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Employee engagement ideas and activities

Learn more about SurveyMonkey Enterprise, our enterprise feedback solution that helps you deliver exceptional experiences for your customers and employees. 

The Gallup State of the Global Workplace 2021 Report says that employee engagement worldwide is only at 20%. Also according to Gallup, highly engaged employees result in a 23% increase in profitability, an 18% increase in productivity, and a 10% increase in customer loyalty. 

Clearly there’s some room for improving your employee engagement—and plenty of reasons to do so. But what is employee engagement, how do you measure it, and how do you reap the benefits for your business? You’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll share some  employee engagement activities that will foster motivation and commitment in your team—and we’re not talking about old-fashioned trust-fall exercises.

Build a better, more productive workplace with Momentive. Use our free employee engagement survey template to measure what matters most.

Some employers mistakenly believe that employee engagement is the same as employee satisfaction. In fact, they are two very different things. Employee satisfaction is a measure of contentment with a job and work environment. Employee engagement, on the other hand, goes beyond satisfaction. 

Employee engagement is an indicator of employee enthusiasm, commitment, and motivation. Engaged employees are invested in their employer’s business success, values, and goals for the future. They are willing to put emotional, mental, and behavioral energy into their job. These are the employees that go above and beyond what is asked of them. 

When your employees are engaged, they perform at a higher level. This is beneficial to individuals, teams, and your business as a whole. Some of the benefits you could see in your company include:

  • Teams that excel at providing better outcomes
  • Increased productivity
  • Higher employee retention rates, lower turnover, and less absenteeism
  • Improved quality of customer service
  • Increases in sales and profits
  • Higher levels of customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention

Let’s look at examples of two employees to help differentiate between engaged and disengaged employees.

Paula arrives at work at about 9am every workday. She checks her list of responsibilities for the day and slowly works her way through. Paula doesn’t interact much with her coworkers, but when she does chat with them, she complains about her job or the company. She’s frequently absent from work and is mainly focused on payday. She’s happy to accept credit for completing her tasks but quick to pass on blame if something goes wrong. Sally watches the clock and leaves work at 5:30pm exactly.

Sam is on time for work—and sometimes early—every day. He checks his list of responsibilities and makes notes of ways he can offer more. He approaches his manager with thoughts and ideas and feels good about their communication. Sam likes to eat lunch with his coworkers and speaks positively about his role and the company in general. When he works with a team, he always shares the credit, and if something goes wrong, accepts the blame and actively looks for solutions. Sam wants the company to succeed and is willing to work harder to do his part.

Paula is clearly a disengaged employee. She is doing the minimum to receive her paycheck. She’s not invested in her company, coworkers, or team. Sam, on the other hand, is highly engaged. He’s motivated, invested in the company’s success, and is willing to put extra effort into everything he does.

Do you know what the employee engagement in your company looks like? Try starting with our employee engagement survey template to gauge your current engagement.

The question you may be asking is, “How do I promote or improve employee engagement in my company?” After you’ve given your staff an employee engagement survey and analyzed the data, you’re ready to review your results with managers and take action. Before you can begin, you need to have a plan in place with ideas and activities to support and improve employee engagement.

There are two parts to all communication—sending and receiving information. In other words, presenting and listening. Ensuring you’re maintaining a two-way communication channel with employees is especially important with the recent rise of remote workers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leadership’s communication to employees will differ depending on industry and culture, but the following elements should be employed across the board.

  • Clear, consistent message
  • Transparency and authenticity
  • Connection
  • Shared purpose
  • Goals and vision
  • Accountability

The other half of communication is even more critical: listening. One of the most important things you can do to boost employee engagement is to listen. Offer employees opportunities to talk with each other, managers, and the team as a whole and then take action based on feedback when appropriate. 

Many companies use Slack or similar messaging programs to communicate internally. You can create channels with hashtags to keep messages organized. Some Slack channel examples might include #suggestion_box, #company_culture, #feedback, #training, or whatever works best for your organization. Don’t forget to include channels for shared interests outside of the workplace.

Online forums are another option for internal communication. Start threads for specific topics for feedback, messages from leadership, and don’t forget to include spaces for off-topic (non-work) discussions. 

AI-powered chatbots can be tailored to your specifications. Some employees may be more comfortable expressing their frustrations anonymously to a chatbot than to a coworker or manager. Chatbots can act as a 24-hour feedback option for your employees.

Whatever feedback channels you choose to implement, actively encourage employees to engage. Make sure they know what options are available to them and that you are taking their feedback seriously.

Nearly 90% of workers say they are more likely to stay at an employer that listens to and acts on feedback. So, once you’ve received feedback, you need to do something with the information. Translate employee feedback and observations into actions such as changing a policy, adding an item to a company meeting agenda for discussion, or buying updated equipment. The actions will differ according to your company, industry, and the feedback, but the message you send by taking action is the same. You are valued. We hear you. We support you. Gathering feedback is important, acting on feedback is crucial.

Make sure your employees have multiple ways to communicate effectively. While some will embrace a forum and public feedback, others will be more comfortable speaking one-on-one with a manager or HR representative in person or via video conferencing. Still, others will prefer anonymous channels. Frequently encourage your employees to engage on whichever platforms they choose and keep communication flowing in both directions.

Once you have a plan in place, you’ll want to monitor its effectiveness. Your initial employee engagement survey data has given you the information you need to launch your employee engagement plan. This isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it type of plan. To ensure maximum engagement, you’ll need to measure and monitor progress.

