Re-energize your workforce: 13 easy ways to get employees engaged

Re-energize your workforce: 13 Easy Ways to get Employees Engaged

What manager wouldn’t love to walk into the office each morning to a group of smiling, eager employees, ready to take on the day?
But the reality is … that just doesn’t happen.

Distracted and disengaged

Study after study shows the majority of employees struggle just to make it through the day. Presenteeism – the act of showing up to work unfocused – costs companies $150 billion a year in productivity, according to the American Medical Association.

So why are your people sleepwalking through the day? They’re unengaged! A 2018 Gallup survey reveals only 15% of employees consider themselves engaged in their work.

Benefits of engagement

Apart from making the workplace a happier place, engaged employees just make good business sense. Satisfied employees create a higher quality of work. Not to mention the happier the employees, the less likely they are to look for a new job – and everyone wants to hold on tight to their top talent.

While transforming every employee’s attitude can seem daunting, improving engagement doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. A lot of small initiatives can add up to make a huge difference.

Effortless engagement

There are several areas HR pros can focus on for maximum engagement, according to Tim Eisenhauer, author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Implementing a few of these simple ideas in each category will set you on the path to a more productive workforce:


  1. Encourage staff to speak up. Good ideas are buzzing around in your employees’ heads constantly, but that does you no good if they don’t share them. Their hesitation usually comes from a fear of criticism. To fix this, make it known all ideas are welcome, and promote an open-door policy. Fostering a safe space for communication will have employees rushing to offer suggestions.
  2. Clarify goals and responsibilities. It’s hard for employees to be engaged if they’re confused about their role or what’s expected of them. Every time a new project comes up, take the extra time to thoroughly explain all the details and answer questions – the result is always worth your while.
  3. Involve employees in the hiring process. Bringing an employee into the search for a new hire will make them feel appreciated and useful. Not only will it boost engagement, but the employee will undoubtedly offer helpful insight to make a better selection.

Sue Whitener, HR director at HR Innovations, had success with this idea. Her company began including an employee representative in interviews, which helped candidates get an inside perspective. The employee would have an open dialogue with the candidates and answer questions about the job and company culture honestly. Not only did this give candidates a better idea of what the company was like, but being included in the process made employees feel more valued.


  1. Reward employees only for a job well done. Recognizing when your employees do good work is always a good idea, but it’s important to be careful not to overdo it. Dishing out compliments willy-nilly can have the opposite effect, causing employees to get too comfortable and slack off. By reserving rewards for the best work only, employees will strive to achieve a higher standard. Matt Chatut, quality manager from Greylock Federal Credit Union, found simple praise was a great way to keep employees engaged and motivated. When an employee would go above and beyond, a manager would thank the person for their hard work in front of their colleagues. Just knowing that the higher ups noticed all the effort they put in did wonders to motivate them. Employees now continue to work hard so they can achieve that recognition again.
  2. Celebrate birthdays and accomplishments. One time to overdo it with the celebrating? Birthdays and milestones. Employees will feel like you care if you take the time to wish them a happy birthday or congratulate them on a new baby.
  3. Have staff recognize each other, too. Don’t leave the praising solely to managers. Encourage employees to compliment their peers on excellent work. This will create respect and harmony and lead to improved teamwork. Kaitlyn Uden, HR manager of Parkland College, organized a staff recognition program for her employees. With “Kudos for Colleagues,” employees fill out cards to their co-workers explaining what makes them great. Every month there are dozens of compliments, which has boosted morale and inspired everyone to go above and beyond.

Fun and Socialization

  1. Organize games and happy hours. Show your employees you want them to have fun in the office and get friendly with their co-workers with a little old-fashioned fun. Plan a happy hour at the end of a particularly busy week and let your staff unwind. Or, carve some time out of the day for everyone to de-stress by playing the occasional board game. Mark Buff, CEO of Mohu Consumer Electronics, took office games a step further and organized a trip for his employees outside of the office. Employees would get more stressed at certain times of the year, so the company used to reward people with extra time off or a fun holiday party. But after some employee suggestions, they decided to take it a step further. In addition to the holiday party, the company took employees to a fun park for the day. Not only did go-karts and laser tag relief some stress, it helped with team building, too.
  2. Bring in food and treats. Planning a potluck lunch every now and then or surprising staff with donuts or ice cream is a very simple way to promote socialization and brighten your employees’ day.
  3. Make your workspace unique. Dull, gray cubes and plain white walls don’t do much to inspire creativity. Try giving your office a little facelift. Even adding little things like pops of color, artwork and plants can impact on morale. Jennifer Delphino, HR manager at Smithfield Foods, knows just how big of an impact an office redesign can have. The workspace was filled with cubes, and employees mostly stayed in there and kept to themselves. Not to mention, the cubes were looking extremely cluttered and were filled to the brim with personal items. The company decided to take down those cube walls and arrange desks into little pods, organizing seating arrangements that made sense socially and for work purposes. The HR department even went a step further and started encouraging employees to limit printing in order to prevent more clutter. The open office space now looks so much better aesthetically, and employees are enjoying the change.

Professional development

  1. Perfect the onboarding process. There’s no such thing as too much assistance during a new hire’s first few months. It may seem like overkill, but the more involved you are during a new hire’s onboarding process, the more likely they are to stay long term. Rachel Kahanec, HR manager at Eder, Casella & Co., helped establish a unique and thorough onboarding process that works. After a candidate accepts a job offer, the company assembles a little swag bag to get the new hire excited before they even start. They’ll receive things like a sweatshirt, water bottle and lunch bag. The onboarding kicks it up a notch on the new person’s first day, where they’re taken out to lunch to get to know their co-workers. A few days after that, managers will take the new hire to lunch as well, where they explain the company’s core values and goals to really make the employee feel like a part of the team.
  2. Let employees use natural talents. Everyone on your team has an area where they really shine, so let them use their strengths! Nothing tanks engagement more than assigning employees tasks they aren’t comfortable with. Match up projects with people’s natural talents, and they’ll be happy to tackle them.
  3. Be a mentor. Employees are going to encounter plenty of personal and professional challenges throughout their careers. Let them know you’re there for them! Carve out time to check in and let your people know you’re available to just listen or dole out some serious advice.
  4. Offer education opportunities. Get familiar with your employees’ career aspirations and offer them tools to achieve their goals. This could mean helping them get enrolled in classes, rearranging their schedules for an internship or bringing workshops to the office. By recognizing your people have aspirations and helping them reach those, they’ll be happy to stick around for a while. Tracy Ro, HR manager from MOPS International, helped to develop learning opportunities for her employees. Her company used to do leadership training sessions for all the managers, but coordinating schedules was getting tricky, and very few managers ended up attending. Not only that, but there were some employees who expressed interest in attending these sessions, so the HR department decided to revamp the program. They opened the training program up to everyone. Sessions covered things like group discussions on certain leadership books, and every now and then experts were brought in to teach everyone about unconscious bias and racial unity. Employees love these sessions and are very eager to participate.
Rachel Mucha
Rachel writes about Human Resource management and has been a member of the HRMorning staff since 2017. She is a graduate of Ithaca College. Email: