Two-thirds of employees in North America are considering leaving their jobs in 2020. For employees under 30, that number is even higher. One of the fastest routes to a better retention rate is by improving employee engagement. Highly engaged employees are not only more likely to remain with an organization – they also perform better, help companies achieve greater profitability, and have more positive interactions with customers. Employers that intend to inspire a highly productive workforce and retain top talent should focus their energy on increasing employee engagement.

Fortunately, there are many ideas and activities your organization can implement to boost employee engagement. Start with really listening to your workforce, recognizing achievements frequently, building a culture that supports engagement, and engaging new employees from the beginning. By adopting practices that support these goals, you’ll realize the many benefits of an engaged workforce.

Listen to your team

One of the best ways to improve employee engagement is by giving your employees ample opportunities to share what they think and feel, and then acting in response to that valuable feedback. Here are some ideas and activities for gathering and responding to input from all the members of your team.

1. Use pulse surveys

Short, regularly occurring (we recommend once a quarter) pulse surveys help identify what employees are feeling, and why they are feeling that way. Annual surveys are useful as well, but over a year is too long to let issues go unreported and unresolved. By the time you learn about them and fix the problem, the employee who reported the issue has likely moved on to another job. Surveys don’t have to be long or exhaustive to be useful; pulse surveys that have a clear purpose behind them are critical tools in measuring and improving employee engagement.

employee engagement ideas and activities surveys

2. Keep feedback channels “always on” with a chatbot

One easy and innovative way to gather feedback around the clock is with a workplace chatbot. Chatbots ask questions tailored to your organization and follow up directly with employees on reported concerns. Some employees may be more comfortable admitting their frustrations to a chatbot than to a colleague or manager. The responsiveness and always-on nature of a chatbot lets your organization build a customized feedback channel that’s always available for employees, regardless of where they are or the time of day.

3. Actively encourage and listen to employee feedback

Look at your survey methods to see if you’re really encouraging employees to provide feedback. Do you provide multiple ways for them to get in touch and do you know what’s going on while it’s fresh in their minds? This includes methods of providing feedback confidentially after hours. To respond effectively, you need to uncover issues as they occur, not hear about them months later, when it may be too late to respond.

Is your leadership truly open to listening what employees are saying, even when it’s not what they want to hear? If you’re not sure, ask your employees to rate your organization’s openness to input — confidentially, of course.

4. Take action in response to feedback

Knowing how your employees feel is important, but it’s not enough to gather feedback. The real measure of your organization is what you do with that information. 90 percent of workers say they are more likely to stay at a company that takes and acts on employee feedback. Analyzing the data from surveys and other feedback channels by establishing benchmarks, tracking important metrics, and visualizing trends can help guide your response.

5. Keep employees informed

Your employees appreciate knowing what’s happening outside their immediate teams. It helps them do their jobs better and feel like they’re in the loop. Communicate regularly and openly to all your employees rather than relying on management cascades to relay strategic initiatives. Be as transparent as possible and use multiple channels, whether it’s Slack announcements, company meetings, or a page on your intranet. The more trust you build, the more likely employees are to be direct and honest with you when they have concerns.

Show recognition and appreciation

Not feeling valued is one of the primary reasons employees decide to leave an organization, and recognition is one of the best ways to improve employee engagement. This section provides ideas and activities to demonstrate to all your employees that you see and appreciate their hard work and dedication.

6. Recognize employees frequently in real time

Don’t wait until the end of the quarter or fiscal year to recognize achievements; make it an everyday habit. Salute outstanding work in a timely fashion. Doing this on a regular basis is the key to motivating ongoing performance and workplace pride. 92 percent of workers say when they’re recognized for a specific action, they’re more likely to take that action again in the future. Praise pays.

7. Use social recognition

Lack of recognition is one of the top reasons employees consider leaving their employer. Providing social recognition has a significant impact on employees as material rewards do, and it leads to organizational benefits across the board: improved individual performances, better NPS scores, and even higher stock prices. It also results in improved employee retention and engagement. That’s why providing specific and frequent social recognition is an integral part of any employee recognition program.

employee recognition software

8. Make your rewards extraordinary

Of course, you can reward employees with bonuses and promotions. They will be thrilled, and you can create compelling incentives throughout the year. Rewards, personalized based on what really excites a particular employee, are far better motivators than generic t-shirts or one-size-fits-all water bottles and watches. A middle-aged parent of three may have different priorities than a young recent graduate. Awarding points to employees that they can redeem for rewards they choose lets you to recognize achievement on an ongoing basis in a way that’s genuinely meaningful to your team members.

9. Recognize actions that exemplify core company values

Core company values shouldn’t just be taglines on a page of your website. Building a strong culture requires living those values in the course of everyday work. With this in mind, you’ll want to publicly recognize employees who model core principles and demonstrate them at work. Regular recognition for embodying company values reinforces behaviors you want to encourage and deepens the meaning of your organization’s stated values.

10. Recognize personal achievements

In years past, companies honored employees who had been there for 10 or 20 years with identical watches and engraved wall plaques. A focus on personal accomplishments rather than solely milestones shows that you don’t view your employees as interchangeable cogs but as unique individuals. It’s also important to understand how employees value their own achievements, so that you can recognize those that matter most to them. Perhaps someone completed a training workshop or got certified – recognize employees for these types of achievements.

Build a culture of engagement

Your culture is your competitive advantage. A company’s culture defines who you are, what you believe in, including your values and core mission. So, what can your organization do to nurture a culture that strengthens employee engagement? Start by implementing these employee engagement ideas to ensure that your workforce feels valued.

11. Appoint the right leaders

Building a vibrant, inclusive culture starts at the top. But 38 percent of employees say their leadership has failed to take any action on improving their company culture, and only 9 percent of employees believe their leaders are committed to cultural initiatives. Leaders must play a strong role in building your company culture, aligned with values your employees buy into.

12. Offer virtual office hours

It’s easy to tell employees your door is always open, but it’s even better to put days and times on the calendar and encourage them to take advantage of it. Allowing employees at any level to drop in for informal conversations in a virtual meeting or on your Slack channel provides a valuable channel for honest feedback. Office hours reinforce that your organization values everyone’s contributions. And greater availability means that you’ll become aware of concerns that otherwise would have flown under the radar.

13. Encourage giving back

Giving back to people and nonprofits in your community makes your team feel good. In addition, employees that give back together build a strong sense of community. Consider starting a giveback program led by employees who choose recipients and raise funds for causes they care about. You can even match any donations they make online to a charity of their choice.

14. Support employee passions

Encourage employees to spend a portion of their work time doing something they love. It acts as an incentive to keep employees happy and engaged and it also pays off for the business: employee exploration leads to new product ideas and to creativity and loyalty on the job. Effective managers understand at a deep level what makes their team members tick, providing opportunities for growth and rewards.

15. Hire based on your culture

Your people are your biggest asset. Finding employees who contribute to your organization and support your mission is crucial to long-term success. The benefits of hiring employees who fit an organization’s culture include strong alignment with company vision and higher retention rates.

16. Define and live by your organization’s values

Hiring based on culture fit assumes your organization already has a clear sense of what those values are. Is your mission statement up to date? Do your employees, especially managers, know what it is? Use a pulse survey to find out. Clarifying and restating your organization’s values is an ongoing process, and it’s good practice to check on whether you are still living your values.

Empower your employees

Fostering your employees’ professional growth and empowering them to take ownership of their work experience is a key part of employee engagement. The employee engagement ideas in this section are designed to help your team members learn and grow.

17. Support employee development

Encourage employees to set goals to learn new skills and attend online workshops that support achieving them. When you invest in employees’ professional growth, whether it’s providing tuition reimbursement or allowing them to attend an online class during work hours, you demonstrate the organization’s commitment to them over the long term. This makes them far more likely to stay and apply those newly learned skills.

18. Include employees in decision-making

Collecting input from employees is one thing, but actually listening to them requires changing the way you make decisions. If you truly value their perspective, find ways to include employees in executive decisions when possible and appropriate. You can do this by adding a rotation of individual contributors to teams that help set the direction for the organization, and by presenting proposals and soliciting feedback early, rather than waiting until after decisions are set in stone to announce changes.

19. Cross-pollinate among teams

One often untapped area for engagement is encouraging employees to collaborate and, in some cases, actually work in other departments. Connect employees from different teams and have them share best practices, allowing them to test out a newly learned skill or explore areas where they might want to work in the future. Encourage lateral moves as well, so that talented workers are not forced to look outside the organization for growth opportunities.

20. Let employees take control of their work lives

The more control employees have over their work, the more engaged they are likely to be. You can accomplish this by asking for input from employees on important aspects of their work lives, such as their professional goals and their schedule. Allowing employees to meaningfully contribute to goal setting means they’ll have stronger incentives to hit goals and deadlines the whole team owns, and giving them more flexibility on scheduling improves satisfaction and work-life balance.

Focus on employee experience from day 1

Newly hired employees are excited to join your organization and motivated to contribute. You have an opportunity to channel that energy and amplify it with employee engagement activities that keep them excited about your organization and culture, starting on their first day and continuing throughout their tenure.

21. Personalize the entire employee experience

Personalization is the next frontier in employee alignment. In this context, personalization means understanding your team members well enough to know what motivates them and what fully engages them. We learn as much as possible and tailor programs and services to meet the needs of our customers. Why wouldn’t we do the same for the people who actually work in our organizations? By leveraging technology to understand each employee’s unique needs, your business can create a holistic experience that engages them daily.

employee engagement ideas and activities recognition and appreciation

22. Establish an employee wellness program

Wellness programs prioritize employee health and help to minimize on-the-job stress and increase happiness. They also remind employees that your organization cares about their well-being. Programs don’t have to be traditional – be innovative and actively encourage your team with options like sharing health tips, offering strength challenges, and even encouraging sleep goals. Reward employees for prioritizing their health and wellness.

23. Prioritize work-life balance

Companies can show they care by prioritizing programs that support healthy work-life balance. 49 percent of millennials listed work-life balance as an important part of their health and wellness in a recent Communispace study. Policies like flexible hours, telecommuting, and unlimited time off allow employees to work when and where they are most productive. Ask employees to help prioritize which initiatives support their needs.

24. Provide mentorship

Mentoring programs encourage employees to develop new skills. Experienced team members get to support each other’s growth and be recognized for mutual accomplishments. Mentoring programs have the added benefit of building friendly relationships across teams that don’t usually work together.

Don’t think of mentoring as just for recent hires or younger employees. Consider it as an opportunity for employees to help each other achieve professional goals. Be sure to acknowledge mentors as well as mentees for participating.

Start implementing employee engagement programs today

You now know what you can do to improve employee engagement, but what ideas and activities should you prioritize? The next step is finding out what your workforce needs to feel truly engaged. Then you can form an action plan and begin rolling out activities and implementing ideas right away.