How to Improve Employee Engagement: 19 Tips for Happier, More Motivated Employees
If you lead a team, run a business, or work in HR, you know how much of a difference employee engagement can have.
Employees who are engaged love what they do. They want to work hard, drive the business forward, and stick around for the long haul. Employees who aren’t engaged, on the other hand, not only have lowered performance, but they’re more likely to quit and leave the company altogether.
According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 report, a shockingly low 21% of employees are engaged at work. Most say they don’t find their work meaningful and almost half say they’re stressed.
Luckily, there are some ways you can fix that.
What is Employee Engagement?
First up, what exactly is employee engagement? Employee engagement is how engaged, happy, motivated, and satisfied employees feel in their jobs.
When employees are engaged, they are:
- More productive
- More invested in the company and the work they’re doing
- More connected as a team
- Happier at work, and in general
- Less likely to quit
- Less likely to “quiet quit,” or do the bare minimum at work
Not only do workplace performance and retention go up, everyone’s health and happiness are boosted, too. Who doesn’t want to work beside engaged colleagues and lead a motivated team?
Here’s how to make it happen.
How to Improve Employee Engagement?
Here’s how to foster a motivated and dedicated team.
1. Have More One-on-One Meetings
It’s sometimes hard to spot an unengaged worker and even when asked, employees may not speak up about workplace problems — especially in front of large groups or to their boss.
Speaking to employees one on one gives them the chance to bring up any issues like tight deadlines, difficult colleagues, or wanting to take on more responsibility than they currently have.
If you’re a manager, make an effort to spend one-on-one time with each direct report you have at least once a month. Ask them how the projects they’re working on are going, give them feedback on their latest work, and ask what you or the company could do to make things better in the next month.
2. Give More Recognition
There’s nothing worse than working hard at work and feeling like your boss doesn’t notice. Make an effort, or encourage your management team to make an effort, to give recognition freely and liberally.
Giving recognition can range from regularly saying thanks and calling out great work to rewarding top performers with bonuses and benefits.
Want bonus points? Give recognition publicly. Share with the wider team when someone’s done a great job or highlight to upper management when an employee is going above and beyond.
You can also encourage a culture of recognition where team members can call out good work among themselves — either through software, recognition schemes, or just generally in small team meetings.
3. Give More Rewards and Incentives
Beyond verbal recognition, companies should be rewarding top performers and offering incentives to hit big targets.
These rewards could come in the form of pay rises or one-off bonuses, of course, but money isn’t everything when it comes to employee engagement.
Employees are also interested in:
- Vacation days
- Professional development opportunities
- Extra benefits — like gym memberships or volunteer days
4. Give Employees Benefits They Actually Want
While time off when you adopt a puppy is a great employee benefit for some, it’s a useless one for others. The same goes for perks like in-office childcare, free yoga classes, or unlimited beer in the staff kitchen.
Benefits are a huge part of an employee compensation package, but companies need to offer benefits people actually want — and this changes from company to company.
If you have any say in it, assess your current benefits package and see if it’s actually a perk.
You can also survey employees to see what they value in benefit packages or offer flexible benefits — childcare for those with children, beer for those who drink, etc. — which employees can pick and choose from.
5. Prioritize Team Bonding
It’s hard to feel engaged at work if you don’t get on with your colleagues. And while you can’t force a team to like each other, team bonding activities can go a long way to help people connect.
Try hosting regular socials where employees can get to know each other. Make sure these socials don’t always revolve around alcohol, and aim to have some of them take place within working hours.
Encouraging bonding between teams can also ensure the wider company knows and trusts each other.
Need ideas? Try organizing group volunteer days, escape rooms, sports days, or Friday morning coffee chats.
6. Provide as Much Flexibility as Possible
This tip will obviously depend on the type of company you work for and the kind of work you’re doing. But offering flexibility in where and when employees work can make a huge difference to their happiness.
It can also help employees feel more in control of their work life — a huge part of feeling engaged.
For example, your company could offer hybrid working, but instead of mandating that Fridays are a work-from-home day, employees can choose which day they work from home themselves.
Another example is offering core working hours and flexibility in the working hours outside of this. The team may need to be in the office together from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but they can work an extra two hours either before or after, and change this up each day to suit their schedule.
7. Give Employees More Agency
No one does their best work with a micromanager breathing down their neck, and it’s hard to feel motivated and engaged when you’re not trusted with exciting projects and challenging responsibilities.
Give employees as much agency over their work as possible. Work to build trust between managers and junior team members, and cultivate a work culture that gives everyone control over their own work.
This could be as simple as fewer pointless check-in meetings or trialing a junior member of staff on a more complicated task, so you can delegate more.
8. Improve Your Communication
Communication skills are important in the day-to-day running of a company, of course, but they can also impact the overall happiness and engagement of employees.
A few ways you can improve company communication include:
- Communicate early and often about any big changes coming up in the company
- Check-in with top performers to make sure they’re appreciated and challenged
- Check-in with low performers to find solutions to their problems
- Check-in with managers of different teams to make sure everyone’s working towards the same goal
- Share big wins in your company — just got funding? Hit a sales milestone? Hired a new CEO? Tell staff about it so they can celebrate, too
9. Use the Write Communication Tools
Improving your communication at work also includes the way you communicate as a team.
