Employee engagement is critical to every organization’s success — so you likely need employee engagement ideas all the time.
Just 32% of employees are fully engaged at work right now, according to a Gallup index. And almost 20% are actively disengaged. This great divide between full-on engagement and total disengagement can cause big problems in any organization.
Engagement vs. disengagement
Employee engagement looks different at every company, but it’s commonly seen as employees’ commitment to work and loyalty to their employer. You see employees with positive attitudes toward their company, colleagues and customers, and who want to to help contribute to overall successes.
Engaged employees contribute to the better good, helping themselves, colleagues and the company succeed.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, disengaged employees often have negative attitudes toward their work, the organization and sometimes colleagues and customers. You’d usually see employees working slowly, lacking interest in their work, being easily and prolongingly distracted, and doing the minimum.
Disengaged employees don’t care about their work, the company, colleagues, clients — pretty much everything associated with working — and don’t fully contribute on a day-to-day basis.
Specifically, disengaged employees have 37% higher absenteeism rate, 18% lower productivity rate and 15% lower profitability rate than their engaged counterparts. Put that into dollars, and it’s a third of the disengaged employee’s salary wasted every year, Gallup researchers found.
Employee engagement ideas at work
That’s why the need for employee engagement ideas never ends.
HR professionals and front-line managers want to keep employees engaged. And you want to re-engage employees who’ve lost interest in and passion for their work and company.
Here are 38 employee engagement ideas:
1. Foster open communication
Idea: Encourage and foster open communication.
Implement: Get company executives to regularly communicate higher level information (in simple language) that affects people and processes. Ask managers to share department level information weekly and maintain an open door for employee feedback.
Effects: Employees will feel more comfortable speaking up and asking questions when they see communication flow easily and candidly.
2. Create ways to collaborate
Idea: Create more opportunities for professional collaboration across departments, functions and seniority levels.
Implement: HR can create more inter-departmental teams to explore, design and execute employee initiatives. Encourage department and team leaders to invite representatives from other departments they work with closely to be part of projects.
Effects: Employees who are part of initiatives outside their individual areas get a more holistic view of operations — and often find deeper meaning at work and interest in their company.
3. Offer development opportunities
Idea: Offer more opportunities for career development.
Implement: Build a library of online or on-demand training geared at helping employees learn general skills that can help them advance in any area — for instance, leadership, decision-making, problem-solving and goal-setting.
Effects: Employees become more engaged with organizations that show they care about their learning professional development and career growth.
4. Create and revisit career paths
Idea: Help front-line managers work with their direct reports to create, review and update career goals and progress.
Implement: Give managers tools and time to lay out each employee’s career aspirations. During regular performance reviews, map out how employees can develop skills and pursue opportunities toward those goals.
Effects: Employees stay loyal to leaders and organizations that invest in their future.
5. Clarify purpose
Idea: Clarify the purpose behind assigned work.
Implement: Make it clear to employees the rationale behind their work. Even better, describe their contribution in the context of the larger project or program and the company’s vision.
Effects: Employees who see how their contributions impact their job and organization’s success are more committed to doing their jobs well.
6. Actively listen
Idea: Actively listen to employee concerns and ideas.
Implement: Create open dialogues through one-on-ones, town hall meetings and online portals to capture employees’ ideas, concerns and questions. Get upper level management involved in addressing what’s uncovered.
Effects: You make employees feel valued and understood when you solicit and welcome feedback — and more importantly, act on it.
7. Communicate, commit to vision
Idea: Communicate, celebrate and continually get commitment to the company vision.
Implement: Give employees (and customers) a visual reminder of your company vision everywhere — signs on walls, below your logo, in electronic correspondence, on social media placements and posts, etc. Celebrate success that directly impact the vision. Ask employees for their commitment to the vision.
Effects: Employees will stay engaged when they see how their individual commitment makes an impact on organizational success.
8. Match interests
Idea: Match employee interests in their jobs and tasks.
Implement: Find out employees’ preferences and greatest interests in their jobs and tasks. Encourage managers to assign tasks that match those whenever possible. But regularly review their preferences, as they change over time.
Effects: People work harder when they are interested in what they’re doing.
9. Create healthy tension
Idea: Create a healthy level of competition.
Implement: Hold employees to high, but reasonable, standards so they seldom get bored and almost always strive to reach goals. Offer rewards for reaching goals and create levels of accountability if expectations aren’t met.
