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15 Employee Engagement Ideas for 2022

Written by

Simpplr Marketing

Published

June 24, 2022

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Have you ever seen The Office? Manager Michael Scott’s absurd ideas to boost employee engagement range from laughable to cringeworthy, but they all fail for the same reason:

He has no idea how to relate to the people he works with.

It’s hilarious to watch, but there’s a lesson in it too. If you want to boost employee engagement, activities and gimmicks aren’t enough. You have to start with a foundation of trust, respect, and genuine human caring.

If you want to know how to do that, you’re asking the right question.

So here’s the real deal—your straight-talk guide to employee engagement ideas that work, with 15 meaningful ways to improve engagement and make a genuine difference in the workplace.

Top 15 ways to boost employee engagement

1. Start with what it means to be engaged

Engaged employees aren’t just an HR buzzword. They’re people, dedicated to giving you their all.

They love their jobs. They’re collaborative and dependable. They’re constantly looking for ways to improve your business systems—for higher efficiency and better job satisfaction for everyone.

They might even shout about how happy they are on social media.

Managers often think that the difference between engaged and disengaged employees lies in the employees themselves, but that isn’t always true.

Happy, accomplished employees who feel stifled or unappreciated can fall into depression at work. And grumpy, defiant employees who feel recognized for their contributions can become enthusiastic, full of energy and innovative ideas.

In other words, who you are as a leader profoundly affects who your team members are as employees.

So, start by building an avatar of your ideal engaged employee:

  • How do they behave?
  • How do they approach their job?
  • What attitude do they bring to the team?
  • How do they work with others?

Once you’re clear about what you want from your employees, ask yourself what someone would have to feel to behave that way. Chances are, your list will look something like this:

  • valued
  • trusted
  • supported
  • safe

Give your employees good reasons to feel this way, and watch your workplace transform.

2. Create a company culture that cares

Overhauling your company culture might sound like a huge undertaking, but it’s easier than you might think. Great cultures can start in a single team. When that team gets results, the culture that made it happen can spread throughout the organization.

The rest of this post lays out specific ways to change your corporate culture, and the key to all of them lies in making your employees feel valued, trusted, supported, and safe.

That’s the guiding principle.

So, no matter what specific decision you’re facing, show employees you care by asking yourself the same 4 questions every time:

  1. What can I do to make my employees feel valued?
  2. What can I do to show them I trust them?
  3. What can I do to make them feel supported?
  4. What can I do to show them they’re safe?

Transform your work environment into a safe space for everyone, and encourage managers to become safe spaces for every employee.

Put these company values at the forefront by living and breathing them yourself every day.

3. Get engaged about employee engagement

The other key to succeeding with the employee engagement ideas on this list is to think intentionally about all your employees.

  • Do you have a mix of in-person and remote workers?
  • What about parents and non-parents?
  • Or employees whose voices have been historically marginalized?

Even remembering that some people are extroverts and some are introverts will help you navigate your choices in designing employee engagement activities.

Trust exercises and team-building activities often force people out of their comfort zones to help them build relationships. If that isn’t handled extremely well, it has the potential to backfire.

It can also leave remote employees or parents who can’t attend feeling left out.

No matter how simple the activities you’re planning, from happy hours or group outings to in-office birthdays, think about the consequences. Are you giving a limited group of people more access to upper management? Will employees feel forced to “play politics” to succeed?

When everyone has an equal platform for their ideas and equal opportunities to earn promotions, group fun can be simply that—group fun!

4. Laugh with your team

Speaking of fun, the right kind of laughter in the workplace can go a long way toward making people feel safe.

Studies have shown that it reduces work stress and even improves our health.

The key is to make sure the humor is never at someone else’s expense. Managers who make fun of themselves, for example, actually earn more respect from their direct reports.

Part of the reason laughter works is chemical. It reduces the fight-or-flight response, making us feel more at ease. But it’s also a matter of association.

Laughter isn’t allowed in places that are seen as “serious.” Instead, we associate laughter with play. And play is a big part of creativity, experimentation, and thinking outside the box.

In short, laughter makes us feel safe to be creative, making us more likely to try new ways of doing things or suggest new ideas for improvement.

5. Set reasonable goals and metrics

Setting reasonable expectations should go without saying, but far too many employee work environments come with goals that feel unachievable.

Or, even if they’re technically reachable, the numbers are barely eked out every month, making employees feel constantly stressed and under pressure.

For some managers, it feels counter-intuitive to bring those goals down. They worry that people won’t try so hard. But the truth is that reducing stress actually makes people better at their jobs.

Engaged employees want reasonable goals they can find new ways to beat, preferably by a lot. The right goals will give your team room to experiment with new, more efficient systems that might need several iterations before they’re perfected.

Reasonable goals meet your business needs while giving your employees more time to work on strategic and tactical improvements.

Remember, engaged employees who feel valued and trusted don’t just want to succeed. They want to succeed wildly, going far beyond your expectations.

6. Reward hard work and great attitudes, not just results

Along the same lines, it’s important to think deeply about the behaviors you’re rewarding. While bottom-line metrics and profitability clearly matter, you can also reward the attitudes and behaviors you need to get you there.

And those rewards aren’t always about money.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you need your team to test a presentation with you before you show the proposal to your CEO. You ask for their honest, critical feedback.

One team member asks, “Is this data point right? I think our numbers were higher that month.”

