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49 Employee Engagement Ideas

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet Your Team Will Love

By Tim Eisenhauer, Co-Founder and President of Axero

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two part article. The first part contains the first 25 ideas, the second part will contain the remaining 24.

As important as it is to work towards improving your organization’s levels of employee engagement, there’s no getting around the fact that it can be rather difficult.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

CEOs, managers, and “higher-ups” need all the help they can get in order to ensure that their staff is on the right track, especially as businesses begin to grow.

After all, everyone wants to lead their team to success, and sometimes all it takes is a few fresh ideas to help rejuvenate your employees and increase their productivity to a large degree.

Every once in a while, it helps to have a cheat sheet on your side that can help you to steer your team in the right direction. There’s no harm in referring to the following employee engagement ideas from time to time, as they can help to bring your team together and encourage empowerment, engagement and improved performance. They›re  also a great way of how to motivate employees in your organization.

Keep these ideas close by, and you’ll start seeing results in no time.

  1. Encourage Employees to Speak Up

It’s common for modern-day employees go through the workweek feeling uncomfortable with the concept of speaking their minds. This discomfort can result for a number of reasons, but the most important thing to focus on is trying to break it down. When people don’t feel as if they can speak up, they may be holding back valuable ideas and solutions that could help to push your organization forward.

If you want your employees to feel comfortable speaking their minds, you have to make it clear that they can do so without fear of criticism and judgement. Promote and practice candor.

Keeping an “open-door” policy is essential, and you can help to encourage your employees further by holding roundtable discussions in which they can discuss anything that may be on their minds at the moment. The more you foster an open, safe space for communication, the more likely it is that your staff will bring great ideas to the table.

  1. Help Your Employees to Get to Know Each Other Better

In larger organizations, many employees go through their days without knowing their colleagues very well, if at all. The bigger a company gets, the more of a chance there will be a disconnect. As a manager, it’s important to place focus on helping your employees to get to know each other better, and there are a number of fun ways to go about doing so.

You could play office games.

Just watch all of the seasons of “The Office” and you’ll get more takeaways than you’d get from reading every employee engagement book on the planet.


Perhaps more importantly …

You should always be sure to allow your staff to interact throughout the day and outside of work without having to worry about whether or not they’re being watched or judged. Conversations related to business are surely important, but that doesn’t mean your staff doesn’t need a break every once in a while. To be human is human.

  1. Serve as a Mentor

When an employee begins to experience problems with engagement, it’s essential to step in as quickly as possible so that things don’t progress further. Some managers simply don’t take the personal approach that is often necessary for getting through to an employee, and instead rely on canned methods and techniques that will supposedly help to raise engagement levels. Unfortunately, these individuals are taking the wrong route the vast majority of the time.

Improving your employee engagement model means serving as a mentor for those who are facing issues, regardless of how busy you may be.

Offer your help. Drop what you’re doing and just help!

Setting aside just a bit of time to help someone who is struggling in their job can go quite a long way, and you can always task other managers with taking the reigns if you truly don’t have the time to do it yourself. So long as someone is mentoring the employee in need, you can rest easy knowing that no one is being left behind.

  1. Only Reward Employees for a Job Well Done

Some managers believe that one of the best way to keep employees engaged and performing well is to reward them on a regular basis, even if they’re not performing up to par. Unfortunately, carelessly dishing-out rewards won’t serve to do your business any favors and may even hurt performance and engagement even further. Instead, you’ve got to be quite careful with how you utilize rewards.

Case in point … if you reward your dog every time he sits down, rolls over, or fetches a stick he’s going to get comfortable.  And when he gets comfortable, he poops on the floor.

Rewarding employees is certainly something that you should do from time to time, but that’s not to say you should do so carelessly. Pay close attention to the progress made by your employees, and don’t hesitate to let them know WHY you’re rewarding them, whether it be via a bonus, salary increase, a pat on the back, a verbal thank you, or otherwise. As long as you make a point to clarify the reason for the reward, you’ll effectively help to increase the chances that they’ll remain engaged in the future.

