7 employee engagement strategies that work in 2021
You might have seen job titles such as Chief Happiness Officer, or the more straightforward title of Employee Engagement Officer popping up on LinkedIn. There’s also lots of companies showing off team-building activities — even if it's just through a screen. If you're wondering what that's all about: it's employee engagement.
Employee engagement is the talk of the town — but it's much more than just a buzzword.
More and more companies are starting to understand that in order to build a successful business, you need more than a good product or idea: you need people who are willing to work hard to make it a success with you.
And those people are looking for more than a pay packet and a ping-pong table in the breakout area.
Let's break down employee engagement, so you can start building it from the ground up. In this article, we'll dive into what employee engagement is, why it works and what you can do to make it effective for you.
What is employee engagement?
Engaged employees are enthusiastic about what they do. They're intrinsically motivated and willing to go the extra mile. They're aligned with the company values. They're proactive and look for ways to do things better, rather than getting stuck in ways that don't work.
Sounds too good to be true? For a lot of managers, it is. Research shows that UK workers are some of the least engaged in the world, with only around 45% of them being engaged at work.
To get a more in-depth understanding of what employee engagement is, let's look at what an engaged employee looks like. You can recognise these people by the following behaviours:
- They have a positive outlook on things. You'll rarely hear them sigh or be grumpy — at least about work-related things.
- They like their company and job and will express this to others.
- They are team players. Even though some might prefer working alone sometimes, they don't mind teaming up if they know it’ll benefit the company.
- They hit their targets — and then some. These people don't start playing Angry Birds as soon as they've done their work for the day. They feel motivated to see what else they can achieve for their colleagues or customers.
- They have an emotional connection to what they do. They might not say they're an estate agent, but that they help people find their dream homes to start a family in.
- They are aligned with the company's mission and company values. You'll notice this in the way they communicate, both internally and externally.
While that all sounds great, employee engagement should not be used as a way to get people to do more than they're paid for.
There are different employee engagement levels. Someone who's engaged will tick some of the boxes above. Someone who's not engaged, will get the job done — but that's it. They'd easily switch jobs if a better offer comes along.
Actively disengaged people do less than the bare minimum. They need to be motivated and managed frequently. Otherwise, they drag other people down with them due to a negative outlook.
3 key metrics that say a lot about employee engagement
If employee engagement still seems a little abstract to you, let's look at some data points that will help you determine how engaged your team is.
1. Employee turnover rate
Do people leave often and quickly? That's a tell-tale sign that there's an engagement issue within the business. Whether it's across your entire organisation or within one specific department, keeping an eye on these numbers will help you find engagement issues fast.
If people often don't show up, a lot of things could be wrong in their personal lives. But if it's not just one person, the issue might be yours.
3. Employee Net Promoter Score
You've probably asked your customers how likely it is that they'll recommend you to others — but have you asked your employees if they'd recommend their friends to work for you?
This is a simple yet powerful thing to ask, but definitely worth knowing. This question is a must-ask in employee engagement surveys — which we'll dive into more later on.
7 main factors that affect employee engagement
Employee engagement is a cocktail of all kinds of things. Let's take a look at what affects it.
Compensation and benefits
Let's start at the bottom of the pyramid. Employees need to have their financial needs met in order to be more engaged. No employee engagement tactic or team building activity can erase the negative effects of bad compensation.
Opportunities for growth
If you want your business to grow, your employees need to grow as well. Nobody likes getting too comfortable and then feeling ''stuck'' — we all need something to look forward to. If you give your employees the time and resources to develop, you all benefit.
If someone feels like their work life is ruining their personal one, chances are they'll start to resent the job and show up less engaged every day.
It's always good to know what's going on in the business and it's frustrating if you're being kept in the dark. If employees understand what they're contributing to, they're much more likely to be engaged in their work.
If someone feels like a job is 'theirs', and they are able to make decisions to do it more efficiently, it's a massive boost for engagement.
