project management tools such as Asana are great for keeping everyone up-to-date and on the same page.

• Virtual team bonding: Whether it’s a virtual coffee break, lunch or happy hour, provide your remote employees the time and space to connect without it being all about work.

When you’re in person, it’s easy to pop over to someone’s desk or office to check-in. With remote work, these casual check-ins require more structure. Leaders should schedule regular one-on-one meetings with their employees to continue to foster that important employee-management relationship.

Gamification #

Employee gamification is the process of applying game-like elements such as points, awards or competition to the workspace to boost engagement levels. 87% of U.S. workers believe gamification would make them more engaged, productive workers, so it’s a great strategy to boost retention.

Gamification strategies:

• Building a level progression system

• Giving out points for achievements

• Sharing progress bars

• Creating friendly competitions

• On-the-spot spontaneous recognition

Health and Benefits #

Engagement activities and perks are nice but mean very little to employees if they feel their health and benefit offerings are lacking. Before looking into any fun outings or team-building opportunities, make sure you have a robust benefits package in place that meets the needs of your unique workforce.

Gone are the days of simply offering medical, dental and vision. By incorporating voluntary benefits that resonate with employee’s needs, you can create a benefits package that helps you increase engagement as well. These can be tricky to navigate but look to your ben admin provider or broker to help you understand what makes the most sense for you and your team.

Types of voluntary benefits to consider:

• Asset protection

• Disease management

• Pet insurance

• Health and wellness

• Wealth management

• Lifestyle planning

• Mental health support

Getting started with employee engagement #

Employee engagement plays an important role in the success of any business. With an effective engagement strategy that focuses on the needs and wants of employees, as well as their values and feedback, employers can make great strides in holding on to valuable staff — and attracting new hires, even during a competitive job market. By understanding these key elements, HR leaders can develop a comprehensive plan that drives better outcomes for both the employer and its employees. Additionally, brokers can use this knowledge to assist their clients in creating tailored solutions that demonstrate their commitment to employee engagement.

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