Employee engagement is not an exact science. So far, the whole concept has been built on HR experience, positive psychology1 and business models that engage a company's talent towards a productive culture of success.
At the core of employee engagement, similar to any company's foundation, are some values. These values determine the why, how and what of that company.
In today's economy, you're building your company brand both through external as well as internal efforts. Playing two battlefields at the same time can prove to be tricky, that's why some companies decide to focus their resources only on the external branding front. Meanwhile, they neglect their internal environment, failing to provide an engaging, challenging and appealing workplace.
Enters talent management. A grey area where an HR manager meets a Talent Manager/Chief Happiness Officer. Confusing? Yes. And if it's confusing for the person actually holding that position, imagine what it does to the employees he or she is supposed to be engaging.
So, we came up with 25 ideas that can save a manager in need of some inspiration. Enjoy!
1. Assign company values
Assign one of your company's values to a certain employee, every month, based on a peer-voting process. The person who best represented that value can be set as an example and be publicly acknowledged for his actions.
2. Have teams create their own set of values
Designing your own game rules makes playing a lot more fun. Team synergy is not an easy objective to attain, and it's definitely not a rapid one. But it is essential to the end-game objective and to the overall performance of the project. Having teams create a team culture, based on 2-3 commonly agreed values or ground rules can help nurture and speed up that process.
3. Encourage personal projects
Give employees a 1-2 h/ day window to pursue their own projects. Having people from different departments connecting and bouncing ideas can help get a new perspective. Projects and initiatives can get new directions, encouraging a creativity and energy flow1 that would only benefit the rest of the working hours. Ever heard of the Blue Sky program?
4. Assign a buddy/mentor for every newcomer
An important part of the onboarding process is having someone answer some really important questions. Questions that someone would be hesitant to simply ask a manager. Building a trustworthy relationship with someone with more experience in that company can help guide the newcomer. This way he or she can better adapt and grow part of the team.
5. Have themed office days
For the more open-minded companies, this initiative can bring a lot of fun and increase employee loyalty. Bring your [insert object/person here] to work or Chocolate [insert day here] can boost up employee morale and kill monotony at work.
6. Have team photos
Have photos of your team on a wall, or frame them around the office. Group photos, funny photos, events photos or random photos snapped when people weren't watching. It's a cultural element that can encourage and foster work relationships and employee engagement.
7. Encourage charity
I got an email the other day, after downloading a resource online that simply made my day. The awesome people at Network For Good came up with a Corporate Charity Gift Card. You can personalize your own company gift card and reward employees by allowing them to make a charitable donation to an organization of their choice. Take Aveda's example. The company came up with a cause that was aligned with their company's mission, empowered employees to team up and raise money for that cause, in a friendly but competitive manner. And it worked.
8. Encourage volunteering
If you find yourself doubting the classical money-to-charity approach, you should try the new volunteer-for-a-cause angle. Give your employees a couple of days a month to volunteer for a cause they support. Here's a great reference article.
9. Raise salaries
I'm sure at least half of the people reading this article will have an eyebrow up at this point. Bear with me. In 2008, attrition among AT&T Mobility's retail sales consultants cost millions annually and impacted the service experience. The company reduced costs, increased revenues and improved the customer experience by developing employees to be more inspired and engaged.
10. Remind people your company's mission and values
It's important that you emphasize, once in a while, what your company stands for. People need to be reminded of why they are doing what they're doing.
11. Recognize and encourage innovation
You might have heard some pretty inspiring ideas around the office. What about that project that came together so well and had some amazing improvements that no one initially thought of? Find out who came up with that idea. Give them a friendly "Good job!" or recognize them publicly for going the extra mile.
12. Celebrate achievements
Big or small, they are the solid proof that the work people are putting in has meaning. No one can go through tasks and assignments for months, or even years without burning out. Refill their energy tanks with some recognition and celebrate their hard work. This is also a great way to glue together teams.
13. Celebrate people
Birthdays, promotions, retirements, newcomers welcoming, there are plenty of important moments where people can be put at the front of the company. They make the company and it's a great and relaxing way of showing them that they matter.
14. Give and receive feedback
Yes, everyone knows that and everyone talks about it. But it's really hard to implement. You're dealing with peoples' work, their position, their emotions and key success factors. It's a dangerous mix that the wrong feedback can cause to explode. Keep it simple. Offer a framework or a system that employees can use with confidence and honesty. Let them know you value their opinion and, most importantly, act on that feedback. More thoughts on feedback.
15. Try some unusual employee engagement ideas
It's the small things that can sometime make a difference. Like having colored mugs at work or an awesome air freshener.
And since we're on the Out-of-the-box topic, you could try an Art Team Building. The guys at Team Building Singapore came up with this concept that encourages creativity and gives employees a different way to connect.
16. Show respect
This should be the cornerstone for every office interaction. Especially when it comes to people in different hierarchies. Read more about Respect In The Workplace.
17. Empower your employees
Nothing creates a greater sense of responsibility and ownership like having the decision power. Don't be afraid to let people be their own leader. It's surely a great way to build trust, as opposed to micro-management.
18. Support enthusiasm in the workplace
Hire enthusiastic people. Encourage people to actively manifest joy and positive emotions.
19. Encourage learning
Challenge and support employees in learning and developing their skills. Not only will you have a motivated and well-prepared workforce but you'll see an increase in employee happiness and employee1 engagement.
20. Get social
Go out, have fun, have team buildings and weekend competitions! It can be really overwhelming to work, work, work 8-12h a day and crave a weekend that passes in a blink of an eye. Join sports competitions and encourage team playing activities.
21. Make sure that people have all the resources they need
This doesn't sound like other typical employee engagement ideas but it has an important purpose. You need to make sure that you have the basics covered before you move on to other, more abstract, ideas. Equip your employees with the tools and systems that will make their job easier. This way, you'll get them to invest their energy into doing great work, instead of wasting precious time.
22. Ask the people who really know employee engagement
Being as this is a fairly new business component, you should trust the experts. Consult the right people to help you build a solid employee engagement strategy.
23. Get answers from your employees as well
This is related to feedback but it's more of an indirect feedback. Monitor and analyze your employees, your teams and the overall workspace. You'll get some essential pointers into what works and what you can improve.
24. Build long-term engagement
Don't settle for a quick fix. Develop a long-term employee engagement strategy with clear objectives and action steps for more than a year, then re-evaluate and build on it.
25. Try and try again
We've based this advice on our experience and the experience of others that we've worked it. However, what works for one company might not work for another. It's important that you try and adapt, until you find the perfect angle for your employee engagement strategy.
The basic HR processes, recruitment & selection, on-boarding & training, performance management, performance appraisal, rewards and recognition and actual employee management leave little or no time for employee happiness or employee engagement.
We recommend that you have someone specifically responsible with employee engagement, to track and measure changes and improvements made.
Start with these 25 employee engagement ideas and build on that. Tell us how it goes!