There's something to be said about those Employee of the Month pictures on the wall. Openly recognizing someone's hard work is not just a great thank you to them, but can also give others a little push.
Why is employee engagement important?
At the end of the day, your employees are the ones running the show. They are the ones talking to your customers. The ones spending your marketing budget. The ones talking about your product in sales calls. The more engaged they are, the more effort they'll put into all those things.
Most employers know about employee satisfaction and the perks that come with that. But a happy employee and an engaged one aren't necessarily the same.
While employee engagement is a significant part of job satisfaction, true engagement comes with its own set of benefits — not just for the employee, but also for your business. Here's what increasing employee engagement can lead to.
Employee engagement is great for your organisational culture and improves morale in the workplace. It’s something you can't express in numbers or money — but coming to an office with a great company culture is worth so much.
Higher employee engagement improves customer satisfaction. Your staff are the ones facing your customers. And your customers will be able to tell when one of your employees is disengaged. For example, you’ll definitely hear the difference on the phone between a customer service agent who does or doesn't like their job — and happiness is contagious.
Companies who manage to boost employee engagement report higher productivity by 18 per cent and higher profitability by 12 per cent. Meanwhile, disengaged employees cost UK companies up to £70 billion a year in lost productivity
You'll spend less time and money on hiring new people. Employee engagement and turnover are so closely related. If you want to work on employee retention - a.k.a attracting top talent and keeping them on board for a long time - invest in employee engagement. It's cheaper than starting a new recruitment process, putting out ads and onboarding new people.
Convinced yet? Improving employee engagement could be the missing piece of the puzzle for business success.
7 tried and tested employee engagement strategies
There's no secret formula that will guarantee higher employee engagement. It's key to choose an approach that fits your company and most importantly, your employees. To give you an idea of what tactics though, here's a list of effective employee engagement strategies.
It's important to note that this is more of a mix-and-match situation. These strategies need to be combined according to the areas you're looking to tackle. On their own, they may not be as effective at boosting engagement in the long run.
1. Make a point out of recognition and rewards
37% of employees consider recognition most important for feeling engaged at work. And since this is about them, it's time managers start listening.
Keep employees happy by openly recognising and praising success. This goes for teams and individuals. Put suitable rewards in place, and be consistent in the way you reward people. Part of feeling recognised is knowing what to expect when you go that extra mile. To see how Perkbox can help reward your employees check out our Recognition platform.
Read more about why rewarding your employees better could transform your business
2. Let your employees do the talking — and listen carefully
If people feel like they have a say in what happens in the company, they’re more likely to speak up. So if you want your employees to care more about their job, ask for their input on how to improve things.
Schedule meetings in which employees can put items on the agenda and ask for feedback regularly. Oh, and don't forget to tell them what your next steps will be. This shows you do more than just listen.
3. Improve wellbeing
As an employer, you play a big role in the wellbeing of your employees. People spend a lot of time at work, which makes you responsible for a considerable chunk of their wellbeing. If we look back on the factors that affect employee engagement, work-life balance is one that really stood out.
If you find that this is something your employees struggle with, sit down with them to find solutions. Make mental health more openly talked about and look after their physical health. Make sure the benefits you offer really add value to their life — not just their working hours.
4. Double-down on transparency
If your employees have to guess what's happening behind the scenes, how can they ever really care about their work? Put transparency on the agenda and make your workplace an environment in which it's not only allowed but even encouraged to ask questions.
The better your employees understand how they fit into the bigger picture and how their actions affect the company's results, the more engaged they'll be.
5. Give your employees ownership — and a lot of responsibility
If someone else has decided how you should best do your job, and there's no way your feedback will change anything, why bother speaking up? If you give people the responsibility, resources, and trust they need to feel comfortable doing their jobs their way, engagement will sky-rocket.
6. Turn managers into coaches
Let's face it: nobody really likes to be 'managed'. But we all could do with being 'coached'. This shift in how managers communicate with employees can make a huge difference in how engaged employees feel.