Effects: Employees remain productive when they feel they can reach goals and be rewarded for that.
10. Involve employees in hiring
Idea: Involve employees in the hiring process.
Implement: When possible, bring employee(s) who will be impacted by the new hire in on the hiring process. Invite them to sit in on and participate in the interviews. Train them on the types of questions they can and can’t ask. Let them have a voice in the final selection.
Effects: Being involved makes employees feel appreciated and useful — and you get valuable insight to make a better choice.
11. Recognize and reward good work
Idea: Recognize and reward the best work.
Implement: Never miss an opportunity to point out and appreciate good work. But make a big deal out of the best work. Give employees public recognition (if they’re comfortable with it) and reward appropriately.
Effects: You’ll boost morale and light a fire under employees to continue to do great work.
12. Celebrate work highlights
Idea: Celebrate team and individual accomplishments, plus special anniversaries and milestones.
Implement: Schedule time at least quarterly to celebrate — perhaps with food and camaraderie — team accomplishments, employee goals, work anniversaries and milestones. You don’t have to hand out rewards then. Just do some public celebrating to show you noticed, care about and are proud of what employees do.
Effects: Recognizing employees often makes them feel they work for a good company and good people.
13. Celebrate life events
Idea: Recognize and celebrate events that are important to people outside of work.
Implement: Congratulate employees on life events such as birthdays, weddings, engagements and births. Also ask them to share personal triumphs – such as completing in an athletic event, participating in a cultural event, graduating, getting certified, buying a home, etc. — so you can share their good news and everyone can congratulate or compliment them.
Effects: You can build a tighter sense of community when leaders and employees celebrate each other’s personal accomplishments.
14. Make people feel important
Idea: Take time to make others feel important (formally and informally).
Implement: There’s a difference between feeling important and feeling appreciated. Importance is about relevance. Bring up employees’ and teams’ past successes and contributions to others in meetings or individually. Reiterate the impact they had on current conditions and why it was important.
Effects: Employees will relish in the attention and feel good about the positive things they’ve done — and can do going forward.
15. Add some fun
Idea: Plan fun events in the workplace for employees to choose to participate in.
Implement: Schedule breaks and lunches with board games and puzzles for employees to work on together. Organize potluck lunches with themes. Have a picnic catered, and set up outdoor activities such as cornhole and frisbee. Bring a food truck on site and give employees a longer break to enjoy time to chat.
Effects: Employees will feel appreciated and relieved from work stress.
16. Upgrade the workspace
Idea: Improved work spaces to make them more inviting.
Implement: Try to add plants and colorful artwork to otherwise dull and gray work areas. Invite employees to put their personal touches on their workspaces. Or give them the opportunity to collaborate on what to do to improve the space — and run with their conceivable ideas.
Effects: Moods will brighten when the workplace is brighter and more inviting.
17. Lean on mentors
Idea: Create or improve a mentor program.
Implement: Ask employees to serve as mentors to new employees, those who want to advance professionally and anyone who wants a mentor. Bolster an employee peer mentor program by giving mentors time and tools to train. Then give them scheduled opportunities to mentor, plus the organic opportunities that will arise with their mentee.
Effects: Employees will likely be more interested in growing at your company and learn more while part of a mentor program.
18. Connect personally
Idea: Make daily efforts to connect with colleagues.
Implement: It may sound cliché, but small things matter. Saying hello and goodbye to people you know and people you will get to know means something. Address them by their names. Even better, ask about their weekend, hobby, significant others (bonus: know and use their family members’ names), or anything that’s important to them. You do it, others will, too. Soon enough, everyone will feel like they have a work family.
Effects: Employees will care more about work when those at work care more about them.
19. Let employees praise each other
Idea: Give employees tools and time to recognize, thank and congratulate each other.
Implement: You can go high-tech or low-profile when equipping employees with tools to recognize each other for great work, contributions and help when it’s most needed. There are many social recognition platforms to adopt, allowing people to shout out kudos and share stories. You can also hang a recognition board and sticky notes for visual shout-outs. Encourage front-line mangers to start or end meetings with time for peer praise and thanks.
Effects: Peer recognition creates a circle of goodwill and positivity.
20. Help employees address stress
Idea: Give employees opportunities and outlets to manage stress.
Implement: Invite employees to join a group – but don’t make it mandatory – with a facilitator, who is ideally a clinician and makes it a safe space to talk about struggles in and out of work. One of our experts calls these kind of meetings Conscious Conversations. Even better, ask employees to define their “safe space.” They might make rules such as: No judgment. No politics. Respect for each other. Nothing leaves the room.
