Employee engagement has become increasingly important as employers face more competition in the global, highly connected war for talent. Trying to increase employee engagement or keep employees engaged has fallen on the shoulders of HR (right or wrong). So how do you figure out the best ways to boost engagement? What if you implement employee engagement activities that haven’t been fully thought through and end up doing more harm than good?
Truly effective activities to increase employee engagement should feel genuine, never forced. More importantly, they should be available at every stage of the employee life cycle – during onboarding, in team meetings, as part of an employee’s professional growth, etc. In this blog, we provide some suggestions for activities designed to improve engagement as well as the ideal work environment in which to use them:
Employee engagement starts on day one, or even before!
Research from employee recognition solutions firm O.C. Tanner found that the vast majority (86%) of employees decide whether they’ll stay at a new job or leave the position for something else within the first three months of taking it. That’s a fairly short window for a company to showcase their worth. As such, it’s critical for you to start working on the engagement from the start.
More than a few companies have begun to adopt onboarding approaches featuring highly engaging activities that start as early as a new hire’s first days. According to LinkedIn, this includes some of the biggest names you can imagine, including Google, Facebook, MasterCard and IBM. Now not every company has the resources of a Google or HubSpot, but there are ways to make the first few days at your company more fun and engaging like a virtual tour that includes answers to questions other employees frequently asked during their first days. This is something you could do relatively easily and cost-effectively and deploy it via your intranet or through the ESS of your HR platform .
You can also make it fun by adding a quiz feature: For example, employees who correctly answer questions about essential company facts can win various prizes – coupons for the great lunch place nearby, company-branded office supplies or apparel, gift cards and so on. (Whether you have them take a quiz or not, offering branded swag early on is often a wise move, though Playficient noted that gifts must be backed up by more substantial engagement initiatives later on.)
Activities for social engagement
Ensuring new employees have time to interact with team members and other co-workers during their first few days is critical. Schedule some team lunches or have a team member take them for coffee. These events aren’t just important early on, but should take place on a regular basis.
It’s important that these company or team outings – happy hours, trips to local sporting events, holiday parties and everything else – not just focus on team building for specific segments of the company but also on bringing together members of different departments whenever possible. Rever pointed out that employees don’t forge emotional connections to companies; they try to connect with other people. Gatherings like these are a good way to help boost engagement by creating an environment for these connections and emphasizing that the organization is a diverse collection of individuals.
Mentorship and development activities
Making sure that employees stay interested in their professional responsibilities, and feel that the company is invested in their professional growth, is equally important to keep them engaged. You want high-performing employees to develop their careers with your organization not somewhere else.
Setting up a mentorship program is a great activity that combines social engagement and professional growth. It provides a resource that can provide guidance on company culture, specific job expectations, skills a new employee should consider, etc, while also potentially developing personal bonds between team members of different experience levels. This can be especially important if your company includes a lot of millennial and Gen-Z employees: Millennial workers can help their more tenured mentors stay up to date with the most current trends and tech in your company’s industry, while longtime staff have the accumulated wisdom of experience to offer.
Career development activities other than mentor-mentee relationships are also important. Continuous learning programs should be available to help employees in every department learn more about the industry and their roles within it. These internal development initiatives can help pave the way for promotions from within, which objectively benefit advancing employees while saving money, time and resources for the company.
There’s a clear correlation between employee wellness (physical, emotional and financial) and engagement; they rise or fall together, according to research by Quantum Workplace. So it makes sense for wellness programs and activities to be part of your company culture. These can include everything from intramural sports and exercise classes to money management seminars that feature quizzes and games. Initiatives like these help your employees know that you care about them as people, which is crucial for good engagement – and retention.
Don’t forget remote staff
Remote work has been trending up for some time, and with that likely to continue, you must address the needs of off-site staff in your efforts to improve engagement. On a professional level, you can conduct regular employee feedback sessions with videoconferencing tools. Socially, using chat applications for casual conversation or having a virtual happy hour or team lunch may help deepen the connection between your remote and office employees.