Consider starting up mentorship programmes in which managers or employees from other departments coach people. It's a double win, because it will also help those mentors feel more engaged at work. After all, they're role models now — and their skills are acknowledged by passing them on to others.
7. Make room for growth
Coming to work every day knowing exactly what's going to happen is bad enough. Knowing it will most likely be the same in 2 to 5 years can make people completely switch off. What's the point in going the extra mile if it's leading to a dead end?
Set up a talent development platform for your employees to grow and develop. Sit down with everyone to find out what they want to learn, and give them the resources to do so. Remember: your business can't grow if your employees don't grow with it.
Make it more tangible by prioritising promoting from within. If your employees know that you won't immediately start looking for new talent outside the office, but that they have a fair chance to further their careers, they will feel more engaged.
How to develop your engagement strategy
An employee engagement strategy should be tailored to your business and employers. To find the right fit, here are some guidelines to follow.
Step 0: Conduct an employee engagement survey
If you want to find out how to improve employee engagement in your business, ask your employees.
Measuring employee engagement before you start organising any activities will help you figure out what works and what doesn't later down the road. Furthermore, a survey like this will help you gain insights into what areas need some extra work.
To find out how employees feel about working for you, here are some examples of questions to ask in your employee engagement survey.
- How do you feel about our company mission?
- What are our company values? Which ones do you share?
- When was the last time you felt really valued at work?
- How likely are you to recommend us as an employer to your friends?
- What part about your job do you like least?
- What positive things has this job added to your life?
- What would you do differently in your job if you could?
- What excites you about this job?
- How likely is it that you are still working here in two years time, if not much changes?
- What do you want to do in five years?
Also, take into account the key metrics we mentioned earlier, to create a benchmark. You should look back on these numbers often to see the progress you've made.
In this phase, it's also important to tell your employees why you're asking all these questions. If they understand what you're trying to do, they could come up with great suggestions.
Step 1: choose what area you will focus on
Based on what your employees have told you in the survey, pick the key factors that need work. Is it a combination of work-life balance and transparency, or should you really offer more opportunities for growth?
If you know what needs attention, you can start by assigning the right people to this ongoing project. Get input from actual experts and avoid guesswork.
Step 2: Pick your employee engagement strategy
You're not limited to the employee engagement strategies we've mentioned earlier. Your employee engagement strategy can look completely different from what another company has done — each culture and mix of employees is unique.
Step 3: Plan ahead
Make sure there is a budget for your employee engagement strategy, and that you know who's in charge. Schedule meetings to check in on the process and set dates for new surveys to measure the progress.
Assign an employee engagement committee and make it known who's on it and what they do. Make it a mix of senior leaders, middle managers and junior staff — engagement can't be ordered top-down. Every department and level should be represented by those team members
Keep in mind that an engaged workforce should be built company-wide. Departments communicate and influence each other, so only focusing on specific parts might do more harm than good.
Step 4: Adjust where needed
Nobody expects you to get this right on the first try. It's crucial to keep talking to your employees throughout the whole process. — and keep employee engagement a topic that can be openly discussed all the time, for that matter.
Remember: this is not a one-time-thing. You need to keep employees engaged all year round.
Step 5: Hire accordingly
You can't possibly engage employees who aren't a right fit for your business — whether it's about culture or the way you work. Keep this in mind during the hiring process and don't be afraid to ask candidates what truly engages them in a job. This is the only way to find out if you could offer that in the long run.
How to measure the success of your employee engagement strategy
So how do you measure engagement?
Look back at the metrics we discussed earlier, and keep conducting surveys. Keep in mind that it might take a while to see big picture results, such as higher productivity or profits.
Some employees might have to go, because they were never going to get engaged anyway. Then you can start building from the ground up.
The bottom line: if you want to engage your employees, engage with them
If you want to know, ask. Engagement is a highly personal thing and requires a lot of listening and talking. Want to know more? Make sure to check out these resources:
15 Best Employee Engagement Software To Use In 2022
20 Effective Team Incentive Ideas For 2021