The concept of employee engagement isn’t very old. In fact, the phrase was coined just a few decades ago in 1990 by Boston University’s William Kahn.
Definitions vary, but thematically they are effectively the same. We prefer the simplicity of the definition used by Investopedia, Employee engagement is a human resources (HR) concept that describes the level of enthusiasm and dedication a worker feels toward their job. In this post, we’ll share why employee engagement matters along with five strategies for increasing employee engagment.
Why Employee Engagement Matters
For human resources and people operations professionals, it is increasingly difficult to hire and retain exceptional talent. It’s important to increase the level of your employees’ commitment and connection to your company. The more committed and connected, the greater your employee retention rates, and let’s face it, it’s not easy to find high quality candidates these days. It’s a tough market out there.
According to this great article from SHRM, Developing and Sustaining Employee Engagement, strong employee engagement also translates to improved customer loyalty, organizational performance, stakeholder value, and company reputation. Think about that from a value proposition: if you are retaining customers, you’re spending less trying to replace them; if your performance is better, your cost of goods is likely lower; if stakeholder value and company reputation are improved, it’s easier to acquire future investment and new talent. It’s the management Grand Slam.
So how can you increase employee engagement? Of course, much will depend on the size of your firm and the budget available to you.
Strategies for Increasing Employee Engagement
You may not have Google’s budget for adding a killer onsite restaurant with free food or a state-of-the-art gym with personal trainers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative. Focus on the areas that will be most impactful to employee’s lives. Create activities that consider wellness, fun/camaraderie, education/skills advancement, and, our motto, saving them time-for-what-matters.
1. Wellness Engagement Activities
HR guru Josh Bersin and his team recently published an extensive report entitled The Definitive Guide to Wellbeing: The Healthy Organization. You can purchase the full report, but this infographic is worth a look. Use it to brainstorm your own creative ideas in additions to ours below.
- Rent massage chairs once a month or once a quarter and offer 15 minute massages. It offers a brief reprieve during the stress of the day. Here’s an example massage chair signup.
- Bring a chiropractor to the office to help work the kinks out for employees. Here’s our example chiropractor signup.
- Bring a nurse onsite to administer flu shots. That’s one of those things that people procrastinate on and the sick time off doesn’t help your bottomline.
- Hire a nutritionist for a day or two. People who eat well feel better physically and they tend to feel better about themselves. Healthy diets also lead to less sick time and improved long-term wellness. Talk about a win-win!
- Hire a life coach to come and do 20-25 minute sessions a few times per month. Encourage employees to focus on a specific concern. If helpful, they can continue outside the office in private sessions. Alternatively, or additionally have the life coach conduct large group sessions too…focus on topics that will aid your staff both in the office and at home (e.g. better communication techniques, conflict resolution strategies, etc.). Bryan Robinson, Ph.D notes that burnout can’t be “cured” with a quick fix…”the biggest antidote is preventative measures.” Arm managers and employees with strategies for handling emotional issues.
- Hire a meditation specialist to teach employees about the benefits of daily meditation.
- Bring in a team to teach CPR to employees to make their home and workplaces safer.
2. Fun/Camaraderie Engagement Activities
Your company’s culture is an integral factor in how engaged your employees will be with your organization. While all of these different types of engagement activities will contribute to your company culture, planning ‘fun’ activities is a great way to encourage positive relationships between coworkers and teams.
- Have a Friday Free Lunch once a month. Offer a few options and enjoy a good meal together. Here’s our example menu. Buy a few gift cards and raffle them off at lunch. Make sure that everyone know you must be present to win. This will help encourage people to be present in the office and enjoy one another’s company.
- Schedule time at Escape Rooms to build camaraderie in problem solving outside of the office.
- The Queen’s Gambit was all the rage during the pandemic. Hire a chess pro to give lessons in your conference room. You can group by skillset. Employees can then share their new knowledge with their families and they might even set-up their own matches with colleagues. Here’s our example chess coaching signup.
- Make a few DIY pickle ball courts in the parking lot. Hire an advanced player to teach the fundamentals of the game. Here’s an example.
- Offer some offsite (or onsite if you have the facilities for it) cooking lessons. Find a local teaching chef and hire them to do a few sessions for you. Consider a monthly theme and vary the day of the week like we did in this example cooking lesson signup.
- Book an indoor Ax Throwing facility for an evening of Wild West fun.
3. Education/Skillset Enhancements
Offering education and/or skillset enhancement opportunities to your employees broadcasts two clear messages:
- We care about your career and want you to rise to your optimal capacity.
- Our firm values a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
Communicate frequently with your mid-level managers and team leaders to determine what offerings will reap the greatest rewards both for individuals AND for the company. We suggest a few ideas below.
- Bring in an expert to speak on something relative to your company’s field. Or perhaps an interesting author. Heck, make it a speaker series. Give your employees an experience they might not normally get on their own. Here’s our example.
- Coordinate with a local community college to arrange for courses specific to the needs of your employees.
- Offer periodic or full-time subscriptions to LinkedIn Learning (formerly lynda.com). Encourage completion certifications with creative rewards.
4. Save them Time
People are constantly strapped for time. Reflect on what you can offer your staff that will help alleviate the stress associated with persistently feeling like you need to clone yourself to get it all done.
- Hire an accountant to meet with younger employees early in tax season. They can come armed with questions that a pro can answer for them. Make sure you schedule time spots so that no one can monopolize too much of the accountant’s time.
- Partner with a nearby dry cleaner to arrange for pick-up and drop-off at the office.
- Bring in a financial planner and offer group overview sessions and then follow-up with short sessions for Q & A.
5. Doing Good Together
Another way to encourage engagement is through hosting events that support your business’s local community or initiatives that contribute to global causes.
- Schedule a “Volunteer Day” in your community to clean up a local park, plant trees, or play with puppies at your local animal shelter.
- Host a semi-annual blood drive at your office.
- Team up with your local Boys and Girls Club to tutor or mentor young people.
In addition to events, ongoing corporate social responsibility policies, like matching employees’ donations or providing volunteer grants, at your organization are great ways to demonstrate your company’s values and engage employees. If you’re interested in learning more, dive in with our guide to corporate social impact.
Managing Employee Engagement Activities
Most people would agree that measuring the effectiveness of our activities and initiatives is key to our success. All of the recommended activities above have some cost associated with them. As a result, it’s important to determine if these endeavors produce results.
One way to establish this is with surveys throughout the year. Consider an organizational employee satisfaction survey once per quarter or per month. To encourage survey completion, enter the names of those who complete it, in a raffle for gift cards.
Compare the results of the survey against the level of participation in your employee engagement activities. As participation increases do the survey results improve?
By using signups for each of your activities, you will have a history of who signed up for what. Over time, you can see which activities are the most popular with your employees. This can inform future choices for your offerings.
In addition, you can compare the level of engagement activity participation against the longevity of employees. Did the guy who just quit ever participate in such activities? Are your longer term employees frequent participants of your employee engagement activities?
Finally, PlanHero offers a Public Group Page on which you can post all of the employee engagement activity signups. Employees can sign up for whatever they want, sync the activity to their calendar, and edit them as needed.
There are many options available for how you manage this area in your organization. But regardless of size, start small and build upon your successes.
How about you? What kind of activities do you enjoy at your company? Which programs make you feel like your firm cares about your well-being?