8 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement
There are many factors that can interfere with an employee’s motivation to engage with their other team members. These can include a disconnect between all members of the organization, a lack of positive reinforcement when they do attempt to engage, or a lack of visibility within the company as a whole.
Whatever the cause may be, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s nearly impossible to buy employee engagement. While higher salaries and perks may increase an employee’s satisfaction temporarily, real engagement comes from a team member’s emotional connection to their work and the company’s mission.
Here are several approaches you can take to increase employee engagement that can be tailored to fit your company’s specific needs and budget.
Create Opportunities for Employees to Connect
By now, it should be obvious that employees who have stronger workplace relationships feel more connected to their company and are able to be more creative and productive. Below are a few ideas for ways you can create opportunities for your team to connect.
✅ Beat the silos by hosting cross-department mixers
One side effect of remote work is that it can feel very transactional. In a lot of remote teams, the only time team members see or connect with one another in real time is over a work meeting - like a stand-up, code review, or goal-setting meeting. This means that team members are often not aware of who or even what is happening in other departments because there aren’t opportunities for them to connect with colleagues there. Silos in the workplace are a lot like cliques in high school, and it’s the leadership’s job to regularly bring everyone together - the Nerds, Beauties, Jocks, Rebels, and Recluses.
Hosting virtual mixers is a great way to beat silos when connecting in-person isn’t an option. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate event; simply getting everyone together to share stories and laugh will work wonders for getting team members familiar with one another. plan to host multiple socials on a recurring basis so team members have a regular chance to connect and meet their colleagues.
✅ Allow employees to bond over shared interests
As great as remote work is, many of us miss the casual social interactions. These are the ‘watercooler’ moments that allow us to connect with others on things not related to work.
A simple way to recreate these moments is by allowing time for such interaction to occur right before or after a meeting. Inviting team members to meetings five minutes early or allotting five minutes during the actual meeting can help break the ice and reconnect people on a more social level.
✅ Create structure so employees can host their own activities
If you’re among the many people struggling with increasing employee engagement, you might have also noticed that your employees are quite involved in a bunch of other activities. And quite often these activities occur with other employees, outside of the workplace.
So, invite them to bring that passion to work and create a structure where employees can host activities that may be of interest to other team members! For example, if you notice an employee is big into reading and/or supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion, create a systematic way for them to engage with colleagues through a book club.
An important thing to note: you shouldn’t wait to learn about these outside interests by chance. Reach out to your employees directly and offer to support them in building a tribe of like-minded team members within the workplace.
Reinforce company values & reward actions that align with them
✅ Help employees feel connected with the company’s mission & values
It’s one thing to ensure your employees are aware of and understand your company’s mission and core values. It’s another thing encouraging them to embody those values. Whether it’s listing it all out in a culture handbook or displaying it in the company newsletter, these guiding principles offer everyone a couple of benefits:
- Teams know where to focus their efforts, work harder, and perform better.
- Over time, processes become efficient and aligned with future goals.
- Employees feel a sense of camaraderie for instilling a common mission into their work.
✅ Calling out actions that align with company values to reinforce culture
There’s not a single person that doesn’t like being recognized for their actions in some way (big or small). Traditionally, recognition comes in some monetary form such as a bonus. However, sometimes, a simple pat on the back can go a long way.
Increase Transparency Throughout the Company
When an organization is more transparent with their employees, it’s usually followed by higher levels of engagement. This positive correlation is due to the connectedness your employees will have to the company’s mission, its successes, and to their colleagues.
✅ Better connect individual work to company success
Innately, we as humans enjoy “winning”. And If you notice engagement is down throughout the organization, one of the reasons may be that employees are having trouble connecting their work to the company’s successes. It’s your job to paint a clearer picture for everyone of what it looks like when the company succeeds.
This is especially important (and tricky) for startups since the work moves fairly quickly and is constantly changing. Behind the scenes, leaders have to consider many choices and decide quickly, so making visible things like product roadmaps and high-level KPIs can provide a baseline of understanding for why certain decisions are being made and what growth levers are being affected as a result of their work.
✅ Increase visibility across various departments to increase buy-in to the company mission
Now, even your best employees - the ones who will do whatever it takes to see the company succeed - need a little direction. As mentioned above, developing a culture handbook is a great way to guide your employees into doing work that aligns with the company’s mission & values.
Once everyone has an understanding of what’s expected, be sure you and/or your team leaders are paying close attention to the work being done across various departments, and recognize certain actions (big or small) that reflect what’s laid out in your handbook.
Having regular, quarterly celebrations are a great way to recognize all the hard work being done throughout the organization. To make it even more interesting, make a game out of it! People love a little friendly competition so, host a game of trivia that incorporates some of the wins your company has had over the last few months. This is a fun way to not only showcase how people are embracing the mission, but also to encourage others to pay closer attention to the work being done in order to come out on top at each quarterly event!
✅ Increase communication and open-ness on company communication channels (like Slack)
In many ways, every company is different. They come in different sizes, different business objectives, communication tools, etc. What remains universal is the nature by which we communicate as dictated by widely-used mediums - like Slack!
CEO of Slack, Stewart Butterfield has said, “There’s a lot of value sometimes to ask a question and get the answer in the biggest public forum that it could happen in… We encourage conversations to happen in the most public venue they can.”
Sure, Slack and many other communications platforms offer features that allow for private conversations to occur, however, allowing as many of these interactions to be open to the entire company will give employees a greater understanding of your organization’s “bigger picture”. The clearer you are with company operations, the more proactive your employees will be in engaging with others to solve problems, collaborate on new initiatives, and celebrate the little things with their colleagues.
While these 8 approaches will certainly improve overall employee engagement. there's a far greater benefit to be had here - acknowledging that humans, your people, are emotional creatures. We tend to rely on our emotions when making decisions more than our rational brain, so keep that in mind when deciding which engagement strategy to pursue in the future.