January 8, 2024

How to Engage Employees in the Workplace

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Key takeaways

  • Some ways to engage employees and improve retention include offering continuous learning, rewarding achievements, and encouraging feedback.
  • Employee engagement programs can improve workplace performance, employee morale, company profitability, and customer loyalty.
  • You can use employee engagement platforms to coordinate engagement activities and monitor their overall effectiveness.

8 ways to engage employees

Only 23% of global employees are considered engaged at work, according to Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace. Although higher than in years past, this low percentage can explain trends like quiet quitting and job hopping — employees do not see the value in their work or company.

However, there are several ways you can increase engagement in your workplace to combat these, including:

  1. Developing a culture of continuous learning.
  2. Streamlining communication and workflows.
  3. Supporting community involvement.
  4. Encouraging honest and open feedback.
  5. Recognizing and rewarding achievements.
  6. Supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  7. Promoting mentorship and buddy programs.
  8. Making work a game.

Check out our video overview below.

1. Develop a culture of continuous learning

Perhaps your employee training ends right after onboarding and consists only of mandatory industry compliance training. However, SHRM and TalentLMS’s 2022 study finds that 38% of U.S. employees want more training relevant to their jobs, while another 31% want more control over their training.

These numbers hint that providing more training to help employees upskill is a major key to keeping employees invested in your company. Plus, you can direct their training so they grow in their roles and support long-term strategies such as succession planning.

76% of U.S. employees say they are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training.”

SHRM & TALENTLMS’ 2022 WORKPLACE LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT TRENDS

How to get started

Consider adding the following to your current learning and development (L&D) programs to showcase your dedication to continuous learning:

  • Survey employees to see what courses they want to learn and add them to your on-demand course lineup.
  • Encourage employee development plans so employees can grow in their roles in line with organizational needs.
  • Offer continuing education benefits so employees can pursue higher education that benefits the company without incurring student debt.
  • Provide regular manager coaching so employees can learn new skills with the support of their managers.

Consider using a learning management system (LMS) to centralize learning content within your organization. TalentLMS, for example, syncs with human resources (HR) software suites like BambooHR and Sage People to streamline data between L&D and other HR functions like performance management.

Learn more about TalentLMS:

2. Streamline communication and workflows

Consistent and transparent communication from business leaders about company changes, performance, and objectives can help employees understand the company mission and align their expectations.

Employees are more likely to feel motivated and stay longer when organizations prioritize communication and collaboration. Open and honest communication allows employees to meet major deadlines, work effectively with their peers, and feel safe providing critical feedback.

In fact, according to Datasite CHRO Deb LaMere, introducing a new two-way employee communication tool was a major part of her company’s overall employee engagement strategy. “[The new tool makes it] easier for employees to connect with each other and stay informed about company announcements and even fun activities,” says LaMere.

Another benefit is the tool’s ability to “sustain culture” in Datasite’s hybrid work environment. An effective communication platform reduces information loss and improves collaboration between remote and in-person employees.

“Effective team communication increases employee retention by 4.5 times, compared to businesses that lack effective communication in the workplace.”

ZENHR’S 2022 EMPLOYEE RETENTION STRATEGIES WHITEPAPER

How to get started

In addition to training employees on effective communication strategies, you can leverage platforms like Basecamp and Asana to reduce the manual effort around communication. These project management and productivity tools include features like direct messaging and automatic notifications to keep distributed teams in the loop.

Meanwhile, employee experience platforms centralize workplace applications and provide various ways for employees to connect. Workvivo, for instance, lets you craft email digests, news articles, and even podcasts for your employees. Its digital signage feature is also a great way to keep deskless employees updated on essential company announcements and events.

Workvivo displays company announcements, upcoming events, and a QR code that leads to additional updates.
Workvivo TV allows you to display important announcements, such as CEO messages or employee birthdays, in a central location for frontline workers. Source: Workvivo

3. Support community involvement

Encouraging your employees to give back to the community is a great way to show that your company values empathy, teamwork, and respect. It also attracts the incoming Generation Z workforce who desire jobs that make a difference in the world.

For example, Hasbro provides employees four hours of paid time off (PTO) every month to volunteer for charitable organizations that benefit communities. It also showcases these initiatives on its career site, recognizing their appeal to job seekers.

Turnover drops by 57% for organizations with employees actively engaged in company giving and volunteering efforts.”

BENEVITY’S 2018 ENGAGEMENT STUDY

How to get started

A corporate volunteer program can consist of several things depending on your company’s preferences:

  • Provide paid time off (PTO) for employees to participate in charitable causes.
  • Sponsor community events, like fundraisers, local school teams, or blood donations.
  • Pay employees to volunteer at local charities for a day instead of their normal work.
  • Allow employees to set up automatic donations to their favorite charities through payroll.

