Your organization can have an innovative product and an extensive customer network. Your sales and marketing strategies can be rock-solid and backed up by a carefully crafted media plan.
But if your employees are just going through the motions without feeling personally connected to what they’re doing every day, they’re not likely taking true ownership of their roles. Effective employee engagement strategies create healthier company cultures, where workers are inspired to think big and explore new ideas.
What is employee engagement?
Engaged employees support their colleagues, take pride in their jobs, and feel a sense of purpose that aligns with your organizational mission. They’re more likely to show up every day, ready to do their best to make your company successful. Gallup poll data shows business units who rank among the top 25% for employee engagement enjoy 81% lower absenteeism and 23% higher profitability compared to those in the bottom quartile.
Conversely, when employees aren’t engaged at work, business performance suffers. Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce 2022 Report estimates low employee engagement costs the global economy $7.8 trillion per year. The same report indicates only 21% of employees feel actively engaged at work—a sign that many organizations still have a long way to go.
In addition to more tangible business benefits, there’s growing evidence that engaged employees could even be more creative. The International Journal of Comparative Management published a 2019 study indicating higher employee engagement can increase potential for innovation throughout a business.
What is an employee engagement strategy?
Employee engagement strategies are intentional, organization-wide efforts to instill a sense of purpose among your employees and keep them motivated to make a difference. Companies with great employee engagement are often highly sought-after workplaces that attract the top professionals in their field.
Your strategy should include a clear way to measure employee engagement and establish benchmarks of how and where you need to improve. It should also document the specific measures you’ll implement to reach those goals.
Single-serving events like team-building activities are an important piece of the puzzle. However, the best employee engagement strategies require a more expansive and holistic approach to making workers feel seen, heard, and valued.
Our top 15 employee engagement strategies for 2023
1. Understand your current engagement levels.
It’s important to get an accurate picture of your current engagement and how it differs between departments. Creating your own employee engagement survey may sound daunting, but it can be surprisingly straightforward and lead to useful insights with the right tools. If certain teams are consistently less bought-in than others, it could be an indication of underlying process issues or managers who need more training.
2. Build a great onboarding process.
Many workers have experienced the anxiety of starting a new job and immediately being overwhelmed with a flood of unstructured, poorly documented information. Qualtrics reports organizations with strong onboarding processes improve new-hire retention by 82%. Taking the time to collect and organize critical information for your new hires sets them up to be successful, rather than having them join the one-third of people who quit their jobs within the first 90 days.
3. Facilitate peer-to-peer recognition.
Whether it’s a dedicated Slack channel or a recurring part of staff meetings, making space for colleagues and departments to acknowledge each other’s efforts builds common ground and keeps people motivated. Research from Quantum Workplace shows employees are 2.7 times more likely to stay engaged when they believe their efforts will be recognized at work.
4. Encourage transparency.
Executives and managers who treat information as a shared resource—rather than something to be used as leverage—build greater trust with their employees and a more productive work environment. A 2017 study found that transparent leadership can even boost creativity because people who feel psychologically safe are more willing to challenge the status quo.
5. Dismantle your internal silos.
If your teams are toiling away on separate pieces of projects without ever exchanging ideas about the big picture, that’s a recipe for checked-out employees and subpar results. Be intentional about creating collaborative workflow processes and utilizing interactive communication tools to keep everybody working toward common goals. Even when certain teams work well together, be wary of cliques forming that can exacerbate communication breakdowns with the rest of the organization.
6. Provide regular feedback.
Employees shouldn’t just be hearing from their managers when they’ve made a mistake. Creating structured systems for delivering frequent feedback helps your people know where they excel and where they could improve. According to a recent Gallup survey, 84% of employees who received meaningful feedback in the past week said they were actively engaged at work.
7. Make feedback a two-way street.
Too often, feedback only flows from higher-ups to employees who are more closely involved in a project’s day-to-day details. Giving employees a voice in company-defining decisions by utilizing open-ended responses in meetings or surveys allows leaders to collect insights from the people closest to your company’s products and processes.
8. Be vigilant about your workflow.
Making efforts to streamline your workflow is a frequently overlooked factor in workplace quality of life. While it’s important to walk the line between stability and making frequent, potentially disruptive changes, you should be regularly checking in with your teams to see where they’re experiencing roadblocks.
9. Train your managers.
It’s a tale lived out at countless companies—somebody becomes really good at a skill, so they’re promoted to manage others who perform that same skill. But because managing people is an entirely different proficiency, even the best-intentioned managers can fall short without leadership training. A 2022 survey from GoodHire showed a staggering 82% of employees would be willing to quit their job due to a bad manager.
10. Make sure meetings have a clear purpose.
Most people can relate to the feeling of sitting through a bone-dry meeting that seemingly exists solely to steal time away from more productive tasks. However, when done well, meetings can be important touch points for collaborative discussion. Interactive meeting tools can help attendees prepare and bring more polished ideas to the conversation.
11. Empower team leaders to push back.
In fast-paced work environments, sometimes stakeholders who aren’t immersed in the technical details set unrealistic expectations for certain projects. And while long days and tight timelines are occasionally inevitable, they shouldn’t be your standard operating procedure. With many employees naming a heavy workload as their main source of workplace stress, managers who are willing to push back on unreasonable demands will build greater trust with their team members.
12. Know your values, and live by them.
When employees feel their company’s mission and values align with their own, they’re significantly more likely to feel personally fulfilled by their work and less likely to seek another job. Make sure your organization has clearly defined values and that you’re communicating them to your employees. Most importantly, make a habit of recognizing when teams and individuals are living up to those values.
13. Create a culture of asking for help.
While every company wants a workforce full of self-starters, even the most independent employees need some support once in a while. When you encourage people to ask for help rather than struggle to solve problems on their own, teams grow closer and employees stay more committed. The ADP Research Institute discovered employees who felt like part of a team were more than twice as likely to be fully engaged at work.
14. Offer clear paths for growth.
Nobody likes the feeling of wondering where they stand with their boss and what it might take to earn that big promotion. Companies who offer defined growth tracks for all employees and establish clear performance benchmarks are much more likely to retain top talent. Numerous studies have shown career development is a primary determining factor in job satisfaction and employee engagement.
15. Encourage egoless leadership.
When company leaders are willing to be vulnerable and answer tough questions—or admit they don’t have all the answers—your employees feel like they’re part of a team rather than just along for the ride. Creating opportunities to submit anonymous feedback to management during important meetings can illuminate new perspectives and answer questions your employees may have on their minds.
By prioritizing employee engagement strategies within your organization, you can build more productive and collaborative teams and improve your employee retention and overall profitability. Poll Everywhere makes it easy to design and distribute custom polls and surveys, so you can regularly check in with your teams and understand how to better support them at work.
If you’re looking for more ideas about how to create a more committed workforce, check out our employee engagement ebook for useful insights about strengthening your culture and keeping employees connected to your mission.