Employee Engagement Strategies: Ideas and Tools to Improve

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Bruna Vasconcelos
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Bruna Vasconcelos
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Head of People
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Get your employees to be engaged with your company and team by giving them a purpose for their roles. Here are some strategies and tools to start with, and get employees excited about their accomplishments.
Published on
March 9, 2023
Updated on
April 11, 2024

The Great Resignation is in full swing. Between January 2021 and February 2022, nearly 57 million Americans left their jobs — a 25% increase compared to a similar period before COVID-19.

Why is this happening? According to the Harvard Business Review, it's because people no longer believe that burnout is necessary for success. COVID-19 has made many people realize the possibility of working remotely for companies that care about their employees and give them flexibility. As a result, people have become less willing to work for employers that don't prioritize employee safety, health, and education.

In short, employees are now looking for employers with a high level of employee engagement. A key human resources (HR) concept, employee engagement describes the level of emotional commitment and enthusiasm that an employee has for their company and its goals. Companies with high employee engagement prioritize health and safety and offer flexible work methods. They also provide continuing education and learning opportunities.

Read on to learn more about the advantages of increasing employee engagement and how to improve employee engagement. Along the way, you'll learn strategic tools to use, and ideas and activities to improve.

Benefits of Increasing Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is vital if you want to retain your workforce. The more connected your employees feel to your company and its mission, the less likely they'll be to leave.

According to Gallup, of high-turnover businesses, those that are highly engaged have 24% less turnover. The difference is even more drastic in low-turnover organizations, with highly engaged companies achieving 59% less turnover. For reference, high-turnover organizations have over 40% annualized turnover, while low-turnover companies have 40% or lower annualized turnover.

Increasing employee engagement is not only linked with lower turnover rates. It also provides other benefits, including:

1. Fewer Safety Incidents

Engaged employees are more aware of their surroundings, which means they're less likely to get hurt. Research has shown that highly engaged workplaces experience 70% fewer safety incidents.

2. Improved Employee Health

Engaged employees also have better health. Studies have shown that they're:

  • More likely to exercise
  • Less likely to have chronic diseases
  • Less likely to be obese
  • More likely to eat better

This is because engaged workplaces often provide:

  • Flexible schedules that give employees enough time to cook healthy meals
  • Free wellness and nutrition classes
  • Free or discounted gym memberships

3. Happier Employees

Unengaging workplaces often have strict top-to-bottom hierarchies that aren't conducive to employee well-being and happiness. They also employ harsh mechanisms like termination and peer pressure to drive employees.

While employees may have tolerated these mechanisms in pre-COVID times, they aren't anymore. Instead, employees are gravitating towards engaged organizations that use less stressful practices to motivate employees, such as:

  • Social recognition programs: Also known as employee recognition programs, social recognition programs publicly acknowledge team members for their contributions. These programs come in two forms:
  • Monetary programs, which award tangible or financial awards for certain employee milestones, achievements, or events. Typical examples include:
  • Salary increases
  • Commissions
  • Stock options
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Retirement and healthcare plans
  • Paid training opportunities
  • Gift cards
  • Work travels and conferences
  • Non-monetary programs, which recognize employees for their efforts using non-monetary rewards. Common non-monetary employee recognition programs include:
  • Parking space
  • Job promotion
  • Increased job duties
  • Achievement medals and trophies
  • Thank you awards
  • Days off
  • Flexible work hours and locations
  • Lunch with CEO and managers
  • 360-degree feedback: This is a process through which employees receive anonymous, confidential feedback from people who work around them, including peers, managers, and direct reports.
  • One-on-one meetings: Giving employees constructive criticism in public can result in embarrassment. That's why many engaged companies use one-on-one meetings to review performance with employees. One-on-one meetings are also a great way for managers to get to know employees on a more personal level.
  • Stopping rumors: To promote team unity and employee well-being, managers should investigate rumors and complaints to get a fuller understanding of the bigger picture. If an employee is found to have been spreading rumors, their behavior must be dealt with according to the company code of conduct. If ignored, rumors and negative conservations may eventually evolve into bullying or harassment.