“Actually, that’s right,” you tell them. “But good question.”

It’s not a terrible answer, but if you want others to speak up even more, consider something more like this:

“Great question! Let’s double-check that. Can you look for me and let me know what you find out? Okay, nice work. That’s exactly what I need. Who else has a question?”

Many people feel nervous about speaking up, especially in a group. Rewarding that behavior with gratitude and reassurance shows people that it’s safe to make suggestions.

Employee recognition shouldn’t always be about financial success. It should also be about living your company culture, bringing the right attitude to work, and thinking creatively.

Whether or not a new idea works, reward the initiative of bringing it to the table. That will keep new ideas coming.

7. Don’t encourage after-hours work

If people feel like they need to work extra hours to keep up with others or earn your approval, you’re setting yourself up for a high rate of employee turnover and burnout.

Maintaining a healthy, sustainable work-life balance is essential to employee retention. It makes your team feel valued and supported.

On the flip side, extending your workday or even your work week beyond your employees’ reasonable expectations is one of the fastest paths to employee disengagement.

8. Think deeply about incentive programs

Truly engaged employees don’t need bonus incentives to do their best. In fact, that’s one of the things that distinguishes engaged employees from disengaged ones.

Engaged employees feel valued on a fundamental level. Offering great compensation can help them feel that way, but a poorly structured incentive program can do just the opposite.

Ad hoc incentives, in particular, tend to fail as an employee engagement strategy. Engaged employees don’t need gift cards to improve employee performance. They want to meet (and beat) their metrics because they care.

Even bonus compensation packages can backfire in recession years, leaving you with disengaged employees unless your targets move with the market.

An engaged workforce feels safe and valued through the natural ups and downs of your business cycles, knowing you’re doing everything you can to take care of them even through tough times.

9. Focus on great benefits

On a positive note, very few things make employees feel more valued than a strong benefits package. Providing solid medical benefits, paying for deductibles, and matching 401k contributions are profoundly meaningful ways to take care of employees and their families.

Beyond these essentials, make sure employees have a great workspace—both at the office and at home for remote work.

When offering additional perks, remember that everyone is unique. Where one person might want a gym membership for their health, another might prefer a new pair of running shoes, a fitness watch, or virtual yoga classes.

Flexible work benefits let people make their own choices. They empower your team while recognizing that the employee experience is different for different people.

10. Provide upward career paths

Engaged employees want to do more, learn more, and bring new skills to their teams. Help employees do that with professional development initiatives that can expand their skillsets to keep up with changing markets.

Engaged employees also help companies grow, providing new opportunities for promotions. And despite the old adage, great leaders are made, not born. Give your team access to leadership development programs to prepare them to move up.

11. Brainstorm across different departments

Siloed teams have a hard time supporting each other. They don’t know what knowledge, skills, or needs other teams have.

Without those working relationships, the product team can’t leverage the marketing team’s research, for example. And the marketing team can’t leverage the PR team’s corporate relationships.

Every team might be committed to the company’s mission and bottom line, but they’re still missing out on countless opportunities across their divisions.

By bringing groups together on a regular basis, engaged employees can do even more for the company while feeling more engaged and connected than ever.

12. Act on employee feedback

Today’s companies are using big data and AI to gauge everything from consumer habits to transportation routes. So, what does Harvard Business Review say you should still do the old-fashioned way?

Employee engagement surveys. Ask employees how they feel on a regular basis and listen to what they have to say.

But that doesn’t mean all employee engagement surveys are equal. In fact, Forbes reports that a majority of companies don’t take meaningful action based on the surveys they provide, which means they’re completely missing the point.

You shouldn’t ask about employee satisfaction just to measure engagement. You should ask because you want to improve it.

In other words, listening isn’t enough without action.

And that makes sense. People won’t feel valued if their feedback lands on deaf ears. When it comes to employee engagement surveys, action speaks louder than words.

13. Start off on the right foot with new hires

If you want to change your corporate culture, don’t let new hires learn old lessons. Encourage new employees to innovate and collaborate, and be sure to recognize the rest of your team members as they also start taking steps in that direction.

When bringing in new managers, let them know you’re ready to shake things up. Be transparent about the challenges you face and the changes you want to see.

The right candidates will be eager to help, seeing those challenges as opportunities to show you what they can do.

14. Pay attention to your onboarding process

You only get one chance to make a good first impression when a new employee walks in the door. Explain your company values and your intentions for your company culture, and ask your HR professionals to help employees maximize their benefits from the start.

Most of all, make sure your new hires know what to expect from their new job, and make sure they have everything they need to meet their objectives.

Job satisfaction starts on day one when employees feel confident that they’ll have the support they need to succeed. Your intranet can be extremely helpful to onboarding new hires.

15. Implement a smart intranet as you grow

Last but not least, take advantage of the latest technologies to reinforce your company culture and keep employees engaged through AI-driven internal communications.

Protect your efforts to increase collaboration, offer professional development, gather employee feedback, and transform your workplace with a smart intranet software that can solidify those changes and spread them throughout your organization.

Final thoughts

Human beings aren’t perfect. Even in a workplace full of engaged employees, Human Resources will still have its hands full dealing with personnel issues.

The difference between an engaged workplace and a disengaged one isn’t about perfection. If anything, it’s the opposite. Engaged employees give their all because they know they have the space they need to make mistakes, learn, and grow.

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