18 Time-Tested Employee Engagement Ideas You Can Use to Keep Your Team Invested

Mar 27, 2023 | Retaining Employees


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Keeping your employees engaged has become the challenge of the decade.

There are more workplace “movements” happening today than ever before.

Quiet quitting.

Rage applying.

Bare Minimum Monday.

The list goes on and on. Millennials and Gen Zers have begun to change the narrative around work to escape the “hustle culture”.

While the intent is good, it’s impossible to miss the tension that’s building while employers try to navigate these trends and ever-changing workforce dynamics.

This unique environment and potential for conflict is exactly why it’s critical right now to keep employee engagement top of mind and always look for unique ways to keep your team invested in being a part of YOUR team.

Engagement is vital — but identifying staff engagement ideas that can truly work for your organization is just as important.

What Separates Team Engagement Ideas That Work From Those That Completely Flop? This…

As a successful remote company with little turnover and dedicated staff, we have crafted a list of engagement ideas that have worked for us for over a decade. But before we dive into that list, it’s important to understand why some ideas work and others don’t.

Many well-intentioned executives and HR managers implement employee engagement strategies that only address surface-level behaviors.

For example, their employees aren’t productive—so they add monetary incentives for them to give their full effort. That in and of itself isn’t bad.

But it doesn’t address the root cause of why your employees aren’t productive.

We know from Daniel Pink’s research in his book Drive that employees have core motivations that go far beyond the “carrot and stick” (i.e. money for performance) approach that most companies take.

The three main motivators are:

  1. Autonomy – the ability to direct their own work and make decisions (giving them a sense of ownership).
  2. Mastery – the sense that they are growing personally and professionally–becoming experts at their craft.
  3. Purpose – the sense that they are part of something bigger than themselves–something that has a far-reaching impact on the world.

Any employee engagement initiative you pursue will likely fall flat on its face if it isn’t based on these principles.

Trying to motivate your team just with money or picking a few ideas from the list below and calling them an “employee engagement strategy” won’t work.

You need to think of employee engagement from a big-picture, cultural perspective.

Your employees will only be as engaged as your company culture enables them to be. And grounding your leadership in the three principles described above is what separates a great culture from a toxic one. 

These ideas shouldn’t be considered “strategies” for improving engagement. First, take an honest look at your company culture and ask yourself what may be lacking from that culture and your existing compensation and benefits packages. 

Then, use these ideas to build a bigger employee engagement strategy and action plan to enhance and transform your culture.

18 Powerful Employee Engagement Ideas To Use in Your Broader Cultural Strategy

employee engagement ideas

1. Provide unique employee perks.

Offering unique employee perks takes your total benefits package to the next level and shows your employees you care about them as individuals.

These perks can range from anything to discounts on subscriptions to technology stipends or even childcare reimbursements.

The specific perks that will work best for you completely depend on what YOUR employees want.

At Abenity, we can help you figure this out and implement a powerful perks program that gives your team access to exclusive discounts on everything from insurance to subscriptions and even ski resorts.

We also have a detailed (and free!) perks report that gives you the ins and outs of what employees like best that you can download for FREE here.

2. Offer flexible work.

Did you know that benefits like remote work and flexible hours can improve employee productivity and engagement? 

Employees who are given the freedom to work on their own terms can better balance their personal and professional lives. 

This reduces stress and burnout and improves mental health and job satisfaction, which leads to higher levels of engagement.

Flexible work benefits also give employees a greater sense of autonomy and control over their work. This leads to greater creativity and innovation because employees can work during the times when they are most productive. 

3. Celebrate your team.

Take time to recognize and celebrate your employees’ accomplishments and hard work. This can include celebrating work anniversaries, birthdays, or other milestones, as well as acknowledging achievements such as meeting sales goals or completing a major project.

Authentic praise shows your employees you appreciate them and their contributions. 