Pulse surveys are an excellent way to measure your engagement efforts. These are short, focused surveys given on a regular basis—we suggest conducting them quarterly. Use pulse surveys to check on your specific employee engagement objectives and discover what employees are feeling and why they are feeling that way. These surveys give you opportunities to tweak your engagement plan for maximum effectiveness. 

Pulse surveys are not meant to replace annual surveys, but to measure the progress you are making with your employee engagement plan.

An often overlooked ingredient of high employee engagement is recognition. This low-cost, high-impact practice acknowledges employees’ efforts, accomplishments, and behaviors that support your business. There are several ways to practice employee recognition. Different people may prefer different types of recognition. Ask each individual how they choose to be recognized and make sure you keep their preferences in mind.

Your employees should be familiar with your vision and goals for your company. To show them how they influence progress towards those goals, create a flowchart or description that demonstrates how their contributions ultimately lead to the fulfillment of the company’s goals or vision. 

For example, let’s say your employee manages the social media for your eco-friendly clothing company. Their social posts highlight current environmental issues and the way your company uses recycled materials to produce stylish fashion. These posts promote your brand vision of “creating fashionable clothing with less environmental impact,” and have the potential to influence progress toward your goal of appealing to a wider audience.

Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a gift? Recognize your employees' efforts and achievements with a care package designed to add some positivity to their days. This is a great way to make remote workers feel valued and included. Send high-quality branded backpacks filled with company swag and fun gifts. Drinkware, stationery supplies, apparel, headphones, snacks, or custom gift boxes are always good signs of appreciation—and connection.

Publicly recognize new employees, promotions, work anniversaries, and job-related milestones with announcements, thoughtful rewards, or certificates. Some more ideas? Recognize them on social media, create a video especially for them, or give them a monetary bonus.

Your employees have lives outside of work. Take the time to celebrate birthdays, community awards, and other non-work accomplishments. Understanding that your employees are more than their work goes a long way toward engagement.

Once you’ve reached the point of conducting an exit interview, your employee has already decided to leave. Rather than waiting until someone has already found a new job, conduct regular “stay meetings.” These meetings give you the chance to check-in and find out how each employee feels about company culture, work conditions, salary, training opportunities, and more. With this information in hand, you can implement changes to keep the employees engaged at your company instead of looking elsewhere.

When you’re creating goals for your company, make sure you include clear goals for DE&I. Acknowledge holidays of all cultures, be aware of unconscious biases, and make sure to listen. Hold your company accountable for promoting DE&I in the workplace.

When you encourage bonding, your team becomes more invested in each other and collaboration comes more naturally. With the ongoing pandemic, many teams are comprised of remote workers and hybrid teams. It’s important to ensure remote team members are included in bonding experiences because they don’t have the daily in-person interactions of an office environment.

Keep it casual with informal team lunches. Lunch can be catered in-office or for remote and hybrid teams, a virtual get-together. Your company can send a gift card to a delivery service so that remote employees can order lunch from their favorite restaurant and join the conversation online. This is a great way to get the whole team together to bond.

Invite your employees’ families or significant others into the office—or virtual meeting—when you’re hosting fun activities.

Create a designated in-office area where employees can take a break from their workspace and chat with each other. For remote employees, this may be a virtual hangout, message group, or forum to take a break from their work and engage with others.

Help teams connect over mutual interests. Facilitate staff forming groups or clubs that offer opportunities to bond over activities they enjoy. Offices with remote workers can enjoy these groups as well by participation (virtual book club) or sharing experiences (travel club). Some examples of clubs you could promote include:

  • Running club
  • Travelers
  • Movie buffs
  • Yogis
  • Book clubs
  • Etc.

Host internal networking events that can be held in-person or virtually. Encourage team members to participate. These bonding opportunities can improve communication, problem-solving abilities, and promote a fun, open environment. Some examples include:

  • Cooking class
  • Cocktail making class
  • “Crime” solving class
  • Virtual trivia 
  • Comedy show

Personal fulfillment is the feeling that you are contributing to something bigger than yourself—that what you’re doing matters. Because we spend so much time at work, a lot of this feeling is formed in the workplace. Provide support and opportunities for your employees to help them find a sense of personal fulfillment.

Make sure your employees have meaningful work, not just tasks assigned to them. If they have projects that they can take ownership of, they will be driven to achieve their goals and fulfill their purpose.

Recognize your employees’ need to be involved with community activities and social outreach. Organize a group volunteering session during the workday—for remote teams, try finding opportunities for skill-based volunteering, virtual fundraising, or participation in a volunteer activity of their own choosing. Remote teams can gather after their volunteer events to share their experiences. 

Cultivate an environment where your employees have opportunities to to enrich both their personal and professional lives. Keep the lines of communication open to find out where their development and training interests lie.

Show employees that there is growth available for them within the company by mapping out a path forward. Promoting internal candidates for open positions shows your willingness to invest in the careers of your employees.

Whether you invite an outside speaker or ask internal teams to share their expertise, lunch & learns are a great time to combine a team lunch with some new topics. Team members or guest speakers can present subjects they’re passionate about—anything from mindfulness to cooking to cryptocurrency. It doesn’t have to apply to work!

As for the lunch part, as we mentioned earlier, your company can send delivery gift cards  so remote employees can order lunch and then participate virtually. In-office teams can enjoy a catered lunch, pizza, or even a potluck.

Continuous learning is important for employee motivation and growth. Support ongoing learning opportunities to provide ongoing professional development, create an environment of continuous learning, and attract and retain employees.