While some of these options require collaboration with local organizations, applications like UKG Pro allow employees to set up one-time or recurring donations from their paychecks to charitable campaigns. Meanwhile, unique software platforms like PTO Exchange let employees exchange their accrued PTO for donations to nonprofit organizations, among other creative options.

Explore PTO Exchange:

4. Encourage honest and open feedback

Giving employees feedback, whether positive or negative, demonstrates commitment to their professional success. It also clarifies role expectations so employees can focus on the job aspects that impact the company’s bottom line.

Feedback is also not one-sided; encouraging upward feedback on company policies, procedures, changes, and leader performance can improve engagement. Qualtrics’ 2020 Global Employee Experience Trends study notes organizations that collect and act on employee feedback have twice the employee engagement score of companies that don’t.

43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement.”

OFFICEVIBE STUDY ON THE IMPORTANCE OF EMPLOYEE FEEDBACK

How to get started

Taking advantage of performance management software is an efficient and effective way to start providing and collecting feedback. Platforms like PerformYard can automate one-on-ones with managers, automatically send pulse surveys regularly, and retain notes from feedback conversations to inform future performance reviews.

PerformYard displays a feedback message between employees that reads, "Thanks for the help by letting Tara work with Aaron on that case study. Her time was super helpful."
PerformYard enables the easy collection of feedback during regular employee-manager meetings, as well as on the spot when necessary. Source: PerformYard

5. Recognize and reward achievements

The connection between employee recognition, rewards, and engagement isn’t surprising. Employees who receive sincere praise from their peers or managers, a performance bonus, or other recognition are more motivated to do well and exceed expectations.

For example, LaMere explains the enormous impact recognizing and celebrating employees on social media had on employee engagement. “These programs [boosted] the company’s engagement score by nine points year-over-year since first launching our annual engagement survey in 2019.”

Public recognition also demonstrates how important employees’ work is to achieving company goals. Such praise can even inspire others to be more productive, especially if you tie it to meaningful rewards.

“Employees who receive the level of recognition that matches their needs and expectations are four times as likely to be engaged as those who do not.”

— GALLUP-WORKHUMAN’S 2022 UNLEASHING THE HUMAN ELEMENT AT WORK: TRANSFORMING WORKPLACES THROUGH RECOGNITION STUDY

How to get started

Recognition should occur frequently enough to encourage employees to do well but not so often that it becomes insincere. A simple “thank you” can go a long way for simple tasks, while positive feedback and public appreciation are great ways to celebrate those who go above and beyond.

Rewards can come in many forms too. Beyond monetary rewards like bonuses and gift cards, you can get creative. Perhaps take an employee to their favorite restaurant for their hard work. Or, perhaps treat a team to company swag or extra PTO for successfully completing a major project.

Software like Xoxoday Empuls offers features for employees to privately or publicly recognize their peers. Employees can also reward coworkers with points to exchange for gift cards, charity donations, or travel perks. What’s more, engagement software provides you with back-end tracking and analytics to understand what kind of recognition is effective across teams, locations, and departments.

A company's Xoxoday Empuls homepage displays an activity feed, milestone celebrations, announcements, and a leaderboard.
Xoxoday Empuls unites company-wide appreciation, rewards, and friendly competition in one place to motivate employees, even if distributed across locations. Source: Xoxoday Empuls

6. Support diversity, equity, and inclusion

Supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts at work does more than make teams more innovative; it can also be the key to retaining employees long-term. A 2020 Glassdoor study, for example, finds that nearly half of black and Hispanic job seekers quit their jobs after witnessing or experiencing discrimination at work.

Moreover, the more you value DEI, the more likely employees from minority groups will feel comfortable being their authentic selves at work. Research from the Harvard Business Review seems to support this, with diverse teams with high psychological safety outperforming those that don’t.

Besides increasing engagement, DEI has the added benefit of fostering company innovation, allowing you to outpace competitors that have more homogeneous workforces.

“A majority of employees (78%) say it’s important to work at an organization that prioritizes diversity and inclusion, while more than half (53%) say it is ‘very important.’”

CNBC AND SURVEYMONKEY’S 2021 WORKFORCE HAPPINESS SURVEY

How to get started

It’s one thing to say you value DEI and another to put DEI initiatives into practice. In addition to establishing equitable and inclusive company values, policies, and procedures, consider implementing DEI training, diversity-focused hiring practices, and DEI metrics to measure the success of your efforts.