4. Lower Absenteeism and Higher Productivity

According to Gallup, highly engaged businesses experience a 17% increase in productivity and a 41% reduction in absenteeism.

Engaged workers are more likely to come to work every day because they feel an emotional connection to their work and workplace. Since more people are coming to work every day, productivity is higher.

5. Improved Customer Service

Engaged employees are more likely to serve their customers well. Unlike their unengaged counterparts, they deeply care about their jobs, company values, and by extension, the customers.

You will also have higher earnings as a result of improved customer service. Research by Hubspot has indicated that 68% of customers are willing to pay more for services and products for a brand with a strong record of excellent customer service.

5 Employee Engagement Strategies

Now that you know the advantages of employee engagement, here's a look at the best employee engagement ideas.

1. Gain Your Employees' Trust

First, you need to make your employees feel that they can trust you. If employees don't believe in you, communication, performance, and teamwork will suffer.

Here are a few ways to reinforce your trustworthiness:

  • Create a personal connection: Get to know the people on your team and let them get to know you. Do something that makes them feel that you're one of them — chat about sports, what they enjoy doing on their days off, and their passions. Consider setting up regular lunches and calls for these casual talks.
  • Encourage rather than command: Employees want to be respected and valued as individuals. As such, you should talk to them as if they were your peers rather than commanding them.
  • Share whatever information you can: Share as much as possible about the company's health and goals. Not only will this shut down the rumor mill, but it'll also show that you trust your employees. This encourages them to have greater faith in you.

2. Give Employees More Autonomy

According to a University of Birmingham study of 20,000 workers, the more autonomy a worker has, the more satisfied they are with their job. However, there were some differences depending on gender. Women were more likely to appreciate autonomy for location and scheduling, while men were more likely to appreciate autonomy for the pace of work and task allocation.

Many engaged companies give their employees more autonomy by letting employees decide:

  • The pace of their work
  • What software and apps to use for work
  • The order of task completion
  • Where and when to do their work

Other ways to increase employee autonomy include:

  • Sponsoring or supporting employee passion projects
  • Letting employees work with minimal supervision
  • Letting employees delegate some of their responsibilities when needed

3. Offer Continuing Education and Learning Opportunities

Another way to engage employees is to offer continuing education and learning opportunities.

When employees use these opportunities to refine existing skills and acquire new ones, they feel valued and cared for. As a result, they're more likely to feel invested in your company since there are clear paths for job enrichment, career development, and growth.

There are three main types of education and learning opportunities:

  1. On-site programs: These include computer-based training, corporate training departments, consultant-led workshops, and peer-to-peer training. Large corporations may even have on-site "universities" that provide content and instruction via off-site institutions.
  2. Off-site programs: These include college classes, certificate or degree programs, seminars, employee exchanges, distance learning, and sabbaticals.
  3. Hybrid programs: Hybrid programs combine on-site and off-site learning. An example would be a program that is partially offered at the job site and partially offered online or at a college campus. Many programs involve collaboration between a company and an education provider, such as a university or boot camp.

4. Implement a Peer-to-Peer Recognition Program

Most companies already have management recognition programs that reward employees with advancement and other benefits for their contributions.

However, recognition from management often misses daily wins. On the other hand, peer-to-peer recognition programs are a great way to celebrate day-to-day achievements, especially for remote and hybrid employees.

Here's how you can start a peer-to-peer recognition program:

Define Goals

Why do you want to create a peer-to-peer recognition program? Is it to:

  • Increase workplace engagement and satisfaction?
  • Boost employee retention or productivity?
  • Give team leads more opportunities for performance reviews?

Write down your goals and ensure all stakeholders are aligned before you design your program.

Choose Tools and Methods

How will your program work? Is it online, offline, or hybrid?

If it's online, what kind of software will you be using? Does the software have a mobile app? Is the mobile app user-friendly? Will you use any offline components to ground the program in the real world?