Effects: When employees can talk openly about struggles with stress, they’ll likely share strategies to overcome it. Also, just getting concerns out in the open helps normalize and alleviate stress.
21. Ask employees for insight
Idea: Ask employees for their thoughts and ideas on projects.
Implement: Ask employees for their opinions on how to handle a project, solve a problem, create something new — or pretty much anything your team will tackle. This is different than getting feedback. This is including their ideas to shape the future.
Effects: Employees will feel like a bigger part of the organization when you solicit their expertise and opinions — and use them.
22. Rate leadership
Idea: Ask employees for feedback on leadership.
Implement: At least twice a year, give employees an anonymous survey, asking questions related to their leaders and leadership decisions. It’s not meant to be a gripe session, but it’s important to solicit criticism (and maybe praise) that they might be otherwise reluctant to give publicly. Even more important, follow up, relaying what you heard and explaining what you’ll try to change and what can’t be changed and why.
Effects: When employees feel they have opportunities to give feedback up the chain of command, they’ll become more comfortable with constructive criticism and speaking up when they have good ideas.
23. Regulate work/life balance
Idea: Ensure employees can manage their work/life balance.
Implement: Go beyond encouraging a work/life balance for employees. Help them regulate it. In your regular one-on-ones, ask employees to rate their work/life balance. Work with them to create a workload that allows them to meet goals and maintain their outside life, recognizing the scale will tip temporarily in either direction.
Effects: Employees will be more willing to work harder for an organization that recognizes that sometimes they must — and will — put their personal lives first.
24. Promote work/life integration
Idea: Help employees understand and accept work/life integration.
Implement: A little different from work/life balance — which separates the two — work/life integration sees no distinction between the two: They both must coexist in harmony. Find out employees’ preference — balance or integration — and work with them individually to make theirs work best. For instance, an integrator might prefer to handle email after hours because he or she is less stressed and better equipped to tackle them then. But a balancer may prefer four, 10-hour days with no overlap on life or work.
Effects: Options improve job satisfaction.
25. Provide more flexibility
Idea: Provide flexible work hours and spaces.
Implement: For roles that can be done remotely or hybrid, offer the flexibility of working in different places and on different schedules. Even if employees aren’t physically engaged in a workplace, flexible work arrangements increase employee engagement. When you allow employees to have more control over their schedules and locations, you tell them you trust their judgment and abilities to handle work.
Effects: Employees who have flexible, hybrid work schedules have a stronger sense of loyalty to their company than people who work on-site full-time, according to research from Prudential Financial Services.
26. Measure output more than input
Idea: Shift from input-focused performance expectations to output-focused expectations.
Implement: Furthering flexibility, change how you rate performance. Rather than require a certain number of hours, types of reports and quantity of tasks, look at what’s produced. Let employees have more control over how their jobs get done. And, as long as it gets done to meet time, quality and quantity expectations, let them maintain their autonomy.
Effects: Autonomy is one of the greatest influencers on job satisfaction and engagement. The more employees have, the more they’ll be happy with their jobs.
27. Support volunteering
Idea: Give employees opportunities and time to volunteer.
Implement: Create policies that allow employees to participate with volunteer organizations while being paid. You might ask them for ideas on organizations your company can support with time and resources. Or you might let them pick their favorite philanthropic causes.
Effects: When employees have a positive impact on causes they care about, they’ll likely have a positive experience in the workplace that allows them to do that.
28. Create space for socializing
Idea: Build space and time into your workplace for employees to be social.
Implement: Set aside space where employees can interact for mostly social — less professional — purposes. For instance, stock the break room with board and card games. Set up a picnic area outside for casual lunches. Set up a virtual Zoom room where remote and hybrid employees can get together for fun activities such as cooking classes or virtual games.
Effects: For one, employees will likely have more fun at work. From there, they’ll see and contribute to a more positive company culture.
29. Make technology accessible
Idea: Ensure that employees have the technology tools to do their jobs well.
Implement: Invest in the right technology to make employees as efficient as possible. More importantly, secure the IT systems and support to ensure they have adequate access and function to always do their work. Very few things are more frustrating to employees than not having the tools to do their work day-in, day-out.
Effects: When companies invest in technology, employees feel the company has invested in them and their success.