  1. Focus on Collaboration & Working Together

Take a look at any employee whose engagement levels seem to be suffering, and you might find a constant — they’re likely to prefer to work alone. Collaboration is one of the most important things for businesses to focus on improving, as it can help to improve ideas, cut down on wasted time and — yes — improve employee engagement. It may seem like a lofty goal if your employees tend to stick to themselves, but it doesn’t have to be at all.

One of the best ways to improve collaboration in your company is to implement social intranet software.

This serves as a virtual platform that all of your employees can work off of, which means they’ll have little choice but to work with one another, regardless of how shy or disconnected they may be.

It’s important to view social  intranet  software not as a way to “force” employees to collaborate … but … as a tool for motivating employees to branch out and work more closely with their colleagues. Once they get the hang of how to use it, social intranet software becomes an incredibly powerful tool that will likely serve a huge role in the future of business.

  1. Encourage Positive Health & Wellness

If you want to have a staff full of engaged employees, you’ve got to take steps yourself to help them remain happy and healthy.

Wellness is important for any professional, yet stress and other life factors can sometimes get in the way and cause people to neglect exercise and healthy eating habits. In the end, it stands to reason why so many businesses have issues with engagement — it’s a product of modern society.

Go have lunch with your coworkers. Have lunch with those that report to you. We’re humans, we stuff food in our face all day, and we do it socially. So get social and go stuff some food with the people you work with. There’s a lot you can learn about people, and yourself, based on how and what they eat.

Encouraging wellness within your organization doesn’t have to be hard. Some companies provide their employees with gym memberships, for example, while others choose to bring in massage therapists or other professionals to help staff members de-stress and maintain clarity. It can even be as easy as stocking healthy snacks in your company refrigerator for employees to turn to if need be throughout the day, as every little step towards wellness will serve to improve levels of engagement in your organization.

  1. Clarify Goals and Responsibilities

Every employee has a set of goals and responsibilities they need to work on. One of the biggest contributing factors to falling engagement levels, is the confusion over what one’s role actually is.

It doesn’t take poor management for issues such as this to occur, either. (Though usually it is due to poor management.)

Keep in mind that sometimes, things simply get lost in the mix, and it can take time to realize what happened before you’re able to identify the issue and take action.

Clarifying goals and responsibilities is essential if you intend to improve your  employee engagement strategy … a staff member simply can›t be engaged in something they don’t understand.

Whenever you kick off a project or delegate out a new task, it’s essential to go into the logistics in as detailed a way as possible, taking time to answer any questions that your employees may have. You may end up spending a little more time explaining things, but the fact that you’ll be likely to experience less headaches as a result, makes doing so more than worth your while.

  1. For New Hires, Start on the First Day, Perfect the Onboarding Process

There’s nothing more depressing for a manager than hiring someone who seems as if they’ll be an excellent fit for the job, only to find that they simply aren’t nearly as engaged in their work as they should be.

Sometimes the issue stems NOT from the individual, but from the way they’re onboarded. Joining a new company can be a very stressful experience, and the more help a new employee can get, the better they’ll be at their job.

It can be tempting to allow employees to fend for themselves during the onboarding process instead of helping them through each step, but you’ll benefit greatly from being there in case they’re in need of a hand.

Onboarding doesn’t have to be a lengthy process, but it most likely will be if you don’t help to move things along.

CEOs and those in managerial positions should make themselves available when new employees join the team, as this will help to ensure any issues that pop up are negated as quickly as possible.

  1. Be Flexible

The best managers are those who hold their employees accountable for their performance, yet give them the flexibility they deserve. These are professional adults, after all, and they don’t need someone breathing down their neck at all times. It can be quite difficult for those in leadership roles to give up control, especially when working on high-profile projects.

That said, it’s essential to realize just how much of a difference a little bit of flexibility can have on an employee’s performance and level of engagement.

There are plenty of ways to prove to your employees that you’re willing to give them the flexibility they need. You could allow them to work from home, for example, or take a personal day if need be. So long as they keep up their end of the deal regarding the work they’re supposed to get done, there should be little to worry about.