It might seem “cheesy”, but it works wonders for your team’s morale when done right.

Some companies accomplish this, in part, through a weekly “crush it” session, where they publicly praise a single employee for their great work that week. This could be done in a team meeting or company-wide email. 

At Abenity, we have an entire Slack channel dedicated to celebrating fellow employees when they do something that aligns with our company’s core values. We’ve found that encouraging employees to thank and congratulate each other is an amazing way to build positive work relationships, as well as building morale for individuals.

4. Strengthen your onboarding experience.

Invest in a robust and engaging onboarding process that sets new employees up for success. 

This is one of the most crucial stages in the employee life cycle, as it sets the tone for the rest of their employment with your company. 

If you do it right, you’ll have a better chance at keeping your people engaged and productive over the long term. Studies have shown a strong onboarding process helps new employees feel more engaged and committed to their work, and can lead to higher retention rates over the long term.

5. Set up an employee recognition program.

Establish a formal employee recognition program to acknowledge and reward employees for their hard work, achievements, and contributions to the company. 

This program can include both formal and informal recognition, such as employee of the month awards, team shoutouts, or small gifts or perks.

6. Offer mentorship programs.

Create formal mentorship programs that pair employees with experienced colleagues or external mentors who can provide guidance, support, and professional development opportunities. 

These can be valuable tools for promoting career growth, skill development, positive work relationships. Giving employees an opportunity to learn from someone either higher up in the company or further along in their career shows them that you care about their success and that there is growth potential at your company.

7. Host engaging team-building events.

Plan team-building events that are engaging and fun, and that cater to the interests and preferences of your employees. This can include activities like game nights, outdoor adventures, escape rooms, volunteer opportunities, cooking classes, or creative workshops.

Just make sure you figure out what types of events or activities your employees would actually be excited about. The last thing you want is to guess, see minimal engagement, and feel like you wasted your money.

How do you accomplish this? Survey your employees (formally or informally) to figure out what they’d like to do together, then be the catalyst that makes it happen.

When done right, these events can drastically increase collaboration, improve communication, and build stronger relationships within your team.

8. Heavily invest in professional development.

Invest in professional development opportunities such as courses, training programs, learning stipends, and even guest speakers. These opportunities can help improve employees’ skills and knowledge, promote career growth, and increase engagement and productivity.

But as with everything on your list, ask your employees what they really want.

You can waste tons of time and money bringing in guest speakers or buying courses your people don’t care about. The trick is finding the balance between the skill gaps they have and what they want to learn.

That way, you can develop your people and invest in their personal goals at the same time.

9. Provide & communicate clear career paths.

A central motivator to an employee remaining engaged and invested in a particular company is trusting that they have a future at that company. But you can’t expect them to just take your word for it. Prove it! 

Create clear career paths for employees that show them what their future with the company can look like. This can include outlining the skills and experiences needed to advance to the next level, as well as providing opportunities for growth and development.

The key is giving your employees a clear vision of where they can go within your organization.

Your top talent will quickly become bored in their existing role if they don’t have a vision for the future within your company. They want to know how you plan on developing them and what they can achieve.

10. Provide access to leadership.

Create opportunities for employees to connect with leadership for questions, feedback, and coaching. This can include regular one-on-one meetings, open-door policies, and town hall meetings.

This creates a culture of transparency and openness where employees feel heard and valued. It can also improve communication and collaboration among employees, and promote a sense of community and purpose.

11. Maintain high-performance standards and quickly deal with non-performers.

Set and maintain high-performance standards for your employees, and quickly address non-performers by coaching them and, if necessary, letting them go. This can help to maintain a high level of productivity and quality and promote a culture of excellence.

Few things can make your team lose trust and respect for you faster than you holding on to someone who doesn’t meet the standards the rest of the company abides by. Besides being a bad culture fit, this compromise can appear as favoritism or a lack of appreciation for those who work hard to maintain high-quality output.

