This article on employee engagement strategies was updated in November 2023.
It was originally published in December 2021.
The story of employee engagement today is a little murky. On one hand, global employee engagement has climbed to 23%, its highest level since Gallup first reported the metric in 2009. On the other hand, in the U.S., the 31% engagement rate is lower than it’s been in years, dropping from 36% in 2020. 69% of employees are either not engaged (quiet quitting) or actively disengaged.
Disengagement comes at a high price, costing $8.8 trillion in lost productivity worldwide. It also costs companies their employees, customers, and profits — higher engagement correlates with better retention of both employees and customers, as well as higher profitability. At highly engaged companies, turnover can be as much as 43% higher and profits 23% higher.💸 Disengagement costs $8.8 trillion in lost productivity each year. Discover 9 game-changing strategies to boost employee engagement and reclaim lost potential:
With so much of the workforce checked out, there’s a pressing need for human resources teams to revamp employee engagement strategies. But how do you know which strategies will be the most effective for your business?
There are lots of ways to help your employees stay connected, motivated, and interested in their work. And now, workers are being transparent about what makes them feel engaged. So today, we’re taking a closer look at some strategies for improving employee engagement that work — and your employees actually want. Head into 2024 with new ideas to engage your top talent.
1. Give More Employee Feedback
Employee feedback — both given and received — is an extremely valuable tool for engagement, performance, and retention. Regular feedback can lead to nearly 15% lower turnover, and 65% of employees say they want more feedback. The evidence shows it’s a powerful differentiator for engagement:
- 40% of employees who aren’t receiving positive feedback are actively disengaged, while only 1% who do are disengaged.
- 85% of employees take more initiative if they receive feedback, and 43% say it makes them care more about their work.
- 19% of employees receive feedback just once a year, while 43% of highly engaged employees hear from their managers once a week.
Take inspiration from the statistics and increase the frequency of feedback at your organization quickly with weekly one-on-ones. Regular check-ins between managers and their direct reports are an excellent way to build trust and help employees succeed. They give managers the opportunity to give constructive feedback and praise, answer questions, and help employees prioritize and stay on track.
2. Get More Feedback From Your Employees
Your people want to share their opinions, and when they do, it can benefit the entire business. When people feel heard at work, job satisfaction and engagement are higher. Not to mention, their feedback is irreplaceable in helping HR teams shape the employee experience.
- One-question employee pulse surveys
- Employee engagement surveys
- New hire or onboarding survey
- Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) survey
Butsending surveys is the easy part. Acting on the results is more of a challenge, which is why just 8% of employees say they feel their company takes action on survey feedback. However, it’s essential to act on what you learn to build trust and encourage employees to keep giving useful feedback.
Incorporate analysis and strategy adjustments into your survey process to avoid skipping this important step. Then, communicate with your employees about the impact of their feedback and what changes were made as a result. Monitor the effects of any strategic adjustments, keep your employees updated on what’s going on, and ask for more feedback periodically.
3. Enable Work-Life Balance
Millennials and Gen Z workers say work-life balance is their top consideration during job searches, beating out both professional development and pay. 89% of full-time workers now prefer remote or hybrid work environments or four-day workweeks. You can chalk these changes up to the pandemic, which proved there are lots of jobs that can be done remotely and made us all reflect on the time we get to spend at home and with our families.
Even though employees are trying to prioritize their well-being, 57% report at least moderate levels of burnout. It’s so high among healthcare that the CDC launched its first-ever campaign to address the problem.
Your HR team needs to take the reins in combatting the problem by adopting policies that bake work-life balance into company culture. One way is by giving team members more flexibility and autonomy over their work schedules or locations as their roles allow. There are many benefits of flexibility and autonomy:
- Productivity: Strategies for better work-life balance, like shorter work weeks, lead to increased productivity time and again for a variety of organizations.
- Less stress: Very few people like to be micromanaged, so the freedom to set their own hours, work from home, and take breaks as needed reduces the stress of watching the clock.
- Better work-life balance: Flexible scheduling allows employees to perform daily tasks like picking children up from school and attending appointments, taking care of themselves and their families without guilt.
- Increased employee engagement: Giving employees more control over their schedules helps reduce absenteeism and increases job satisfaction, morale, and retention.
4. Be Transparent
When employees understand what’s going on at their companies, they’re more likely to feel engaged. Being transparent with employees builds trust and helps them understand the “why” behind their work.
It can be difficult to be transparent about things like compensation and professional development opportunities. But it’s worth it to work through those difficulties and create a company culture of transparency to attract and retain top talent.
5. Set SMART Goals
Setting and meeting goals is a top indicator of employee success. Goal-setting provides clarity around expectations and inspires better performance. 67% of employees whose managers help them set goals are more engaged. The SMART approach to goal-setting contributes to increased transparency and helps ensure that goals can actually be accomplished as planned.