Note, however, that it’s important to keep an eye on how certain employees respond to extra flexibility, as some may take things too far, in which case an intervention may be warranted.

  1. Help Employees Move Forward in Their Career and Education

No manager wants to admit that their employees may someday go on to work at a different company … but that’s typically the reality of things.

In today’s world, the sky’s the limit, and many people put a great deal of effort into advancing their career as far as possible through education, workshops, and other enrichment tools.

A good manager is one who is there to help their employees reach their goals, even if that means they may someday leave the company.

If you want to improve engagement levels, you need to show your employees that you’re here to help.

You can do this in a number of ways, such as paying for classes, allowing employees to attend workshops during workday hours, arranging internships, and more.

Most importantly, you should strive to be there for your employees should they have any questions about YOUR career and how you got to be where you are at. Sometimes, all it takes is giving out some simple advice to let someone know that you really care.

  1. Create a Unique Office Environment

Showing up to an office every day can be a trying experience after a while, especially if the environment isn’t altogether comforting.

No one wants to sit in a dimly lit cubicle between the hours of nine and five … yet this is, unfortunately, the way many people live their lives.

Managers, CEOs, and the “higher ups” shouldn’t settle for such a dull work environment, as it will do nothing to help push an organization in a forward direction or improvement engagement levels.

All this said, you should strive to do whatever you can to create an office environment that is unique, comfortable and reflective of your branding.

Creating culture within your office is something that is typically done one step at a time. Artwork, music, branded mugs/dishes, even an office pet are just a few things that can help to add character to your work environment, but this barely scratches the surface of what is possible. So long as you constantly keep in mind the notion that your office should be fun and inviting, you’ll be doing what it takes to improve employee engagement levels and make the workweek just a little bit less stressful.

Having a cheat sheet by your side can help to ensure things don’t ever get out of hand, especially if you’re managing a large staff. The more of the above ideas you can incorporate into your organization, the better. Just be sure to avoid overwhelming your employees, and all will be well.

  1. Hire Based Upon Traits and Attitude

Every manager wants to have employees on-staff that have a great deal of experience and have incredible qualifications on their side. After all, these things do matter, and great experience can sometimes signify a great employee. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when it comes to hiring, however, is that traits and behaviors should be focused on above all else. Everyone can get ahead if they try hard enough, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be engaged in their work.

More often than not, you can spot the traits that might make a person a great candidate to join your team from miles away. Employees that are most likely to be engaged in their work are those who are excited, personable and not afraid to speak up. Typically, these traits will come out during the interview process; especially if you take the time to conduct a thorough interview with each and every candidate. A resume may be able to tell you what type of professional experience a potential employee has under their belt, but there’s no substitute for a face-to-face interview when it comes to getting a sense of someone’s attitude.

  1. Hold Fun in High Regard

One of the most unfortunate aspects of modern office culture is that many people don’t associate the word “fun” with work.

It can seem at times as if the two are mutually exclusive, with fun being something experienced outside of work hours and the office.

The fact is, that there are a number of ways to incorporate fun into the workday, and the benefits that doing so can have on employee engagement levels within your organization are countless.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

You don’t necessarily need to disrupt your normal workweek in any way to incorporate fun into the office. Starting a company band and jamming on Fridays, holding contests within your organization, and taking a little bit of time out for some physical activity are just a few ways in which you can make the day a bit more fun for you and your employees … each of which can help to lower stress levels and serve as bonding activities for your workers.

As fun can help to break the monotony of the day, it can also help to improve employee engagement levels.

  1. Let Your Employees Focus on What They Do Best

Employees want to know that the work they’re doing is being appreciated and meaningful … and if they do, they will be engaged.

They also want to be given the opportunity to shine, which means they have to have the ability to do what they do best as often as possible. The biggest mistake that a manager can make is assigning tasks to those who work under them that simply don’t match their skills … which is something that can not only lead to poor performance, but will no doubt have a negative impact on employee engagement.

If you want your employees to stay as engaged as possible, you have to allow them to focus on their skills.

First, ask them what they feel most comfortable taking on task-wise (which will help to let them know that you’re paying attention). They’ll most likely identify areas in which they have specialties that can also benefit your organization, so take this information and keep it top-of-mind when assigning tasks.

