6 Proven Ways To Increase Employee Engagement

According to a January 2023 Gallup poll, employee engagement is at its lowest level since 2015. A whopping 68% of employees reported feeling a lack of engagement; actively disengaged employees tallied 18% of the workforce.

Unfortunately, companies fail to understand the importance of employee engagement and the positive effects it has on a business, ultimately leading to poor employee retention, the perception of a lackluster company culture, burnout, and difficulties in hiring talent. While social factors, world events, and a sluggish economy can impact employee engagement, the onus of engaged employees lies squarely on the shoulders of leaders and managers.

The ability to increase employee engagement is relatively nascent, and therefore, managers and leaders can’t resort to a cookie-cutter approach to boost engagement and the overall employee experience. Trial and error, fresh ideas, and tweaking existing ideas are all ways to increase employee engagement.

Before you dive into ways to increase employee engagement, you need a buy-in at every level in your organization. Management needs to understand the importance of engagement, be aware of shifting levels of engagement due to outside factors, and buy into the concept that engagement translates to success.

If your management team is willing to dedicate themselves to improving employee engagement, you have the first giant step out of the way. Next, you can sift through these suggestions to increase employee engagement and find the right methodology that works for your business.

Why You Need To Increase Employee Engagement

Engaged employees high-fiving each other in the office

Let’s start with the rudimentary idea: What is employee engagement? It’s a complex topic backed by science and psychology, but employee engagement is loosely defined as the level at which an employee connects to their organization and individual tasks. It’s how much value they feel in their current position — and when properly supported — can lead to fulfillment.

Without employee engagement, employees can suffer from burnout, lose productivity, experience mental health and well-being issues, and ultimately lower a company's profitability. Continued employee engagement can spiral out of control, leaving a company in financial ruin and struggling to find solutions to develop an engaged workforce.

The Benefits of Increased Employee Engagement

The downside of disengagement isn’t always obvious at first, and it may take years to manifest itself. But few people are spurred to action by simply avoiding a negative situation. You have to look at the positive side to stimulate decisions and develop an action plan.

Fortunately, the advantages of an actively engaged workforce are well-documented. When you increase employee engagement, your organization can reap these benefits:

  • Lower employee turnover: Employees who feel valued by their employers are more likely to stay actively engaged and remain loyal.
  • Improved wellness and reduced absenteeism: When team members feel engaged, the result is a trickle-down effect on their personal lives. They’re more likely to work on their health and wellness, which translates into hard work and job satisfaction in their professional lives.
  • Penchant for professional development opportunities: Research shows that employee engagement and professional development have a symbiotic relationship. Engaged employees are more likely to take advantage of career development and skills opportunities, while the skills they learn translate into more open and active engagement.
  • Build trust: Trust between management and team members is vital to reaching company goals and increasing the bottom line. When employees feel engaged, they’re more likely to trust their employer’s motives and operations, as well as buy into company values and a company’s mission.
  • Foster a positive work environment: Think of employee engagement like the morale of a sports team. When something goes awry, poorly led teams face a lack of engagement, and it shows when they’re on the field. In the office, it’s the same idea. Employee engagement is the catalyst for positive interaction, high-quality work, and high-performing teams. Setbacks happen, but engagement keeps positivity in the workplace, translating to better results overall.

6 Ways To Increase Employee Engagement

Six happy employees smiling in the office

To boost employee engagement, companies need to embrace the drivers of employee engagement and have an actionable plan. