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Fun employment engagement activities that work

Written by

Jamie Yan


February 1, 2019


After we published our Definitive Intranet Content eBook, we’ve received a ton of positive feedback! Specifically, we’ve been told how many of the employee engagement ideas are actually fun. But we believe that intranets (and broader employee engagement strategies) need to be more than just fun. Workplaces should be fun and effective at improving employee engagement without it. So in this post, we want to look at employee engagement tactics from this fun perspective. Then we’ll touch on several fun employee engagement activities that actually work.

Public Service Announcement: How do you improve employee engagement?

Before we get into the fun stuff, it’s important that you have a baseline understanding of what drives employee engagement. You can’t simply buy a ping pong table and schedule happy hours to improve employee engagement. Employee engagement is more deep-rooted than that.

Simpplr Research has researched this topic extensively. We have a lot of resources on employee engagement, for example, a (less fun) blog post which outlines 10 steps to improve employee engagement. At a high level, any employee engagement effort should base their strategy on the following three tenants because these have repeatedly been shown to be the key drivers of employee engagement.

Key Drivers of employee engagement

Employee Engagement Pillar #1: Foster community

Humans are social beasts. Our happiness, comfort, and engagement are all a function of our personal networks. We thrive when we feel connected. The organization should use the lens of network building when executing an employee engagement strategy.

Employee Engagement Pillar #2: Be clear on company strategy, goals, and alignment

The biggest surprise from Simpplr Research’s study on employee engagement is how strongly correlated engagement outcomes are to an employee’s ability to recite strategic priorities. Employees don’t even realize this themselves! But the more they’re in the know, the more they’re excited about their contribution.

Employee Engagement Pillar #3: Market the higher meaning of your organization

Surprisingly, the biggest statistical driver of employee engagement lies in an individual’s ability to align with the purpose and ethos of the organization. Our jobs are an extension of ourselves. We want to show meaning in what we do and be proud of our work at cocktail parties. Employees often need help, clarity, and reminders on this broader purpose.

What are some fun engagement activities that support employee engagement?

Now that you’ve done your research, established a framework, and convinced yourself that you’re not taking shortcuts on your employee engagement strategy. Here is what you asked for fun ideas to improve employee engagement.

Ideas for fun employee engagement activities 

Employee Engagement Activity #1: Conduct Crowd Sourced Competitions

This was referenced in a previous blog post: Fun intranet content ideas to engage employees every month. We published a series of activities to encourage social participation through your intranet. For example, encourage employees to share vacation photos or their New Years’ resolutions. Intranets work best when someone markets and manages the initiative, has a recurring calendar of activity, and uses spiffs and prizes as bait.

How it drives employee engagement: These provide employees the ability to get to know coworkers outside of work and can create ice breakers for those coworkers we often see but don’t know well.

Employee Engagement Activity #2: Encourage people to eat together

A lot can be said about your culture if all of your employees are hiding at their desks. Breaking bread together has strengthened relationships since our species’ origin. Companies can better facilitate the practice by bringing the food, enforcing the practice, or setting up meetups across functions.

How it drives employee engagement: It helps employees strengthen their relationships and networks.

Employee Engagement Activity #3: Profile employee stories on your intranet

We talk a lot on this blog about Humans of New York style writeups or videos to drum up intranet engagement. People are intrinsically curious to hear other people’s stories. Everybody has a story. And when we learn that we have more in common with our coworkers, we strengthen our relationships and go out of our way to help them out. Plus, they’re fun because they’re interesting. Here are some topics to get you started.

How it drives employee engagement: It strengthens the bonds between employees and helps us know our coworkers at a more personal level.

Employee Engagement Activity #4: Volunteer together, but try to tie it to your company purpose

Volunteer activities are a great way for employees to try new things, collaborate with coworkers in different ways, and feel good about themselves. They’re even better when they align with what the company stands for. For example, a web conferencing company can map its broader purpose of saving the environment with a beach cleanup day.

How it drives employee engagement: Your employees will feel rewarded on almost any type of activity because volunteering feels good, is social and collaborative, and is a nice change of pace. But if you tie it to the company ethos, employees can reflect on what your organization is about and better internalize purpose.

Employee Engagement Activity #5: Celebrate wins but dangle the celebration before goals are met

“When we launch our new product by July 31st, we will celebrate by . . .” The takeaway here is: focus on the journey, not the destination. It’s great for organizations to celebrate their wins – have a party, have drinks, eat cake, ring a gong, put your CEO in a dunk tank, whatever. Where organizations often miss out is focusing on the goals along the way and foreshadowing the celebration so people can taste the victory beforehand and savor the accomplishment.

How it drives employee engagement: Team bonding and true employee engagement often don’t come to life until the team members have gone to war together and come out with shared wins. The process galvanizes the engagement, not the party. Thus, your organization would be wise to couple the goals with the celebration. Plus, it’s a great way to crystallize goals and strategic understanding which in itself drives employee engagement more than a thousand pieces of cake.

Employee Engagement Activity #6: Celebrate milestones but keep it sincere and meaningful

It’s great to celebrate your coworkers’ life events: work anniversaries, birthdays, promotions, weddings, babies, etc. It’s fun and really important if your employees matter to you. Treat every activity as a unique event so you don’t get trapped in repetitive, insincere celebrations.

How it drives employee engagement: We all look for a sense of community at work. Sincere celebrations show that employees are more than just a number. On the contrary, when these aren’t acknowledged it sends employees the message that they don’t matter.

Employee Engagement Activity #7: Schedule company hackathons

Hackathons started with programmers as a focused event in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming. They’ve since expanded across the organization and are a great way for employees to chime in on various topics. Encourage people to promote their projects and then get help from across the organization.

How it drives employee engagement: They encourage cross-functional work and help employees meet each other

Employee Engagement Activity #8: Promote digital coffee breaks

This was another topic we’ve previously discussed in our blog Using the Intranet for Digital Coffee Breaks. These are effectively state sponsored distractions (often administered in the intranet) that encourage employees to take periodic breaks.

How it drives employee engagement: They help set the cultural precedent that you don’t intend to be a continuous sweatshop, they encourage self-improvement, and get cross-functional roles creatively thinking about interesting topics outside of their day-to-day work.

Employee Engagement Activity #9: Rotate employees to lead recurring meetings or MC company events

Okay, for some individuals this may be more scary than fun. But it is a great growth opportunity for many and it breaks the monotony for the other participants.

How it drives employee engagement: Recall, knowing the strategy and internalizing how you contribute is a huge driver of employee engagement. Giving employees more of these opportunities to lead will provide stretch opportunities to think harder on strategic issues.

Employee Engagement Activity #10: Encourage projects across domains

Whether you formalize a “sign-up for someone else’s job day” or you proactively seek cross-functional projects, it’s fun for employees to try different roles and projects.

How it drives employee engagement: First, they strengthen their networks by working across functions. Second, employees learn new skills and are shown they can grow, try new experiences, and build out their careers at your organization.

Download The Definitive Guide to Intranet Content Playbook

We hope that you’ll try these fun employment engagement activities. Your workplace will benefit greatly from these activities to strengthen your cultural values and drive engagement. If you’re looking for an intranet content playbook, make sure you download our The Definitive Guide to Intranet Content Playbook.

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