Over time, you’ll be building a team of individuals that are experts in their own right.

  1. Encourage Networking

A great employee is one who is driven and focused on improving his or her own career as much as possible.

You don’t want a complacent … because even if they’re engaged in their work at the moment, this particular trait will no doubt lead to problems for your organization down the road.

Encouraging your employees to network with others (both inside and outside of your organization) is a great way to help them focus on building their careers, all the while helping them to be more engaged in their current roles.

There are so many ways to network in today’s world that it can be relatively head-spinning. Take a look at the popularity of social media and professional networks like LinkedIn, and it becomes quite clear just how much focus is placed on networking in modern society.

You can encourage your employees to utilize these services for outside networking and implement social intranet software for internal networking. Send your employees to tradeshows, conferences, workshops, educational talks … send them to events where they can learn something!

The possibilities are endless, and the more your employees focus on building their networks, the more your business will benefit in the end.

  1. Create a Truly Authentic Mission Statement

The popularity of the “mission statement” in today’s business culture is difficult to ignore. It seems as if every company has their own statement to the public, some of which can be extremely well-composed and honest … to those that are being pushed out by the best marketing-manipulation-seduction teams in the world.

What often goes overlooked when creating a mission statement, is authenticity.

A simple, to-the-point phrase may have quite a bit of impact when properly presented, but this isn’t to say that it actually means something to your employees. Or anyone else.

Your employees want to know that they are part of a greater good, which is why it’s so important to ensure that the mission statement you end up drafting is one that everyone on your team can get on-board with.

Ideally, you want employees to view your company as an entity that takes action towards reaching important goals and finding solutions that will benefit the community as a whole. This is only possible when a true, proper mission statement is created, which can take quite a bit of time and brainstorming.

Getting your employees involved in the process is a great way to ensure that you’re not missing the mark.

  1. Make Use of Philanthropy

The best businesses are those that  place focus on giving back to the community.

Many employees will be quick to say that they’d prefer to work for a business that places some focus on philanthropy … as this not only looks good on their resume … but allows them to go home at the end of the day knowing that they’re doing a good thing.

Philanthropic organizations tend to have high levels of employee engagement.

As anyone who is experienced in philanthropy knows that there are many more ways to get involved in the community than could ever be listed in a single space.

You can donate money to help fund a local non-profit, for example, or pay for renovations of historic buildings in your area. Make a list of different angles you might wish to take, and don’t hesitate to ask your employees for feedback and ideas of their own. If as many people in the organization as possible have interest in a single form of philanthropy, engagement levels will surely rise.

  1. Don’t Just Use Money as a Reward

No employee is going to turn down a raise … and there are plenty of reasons for giving one … you can throw money at any problem. Sometime people aren’t looking for money. Maybe they’re looking for something else?

This being said, there are other ways to reward your employees for a job well done than giving them money … some of which can be even more effective when it comes to improving employee engagement.

As far as rewards go, you may want to consider giving extra time-off to employees that have done well on a project, or perhaps tickets to go see their favorite band or sports team. If they go eat chinese food next door everyday, get them a gift card. Write them a handwritten thank you card, something they can hang at their desk. Ask them if there’s a book that they’ve been wanting to read, and get it for them.

This will help to clarify that you truly care about your staff, and it doesn’t have to cost you nearly as much as increasing their salaries might.

  1. Give Your Employees Visibility

If there’s an employee engagement idea that practically every employee can attest to, it’s wanting to be given credit for the hard work they’ve done.

Giving your employees visibility within your company can have a huge impact on their levels of engagement … and it’s often exactly what it takes to help someone feel more in-touch with their job.

“You Matter.”

Sometimes, all it takes to give visibility to an employee is to put their name in or on something that other people will see.

If someone had a huge part in spearheading a campaign for a new product or service, give them credit in a press release or mention them in the company newsletter. @Mention them in your Intranet (where other people can see it) and thank them for a job well done.

The more you can give them visibility, the more likely they’ll be engaged.

