I’ve always felt that an engaged workforce is the holy grail of business leaders and HR alike. Organizations in the US have spent almost USD 720 million a year on measuring employee engagement. With all this investment you would expect engagement levels to go through the roof. Think again!

Gallup, the global pollster, recently published their 2015 US engagement numbers and according to them the percentage of US workers who were considered engaged in their jobs averaged 32%. The majority (50.8%) of employees were “not engaged,” while another 17.2% were “actively disengaged”. It’s safe to say close to 70% of the US workforce is sitting on the fence (and the numbers for other regions in the world are not much different).

For what it’s worth, practically every CEO and HR manager knows what engagement is, why it’s important and how to enhance it. At the core of it, employee engagement helps organizations:

  • Create a sense of belonging where employees are proud of their organization and trust the leaders,
  • Build commitment and align employees to its strategic goals, and
  • Develop and provide opportunities for employees to grow.

And what it yields is employees who:

  • Go the extra mile,
  • Are loyal to the organization, and
  • Advocate a positive vibe about the organization.

Engagement Model

Despite the fact that we know what to do and spend so much money on it, we still aren’t able to make a dent in the engagement of our employees. One of the reasons could be that we’re all doing the same things and it’s creating an impact that we wish it could.

Looking at how low the engagement numbers are, I’d safely say it’s time to shake things up and try a combination of things that are different. Here’s my list of 5 employee engagement ideas you can start off with.

1. TEDx Events

TEDx conferences in the past thirty years have become the hub for any would-be influencer. Its format has proven to be extremely powerful and its numbers are mind boggling. Laura Stein, the founder of TEDx, states that its formula of simplified, authentic storytelling has hit a powerful nerve worldwide. You could use the same formula to create a platform for your employees to share personal stories and their passions. Such an employee engagement activity could help ignite similar excitement for others.

2. Hack Nights

A “Hack Night” is where you get a group of coworkers together and set them aside from daily routine to hack at a problem. Here’s how you get started – think of a real-life challenge or problem the organization is facing and have the team hack it. You’ll need to give them plenty of space and an environment to think out of the box (think along the lines of pizzas and soda, white boards, bean bags, etc). And remember, don’t tell them what they have to do, just why it’s important for them to do this.

3. Give Back

The Financial Times has reported that Fortune 500 companies spend a combined USD 15 billion on Corporate Social Responsibility projects. A whopping amount that surely is well spent supporting fantastic initiatives. Such initiatives could also be given an employee engagement twist. You could allocate budgets to employees which they can use to support a ‘good cause’. The catch here would be that employees cannot simply donate the funds. Instead, they ought to use it to actively participate in social activities.

4. Gamify

Gamification is the next big thing in engaging your workforce. This technique employs the use of games, leaderboards, badges, leveling up and community elements to engage people. An incredible 150 million people are daily engaged in online strategy games, showing its popularity. If you can bring that enthusiasm and commitment to your innovation process, suggestion boxes or even your feedbacks there’s a good chance your organization’s engagement levels will soar.

5. Personal Time

For years, Google has taken out 20% of their engineers work time encouraging them to focus on their own pet projects. These have often resulted in hugely successful products that the company has marketed. Though it might not work for every employee, in every company (neither does it for Google, by the way). But providing employees who are part of your value creation with personal time to work on their pet projects and ideas can help to:

  • Team them with other like-minded individuals in the organization,
  • Produce the next big product or service that your organization has to offer.

6. Involve the Family

Of course, it’s great to be recognized at work. To get called into your boss’s office and be told that you got promoted. What, in my view, has an even bigger impact is if instead of informing the individual you reach out to their spouse, parents or even children. Tell them how much you appreciate their support and role in the performance of their loved one (your team member). Can you imagine your father receiving a letter to thank him for his support in your development? Or your spouse receiving a dinner voucher or a painting for their behind the scene unwavering support. Now that will engage me!

In my experience, it’s all about coming up with different ideas to engage people. There isn’t a ‘golden nugget’ that will do it for everyone. As in communication or marketing, it’s about using different channels and initiatives to engage different groups of employees. Let me know what works for you. I’d would love to hear your innovative ideas to enhance employee engagement.

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