30. Respond immediately
Idea: Respond to employees’ issues, concerns and feedback immediately.
Implement: Create a system — automated, if possible and necessary — that lets employees know you’ve received their submitted issues, concerns or feedback immediately. Then, have protocols in place to address them personally within an hour. Ideally, this is all automated so you can create reminders to act and follow up until it’s resolved.
Effects: When you take employees’ concerns very seriously with immediate response, they’ll recognize they work for a caring organization.
31. Offer the right benefits
Idea: Offer benefits that benefit all of your employees.
Implement: Survey employees every year to find the best, most-suitable benefits to offer. Look at your usage data to determine which benefits employees use and at what rates. Then align your benefits offering to match their needs. For instance, the demand for pet insurance has skyrocketed in recent years. Meanwhile, gym memberships go unused. What do your employees want and use?
Effects: Yes, employees are attracted to organizations that have benefits they need. But they’re more attracted to organizations that care about — and respond to — what they want.
32. Invest in managers
Idea: Train new managers to be leaders. Re-train existing managers to lead people.
Implement: Many managers are in leadership positions because they were good workers, so they know how to do their employees’ jobs really well. But they usually aren’t equipped to be a leader, coach and mentor. Invest more resources and time into training new managers to be leaders of people, processes and intelligence. Offer continuing training in softer skills such as coaching, problem-solving and emotional intelligence, plus rewards for participating and implementing practices from it.
Effects: Managers have the biggest impact on employee engagement and satisfaction. Make them better leaders and you’ll have more engaged employees (and all of the benefits of that).
33. Build Employee Resource Groups
Idea: Promote Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and support the creation of more groups.
Implement: Give employees tools, time and resources to create new or more ERGs. You might host an ERG fair in a break room annually (much like a college activities fair held each semester to bolster memberships). Ask employees regularly for new ERG ideas. Let ERGs take responsibility for their participation, activities, goodwill and growth.
Effects: When employees feel part of a group of similarly minded or situated colleagues, they’re more engaged at work.
34. Increase movement
Idea: Increase more physical well-being opportunities.
Implement: Encourage walking meetings. Offer on-site yoga or cycling classes. Encourage employees to develop ERGs around movement. Then support those with resources.
Effects: A healthy workforce is more productive, engaged and involved.
35. Promote mental well-being
Idea: Increase mental well-being awareness and improve mental well-being benefits.
Implement: Normalize mental wellness by giving employees resources that help them understand their mental well-being, identify issues and access resources to address any. Furthermore, create opportunities for leaders and employees to talk about struggles with balancing it all and taking time to focus on mental well-being. This is important because nearly 80% of employees say workplace stress affects their mental well-being, and relationships with family, friends and co-workers, according to Mental Health America’s Mind the Workplace Report.
Effects: When you normalize mental well-being and the need to achieve it, employees can more easily address their issues and needs for help. That way, they’ll be as effective as possible on the job.
36. Manage change
Idea: Create protocols and processes for organizational change.
Implement: Work across departments and management teams to create (rebuild or improve) an Organizational Change Roadmap. While it can’t encompass all aspects of change — after all, so much is unpredictable — it can help guide who makes decisions, with what information, when and how everything is communicated. It can also help determine timelines based on the degree of changes. Most importantly, this will help employees know what to expect whether the change is sudden or expected.
Effects: Predictability in the throes of change is comforting for employees. You can assure, to some degree, what will happen next, furthering their loyalty to the company.
37. Create traditions
Idea: Create, document and allow traditions to evolve.
Implement: Document your existing company traditions, why they’re celebrated and how you normally do that. Take a closer look at how the traditions might evolve now, considering the current workplace experiences and situations. This is important because a positive culture is made up of shared experiences and meaningful traditions.
Effects: Shared experience and traditions build affinity to the company and its people.
38. Foster friendship
Idea: Create opportunities for employees to make friends at work.
Implement: Having a best friend at work is strongly linked to positive business outcomes, such as higher profitability, increased safety and employee retention, Gallup researchers found. So host a catered, social lunch with games. Promote and support ERGs and their functions. Bring back the company picnic. Ask employees for ideas on other social events and give them the reins to organize.
Effects: More friendship builds increased engagement.
Prioritize employee engagement
Employee engagement will always be critical to an organization’s success. Good companies are a product of their employees. So the happier and more engaged employees are, the more likely your organization will continue to succeed.
Keep employees engaged, and they will build better organizations.