SMART goals are:
Setting SMART goals helps clarify expectations, motivate employees, and keep their work on track. Align individual and company goals to motivate employees by showing them how they play a role in achieving those goals. This also helps foster more appreciation company-wide for the contributions of every individual contributor.
6. Help Your Employees Thrive
According to Gallup, people who are “thriving at work” feel connected to their team and company and find meaning in their work. They go the extra mile and take pride in and ownership of their work. When employees are thriving, they’re less likely to experience productivity- and profit-draining burnout. They’re also more likely to be thriving in other areas of their life.
Gallup identified five areas of well-being in life that people need to thrive:
- Career well-being: Level of enjoyment of their work
- Community well-being: Satisfaction with where they live
- Social well-being: Fulfilling friendships and relationships
- Financial well-being: Adequate resources and money management abilities
- Physical well-being: Having the energy to get things done
Nearly six in ten employees are quiet quitting, but training managers to be effective coaches can improve engagement by up to 18%.
Your policies can have a huge impact on overall well-being. Show your people you care, help them thrive, and stay competitive in today’s labor market with engagement strategies that have a positive impact on their well-being:
- Offer professional development opportunities that align with employees’ strengths.
- Encourage better work-life balance with flexible schedules.
- Provide healthcare plans that include mental health and telehealth benefits.
- Incorporate financial wellness resources, like access to a financial planner or money management workshops.
- Start an initiative to help employees get to know each other — anything from a mentorship program to an informal club.
7. Encourage Employee Connections
Research shows that having a friend at work is good for business, increasing safety, profitability, and retention. As remote or hybrid work environments become more common and permanent, those relationships are less likely to happen naturally. New and younger employees are more likely to report difficulty feeling engaged or excited about work.
If you want to improve engagement, you’ll need to be intentional about providing ways for employees to create connections. There are many proven methods to help build relationships at work you can add to your employee engagement strategy:
- Begin a mentorship program. 91% of employees who have a mentor are satisfied with their job. They also prefer mentorship to many other forms of professional development.
- Create avenues for informal conversations. Set up non-work-related messaging groups, start a book club, or set up 10-minute randomized coffee chats where employees can connect on a personal level outside of their direct team.
- Make time to connect intentionally. Ask managers to conduct regular one-on-ones with each of their reports. Set aside time during weekly team meetings to chat about how everyone is doing. Designate time to check in with your employees about their life outside of work.
8. Appreciate, Congratulate, and Celebrate
This strategy is a low- to no-cost way to boost morale and engagement, and employees resoundingly agree it’s effective. Recognition programs help employees see that their contributions are noticed and that their work matters. Expressing appreciation regularly can also reduce turnover by as much as 43%. According to Great Place to Work®, 37% of employees said recognition that was more personal would motivate them to produce better work.
GPTW also observed that feeling appreciated at work is related to higher job satisfaction. They even found that employee recognition can inspire extra effort. Feeling appreciated also led employees to have a more positive perception of their companies. Those employees were over two times more likely to think that promotions are fair, that innovative thinking is embraced, and that people at their company are willing to go above and beyond.
Employee recognition can range from personal thank-yous from managers to shout-outs from department heads during a big meeting to posts in team Slack channels. Encourage managers to express gratitude often and in a way that each person appreciates.
9. Invest in Engagement Software
Executing effective employee engagement strategies is a complex task, no matter the size of your HR team. Software is equipped with tools to make it easier, allowing your team to perform tasks that just aren’t possible without technology: automating processes, storing and analyzing data, and managing a complex schedule of reminders and announcements.
Invest in a modern employee engagement platform packed with game-changing tech features to empower your HR team. Here are a few features to look for in a software solution:
- Recognition tools that make public thank-yous and celebrations a normal part of day-to-day interactions
- Access to pre-built employee survey templates so you can quickly launch an effective survey cycle
- Customizable surveys to dive deeper into topics specific to your organization
- Goal planning and tracking tools that enable greater transparency and accountability
- Digital one-on-one workspaces that facilitate more frequent collaboration among employees, especially managers and their direct reports
- Analytics and reporting to help you monitor trends and prevent issues, make data-informed decisions and more accurate plans for the future, and gain a deeper understanding of your workforce
While you’re considering a software investment or upgrade to a more robust solution, boost your employee engagement strategy fast with ClearCompany’s HR resource bundle. Here’s what’s included:
- Infographic on employee unhappiness and how to beat it
- How to get executive buy-in for employee surveys
- 30 ways you can show employees they’re appreciated now
Download the Employee Engagement bundle to take the first step toward strengthening your retention strategy and building a more engaged workforce.