Many companies use real-life objects to remind employees about the program. For example, you can display employee recognition certificates in the break room.

Tell Employees About the Program

Next, you need to tell your team about the program. Don't just send a newsletter — you should have a mini-training session and a gradual roll-out to encourage adoption.

Lead and Encourage Adoption

Use and talk about the program as often as possible. If you notice that people are reluctant to adopt the program, ask them why. Then, think about ways to improve the program. For example, if people don't like to use the program because the app is buggy, consider raising the issue with your app developer.

5. Create a Transparent Work Culture

Last but not least, you must create a transparent work culture.

A transparent work culture lets employees align their interests with your company's vision. It also gives them more confidence that their work has value. Think about it: if your employees don't know what's happening behind the scenes, they're much less likely to invest in your company.

Here are a few ways to create a transparent work culture:

  • Hold weekly meetings: To become transparent, you need to have regular meetings with all of your employees, regardless of seniority. Besides updating employees on business goals and states, you should also listen to their complaints and grievances.
  • Give your employees a chance to share their everyday experiences: Office networking tools like Yammer and Slack can encourage employees to share their everyday experiences. They give employees (even remote and hybrid ones) a way to stay in touch. Additionally, employee "pulse check" apps like TINYpulse can help determine how your team feels about stress levels, workloads, and office culture.
  • Create an anonymous suggestion box: Many employees prefer giving anonymous feedback. Consider creating an anonymous suggestion box to receive feedback from a wider range of employees.

Tools for Employee Engagement 

To make the most out of your employee engagement strategies, you need access to a gamut of employee engagement tools, including:

1. Apps for Uncovering Employee Experiences and Engagement Opportunities

To learn more about how your employees think about your workplace, invest in survey software that uncovers employee experiences and engagement opportunities. Ideally, these tools should have multiple survey options for evaluating employee experiences, including:

  • Annual engagement surveys: Annual engagement surveys measure employee engagement across the organization every year. This type of survey is particularly helpful in spotting overall engagement trends and creating benchmarks to track changes over time.
  • Pulse surveys: If you need more frequent feedback, consider sending out pulse surveys. These surveys measure feedback with frequent and shorter check-ins. Compared to annual engagement surveys, they tend to be more contextual and hyper-focused. For example, you may want to use a pulse survey to see how employees feel about a new app or project management methodology.
  • Lifecycle surveys: These surveys collect feedback at specific moments during an employee's tenure at your company. Companies use them to monitor how employees perceive your organization and why they decide to stay or leave. Common examples include onboarding and exit surveys.

Popular survey tools include:

2. Tools for Giving and Receiving Feedback

Giving feedback isn't as easy as it looks, especially at large companies. With so many employees and departments, managers may find it difficult to provide feedback at the right time.

That's where feedback tools come in. Intuitive and powerful, these platforms empower employees to ask anyone — peers, direct reports, and managers — for help. They may also provide:

  • The ability to write weekly goals and process
  • Unlimited objectives and key results (OKRs) training
  • Data visualization and reporting
  • A TV dashboard for keeping everyone on the same page

Some of the best feedback platforms include:

3. Software for Setting and Tracking Goals

Using Google Docs and Sheets to set and track goals can quickly become tiring, especially if you have multiple departments and goals to meet in a short period of time.

Luckily, you can use goal-setting apps to align teams and employees to your company's vision for success. These tools empower you to:

  • Set individual, team, department, and company goals and milestones
  • Track completion
  • Prioritize tasks
  • Easily manage permissions
  • Keep backlogs and Scrum Sprints on a timeline
  • Import tasks from other software
  • Connect goals to workflows

The best goal-setting software include:

4. Employee Achievement Recognition Tools

As noted above, employee recognition plays a vital role in employee engagement.

While it's possible to recognize employee achievements offline, you should strongly consider adopting an online employee recognition software, especially if you have a remote or hybrid team. Digital employee recognition tools will keep your workers motivated no matter when and where they're working.