  1. Allow Time During the Day for Personal Enrichment & Development

The workday can be long at times, and it can be difficult for some employees to get the time they need to work on personal enrichment.

Most people want to learn something! So give them time to learn it and better themselves.

The weekend is only so long, and many people are exhausted at the end of the workday. If you want to improve engagement levels, you may want to allow time throughout the day for people to explore something new.

Each day, allow your employees to take a half hour or so to work on something they’re passionate about, even if it isn’t work-related. It may seem as if you’re losing time doing this, but in the end, you’ll actually be making the environment more comfortable for your employees, which will lead to a more engaged staff.

  1. Celebrate Your Staff: Birthdays, Accomplishments, etc.

Most managers know they should put effort into recognizing their employees for the work they do, but that’s not to say that staff members shouldn’t be recognized simply for being a part of the team.

When employees feel like they’re getting the proper amount of attention, they typically have more of a pull to be as engaged as possible in their work.

Celebrating your staff is essential.

Pick and choose specific occasions to celebrate, with time-out from the day … these can include birthday parties, work anniversaries, the birth of a child, or major professional achievements.

Or … better yet … nearly every day of the year has designated as some type of holiday … they might be informal, weird, stupid, meaningful …etc.

You can find a bunch of these days here:  http://www.holidayinsights. com/moreholidays/april.htm

Even more important, is to pay attention to random accomplishments, be they personal or professional.

  1. Experiment With Employee Engagement Activities

Do a Google search for “employee engagement activities,” and the amount of results that pop up will most likely overwhelm you. This is because employee engagement activities really do hold a great deal of importance in today’s world, and most managers are doing everything possible to keep their staff engaged.

The best way to find employee engagement activities that work for your team is to experiment with a number of different ideas and see what sticks. Ask your staff what they like to do for fun … then experiment with those activities.

Keep your staff’s preferences in mind when choosing activities to try, and you’ll no doubt find options that will benefit your organization.

  1. Put Petty Cash to Good Use

Most businesses have a petty cash fund sitting around. It can come in handy for parking and other small expenditures, but there are better ways to utilize your petty cash supply.

What many people don’t realize is that petty cash can actually come in handy in regards to improving employee engagement, and it all has to do with bettering the quality of your office; specifically, the front desk.

The next time you think of it, give your receptionist a chunk of petty cash in order to buy candy, toys, and other fun things to make the front desk just a little more inviting. A fishtank that your employees have to take turns feeding? An ant farm?  Sea Monkeys? A chia pet?

We did both.

You’ll be surprised to see how much of a difference a more festive and playful reception area can have on your team’s morale, all at an exceptionally low cost.

After all, you’ve got to use that petty cash somehow!

  1. Take Your Team Out for Ice Cream

On a hot, sunny day, just about everyone can attest to wanting to be outside … instead of within the confines of an office.

While there’s no getting around the fact that the work week must go on, it never hurts to go out of your way to give your staff a break from the pressure. If the heat is too much, cool them off. There’s no better solution than to take your team out for ice cream.

Who doesn’t love ice cream?

Going out for ice cream is not only an excellent way to beat the heat, but it’ll give you and your team a chance to catch up and chat about things that might not come up just hanging around the office. It’s a low-cost method of allowing your team to step away from the action and take a breather, and you can make it a regular thing during the summer if the idea resonates with your staff. It’s just one more aspect of the day that your employees can look forward to, which can have a number of positive effects on engagement levels.

  1. Encourage Your Staff to Work on Pet Projects

One of the best ways to make an employee feel as if they’re truly important to the company they work for is to task them with taking the reigns and putting control directly in their hands.

Chances are, each and every member of your team has a unique idea or two to contribute to the overall goal of your organization, and the more you encourage them to work on a project under their own terms, the more likely it is their ideas might come to fruition.

Each week, strive to encourage your employees to spend approximately 10% of their time nurturing a “pet project” that they feel might be beneficial to your company, regardless of what it may be. In this way, your team will feel engaged in their work, stress levels will be lessened and you may end up stumbling upon an idea or solution that could push your business in an entirely new direction.

Reprinted with permission from Axero Intranet