12. Share your company’s bigger mission and show employees the role they play.

Share your vision for the change your company will make in the world and communicate it to employees in a way that inspires and motivates them. Help employees see how their work is part of a bigger mission and how their work is making a positive impact on the world.

This gives your employees the sense of purpose that Daniel Pink showed was so important in Drive.

13. Support delegation of repetitive tasks.

When possible, help employees delegate repetitive tasks that take up a lot of their time, so they can focus on more valuable and fulfilling work. 

This is critical because it demonstrates that you value your employees’ time, energy, and enjoyment of their job. It’s a way to not just talk about how much you value them — but to demonstrate your appreciation in a way that positively affects their daily lives.

You want your employees to spend as much time as possible on meaningful and valuable work. When you provide the necessary support for them to do this, it not only helps them feel empowered and valued, but it will increase their productivity, too.

14. Challenge employees to reach new heights.

Constantly challenge your employees to reach new heights. Provide them with the coaching and resources they need to achieve progressively harder goals.

This helps keep your employees engaged in their work and leans into the mastery motivation described by Daniel Pink.

If employees feel challenged and frequently achieve their goals, they’re more likely to stick around because they want to see what else they can accomplish. It almost becomes a game, and that’s when people start loving their work.

15. Offer unlimited PTO.

Offer unlimited paid time off (PTO) to employees, so they have the freedom and flexibility to take time off when they need it. This can help to improve employee work-life balance, reduce burnout, and promote a culture of trust and empowerment.

With childcare costs increasing, rising inflation, and ever-prevalent mental health issues, unlimited PTO is an olive branch you can offer to your people.

It helps them know you support them and understand that they have a life outside of work. 

16. Leverage the power of “Random Acts of Fun”.

Incorporate “random acts of fun” into the workday to help break up the monotony of work and reinforce an employee-first culture. 

What are “random acts of fun”? Intentional and unexpected activities, events, and perks you give your people. This can be anything from randomly hosting a food truck at the office, to hosting spontaneous contests with prizes or even sending thank-you notes with gift baskets for a job well done.

There aren’t hard and fast rules here. Just think of little things you can do to surprise and delight your team.

17. Utilize huddles to help remote employees feel connected.

Remote employees often report feeling isolated. But it doesn’t have to be that way. At Abenity, our team has been remote for over 10 years, and our employees report feeling connected to their team on a daily basis. 

What’s the simplest way to create connection and community? Communication! One easy way to help your remote employees feel connected to the organization is to utilize regular team “huddles” or meetings (whether your team is fully remote or hybrid). 

These come in several shapes and sizes, but the idea is to have consistent, quick meetings that provide important company updates, and insights into the upcoming workday, week, or month, and foster open communication within your team. 

18. Help managers develop real relationships with team members.

Provide training and support to help managers develop real relationships with their team members, based on trust, respect, and mutual understanding. The more a leader knows their people, the better your organization will be at maintaining high levels of engagement.

These relationships shouldn’t be forced, but managers and leaders should always be looking out for ways to get to know individual team members better to foster a sense of community and open communication. 

This requires intentionality. Coach your managers on how to be good leaders and check in with them to ensure that they are consistently making a relational effort with the people on their teams.

Employee Engagement Is an Ongoing Process

Creating a comprehensive strategy for improving employee engagement is crucial in today’s changing workforce dynamics. 

The key to any great strategy is identifying and targeting the root causes behind why employees are disengaged–not just focusing on surface-level behaviors. 

Focus on engagement initiatives that provide your people with a greater sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

If you stick with these principles and offer competitive compensation, you’ll create a culture that not only attracts top talent but retains it.

If you’re looking for a fast pass for increasing employee engagement, Abenity can help. Our employee perks and discount programs give your team access to lower-cost subscriptions, insurance, and more.

Book a call with one of our perks experts today to see how you can unlock a cheat code for improving employee engagement and retention.

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