To illustrate, let's say you have an in-person team in the U.S. and a software development team in Venezuela, Chile, and the Philippines. To keep everyone motivated and break down departmental silos, you need a user-friendly, mobile-friendly user recognition software that allows personalities to shine. Think Slack, but with gifts, certificates, icebreakers, one-on-ones, and other personalized experiences.

The ideal user recognition software should also provide analytics and alerts to help managers celebrate employee milestones and successes on time.

Depending on which software you choose, your employee recognition app can offer a multitude of non-monetary and monetary awards, including:

  • Gift cards
  • Prepaid credit cards
  • Cash
  • Charity donations
  • Company merch, such as hats and water bottles

You may also be able to automate the process and send rewards in bulk.

Some of the hottest employee recognition platforms include:

5. Employee Engagement Analytics Platforms

Driving employee engagement never ends. Even after implementing all of the software above, over time, people will enter and leave your company for a variety of reasons. Existing staff may also change their views, behaviors, and interactions with others over time. That's why an employee engagement strategy isn't complete without an analytics platform.

Like website analytics tools, employee engagement analytics platforms collect data from across your business to help leaders discover how, why, and where people are engaged. These tools can also help you understand statistics like flight risk and turnover trends.

Popular analytics tools for employee engagement include:

Ideas to Improve Employee Engagement

Besides getting the right tools, you should also improve pre-existing ideas and activities. Otherwise, managers and the C-suite will find it challenging to increase employee engagement.

The the top ideas and activities to improve include:

Measuring Employee Engagement

What's your current way of measuring employee engagement? Does it work well?

If not, brainstorm ways to streamline employee engagement measurement.

For example, you can adopt some or all of the tools in the previous section. You can also implement an all-in-one employment engagement solution if you have a large workforce and you need access to all of the tools above. All-in-one platforms maximize engagement opportunities by combining all of the features in the previous section to help managers reward and coach employees more effectively and efficiently.

Important Statistics To Pay Attention To

To get a complete picture of why people are engaged or disengaged, pay attention to the following:

  • Turnover trends: This statistic measures the number of workers who leave your company during a specific period, usually one year. Most organizations measure the total number of employees who leave, but you can apply turnover to subcategories in your company, like demographic groups and individual departments. Use this statistic to determine:
  • Which specific groups are the most likely to leave
  • What you can do to promote employee engagement across your organization
  • Flight risk: Flight risk refers to the likelihood that a worker will leave your company for a better job elsewhere. Analytics software determines flight risk by identifying patterns in your terminated employees' engagement survey data and mapping these patterns onto current employees. Use this statistic to determine:
  • Why certain employees or groups of employees are more likely to leave
  • What you can do to promote retention
  • Retention rates: Finally, you need to observe your retention rate — the percentage of employees who continue working for your company over a given timeframe. Ideally, your employee retention rate should be over 90%. Besides looking at your overall employee retention rate, your analytics software will also provide retention rates across different categories, such as:
  • Retention rate per manager
  • Retention rate of managers
  • Retention rate per department
  • Retention rate per gender
  • Retention rate per age group

Increase Employee Engagement at Your Company

Engaging employees is more complex than ever. Thanks to the rise of remote work, workers are much less willing to work for unengaging workplaces that don't give them the recognition they deserve.

As such, you need to keep your employees engaged. Not only will this help you retain talent, but it will also keep your employees safer, healthier, and happier. Engaged employees are also more likely to show up to work.

To create an engaged workplace, you need to adopt best practices and tools. Specifically, you need to gain your employees' trust, give them more autonomy, offer continuing education opportunities, implement peer-to-peer feedback, and create a transparent work culture.

You can accomplish this by adopting strategic engagement tools, such as software for uncovering employee experiences, apps for giving and receiving feedback, and analytics platforms.

If you are unsure how to get your software developers and engineers more engaged, come to Revelo to hire an engineer manager to help with your company’s engagement.  Schedule a meeting with one of our representatives who can walk you through the vetting and hiring process, and answer any questions you may have regarding hiring tech talent and nearshoring to Latin America.

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