Do you use Slack so conversations can be faster and more casual? Or do employees tend to have lengthy meetings when emails could do? Are projects being run through project management software, or a messy whiteboard at the back of the office?
Audit your company’s current communication style to see where improvements could be made. Don’t forget to take suggestions from the wider team.
10. Develop a Company Mission and Share it with Employees
For employees to really feel engaged, you want them to be working at your company for more than just the paycheck.
Employee engagement and retention will soar if people feel like they’re part of something bigger than just themselves, and they feel like they’re doing important work.
Ideally, you’d have a strong “why” behind your company, and each employee should believe in it.
If you don’t, and you’re in a position to create one, think about the people you’re trying to help, the change you’re trying to drive in the world, and the bigger picture of what exactly your company stands for. Bonus points if you get employees involved in this.
If you already have a clear company mission and values, make sure everyone from new hires to long-term managers knows about them.
11. Prevent Burnout Before it Happens
Stopping burnout from happening is easier said than done — especially when you have team members who quiet quit or an unhealthy work culture of powering through when times are hard.
But nothing tanks employee engagement faster than stress, fatigue, and burnout.
Ask how employees are feeling in one-to-ones and look out for signs of stress in the workforce like:
- Missed deadlines
- Reduced performance
- Not seeming interested in work
- Lots of sick days
- Higher staff turnover
- Hiring more staff if needed to reduce overall workload
- Introducing hybrid or flexible working
- Offering mental health days off
- Investing in employee wellness benefits like gym memberships or in-office medication classes
12. Invest in Professional Development
Two of the top reasons employees don’t feel engaged include not being recognized enough and being bored with their job. Luckily, both of these things can be fixed by investing in professional development.
Give employees a set budget and allotment of time they can dedicate to courses, webinars, and conferences. These could either be chosen by the company based on its current needs or, even better, chosen by the employee based on the work skills they want to develop and think will be most useful.
Developing the skills of current employees serves the company too. You’ll be upskilling the employees you do have, and empowering them to take on bigger projects and any tasks that are currently outsourced.
13. Set Up a Mentorship Program
This goes hand in hand with professional development, but beyond courses and conferences, set up an official mentorship program.
Pair up junior and senior staff members and encourage a monthly mentorship session. They can discuss any problems and how to overcome them and any skills they should be developing, and how to do that.
Mentorship also provides junior team members a way to discuss career progression within the company and more senior staff members a way to give back to others and improve their leadership skills further.
14. Consider Reverse Mentorship, Too
Why should junior team members have all the fun? Reverse mentorship is when you pair a junior team member with a senior one. But instead of the senior employee sharing their skills and knowledge, it’s the other way around.
This not only builds the confidence and leadership skills of the junior employees, it ensures senior staff members keep their fingers on the pulse of problems in the business, as junior staff usually work more in the trenches.
15. Allow Employees to Take on “Personal” Projects Within the Company
Employees were hired to do a certain role, of course, but by offering them as much flexibility as possible with the types of projects they take on, you can ensure they stay interested and engaged.
One way to do this is by setting aside a set amount of time — maybe this is one day a month or one day a week — where employees can work on projects for the business that may not necessarily fall within their job role.
They can pursue career interests, develop new skills, and feel like they have agency and control over their work life — all while working on tasks that still drive the company forward.
16. Offer Skip-Level One-on-Ones
Your skip-level manager is your manager’s manager. To boost employee engagement, try offering team members access to their skip-level manager, perhaps through regular monthly meetings.
When employees can talk directly to their skip-level managers, they can:
- Talk about problems they might be having with their direct manager
- Talk to the leadership team about problems in the wider business
- Feel like their voice is heard and their opinions valued
- Get to know team members a few promotions ahead of them, giving them an idea of where their career could progress within the company
These kinds of meetings also have value for the higher-ups, too. Skip-level managers can stay plugged into how engaged junior team members are feeling.
17. Set Clear Goals
Employees need to feel like they’re working towards something — ideally — exciting and just the right level of challenging. Having clear goals can help as you get a sense of purpose with your everyday work, and you can see how your individual contribution fits into the business as a whole.
But goals don’t just set themselves. Set up structured meetings to discuss goals with everyone, and consider giving employees the chance to set some personal goals that may not directly feed into wider company goals, but can still push them forward in their careers.
Next, check in on these goals regularly in monthly catch-ups or quarterly reviews, adjusting them where needed.
And don’t forget to reward the employees who hit their goals.
18. Honor Introverts and Extroverts
Introverts and extroverts can work harmoniously together, they may just need a few adjustments. If you’re leading a team, don’t assume everyone responds to the same work and management styles.
For example, extroverts may thrive in large meetings, loud brainstorming sessions, and regular team socials.
Introverts, on the other hand, may have great ideas to contribute, but only do so in smaller group settings or one-on-one meetings.
Give both personality types a chance to contribute and feel engaged by varying your leadership style. This kind of training should also be given across the leadership team in your company.
19. Offer Different Ways of Working
As well as hybrid working and flexibility with projects and hours, offer flexibility on how employees get their work done.
One study found introverts are more stimulated by noise and work better in less intense noisy environments. So, to cater to them, they’d ideally be remote working options or quiet spaces in the office. Extroverts may need a buzzy open-plan office, on the other hand.
You never really know how staff members work best, but the goal is to cater to as many different working styles as possible, and give employees the freedom to choose between them.