Internal initiatives like DEI committees and employee resource groups (ERGs) also provide infrastructure for DEI programming and advocacy work. For instance, ERGs can give employees with shared identities an outlet to raise concerns, while DEI committees can find and hire diverse candidates and write equitable policies.

Interested in how to implement an ERG from scratch? Watch our video overview:

7. Promote mentorship and buddy programs

Mentorship programs serve as a way for employees to receive career advice and support outside the employee-manager relationship. Mentors are experienced employees who teach and advise mentees on various workplace concerns, like career advancement and conflict resolution.

Buddy programs are another option. Dan Michelson, CEO and founder of InCommon, explains that they can be more effective than mentorship programs because the “connections are between peers who are experiencing similar challenges and can provide ground-level guidance.”

Both programs have the potential to foster long-lasting work relationships, even friendships. Data from a 2023 SHRM study indicates this can positively affect employee retention, with 76% of U.S. workers saying they’re more likely to remain with their employer if they have close friends at work.

“More than 9 in 10 workers (91%) who have a mentor are satisfied with their jobs, with more than half (57%) saying they are ‘very satisfied.’”

CNBC AND SURVEYMONKEY’S 2019 WORKPLACE HAPPINESS SURVEY

How to get started

You can connect mentors and mentees or buddies manually, but mentorship software can simplify the process significantly. For example, Together uses a pairing algorithm to match mentors with mentees based on customizable factors like goals, aspirations, skills, or locations.

Together displays multiple choice questions about skills a mentee wants to develop and goals a mentor has accomplished.
Together lets you customize questionnaires to pair employees in your organization based on their professional goals or ambitions, resulting in more successful matches. Source: Together

8. Make work a game

Incorporating gamified elements in the workplace, such as those found in pre-assessment and training tools, can make work fun. This is known as gamification, and it provides an opportunity for employees to develop the hard and soft skills they need to succeed in their roles.

Gamification also adds an element of competition, encouraging employee productivity to win. Constantly changing the games in your workplace can also ensure the novelty doesn’t wear off, ensuring employees remain excited about coming to work for new challenges.

89% of employees say gamification makes them feel more productive at work and 88% of employees say it makes them happier.”

TALENTLMS’ 2019 GAMIFICATION AT WORK STUDY

How to get started

Including games in your training is one way to gamify your workplace. For example, several LMS solutions include quizzes, badge-collecting, and leaderboards. Other training elements, like video game simulations or virtual reality, can teach employees some of the technical aspects of their positions in a safe environment.

Besides eLearning, you can add gamification in other ways. For example, you can have two teams compete against each other on sales or production goals. Or, you can use timers to add a sense of urgency to a project or task. Every workplace is different, so you should ask your employees’ preferences beforehand to ensure the game element you choose will positively impact employee productivity.

Learn more about gamification in the workplace with iSpring Learn:

Employee engagement FAQs

Employee engagement is the dedication employees feel to their work, team, and the company’s success. It is often confused with employee happiness and satisfaction, but it is not the same. While happiness can change from day to day, you can think of engagement as employees’ sustained enthusiasm for their work.

Companies benefit long-term from investing in areas with strong ties to engagement, like communication, transparency, and recognition. In fact, Gallup’s 2020 employee engagement meta-analysis study indicates that highly engaged employees contribute to better business outcomes in areas like productivity, employee retention, and customer perception.

Conversely, data from Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace report also shows that disengaged employees cost businesses around the world at least $8.8 trillion in lost productivity, or 9% of the global GDP. So, investing in ways to keep your workforce engaged can increase profitability while reducing the chance of employee turnover, absenteeism, and safety incidents.

  • Improves employee productivity. Engaged employees excel in their roles, either meeting or exceeding key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Increases employee retention. If employees feel motivated in their work, the likelihood they will look elsewhere decreases.
  • Strengthens customer relationships. Engaged employees are more dedicated to overall business objectives, including delivering exceptional products and services to increase customer retention and brand loyalty.
  • Increases business profitability. Engaged employees mean decreased turnover, less money spent on training new employees, and increased productivity, which can increase company profits.
  • Creates advocates for your business. Employees who feel motivated are more likely to recommend your company to others, so you gain new customers and employees.

Choosing the best ways to engage employees

Understanding what employees want is the key to crafting effective engagement programs for your company. For example, rewarding employees with a pizza party after working exceptionally hard on a project might motivate one company’s workforce but not another. 

As Lisa Sterling, chief people officer at Perceptyx, explains, “not all [employees are] engaged in the same way,” and “different things are important to different people.” In other words, your tactics can just as easily be ineffective or counterproductive if implemented improperly.

One of the following software categories might address your unique engagement challenges:


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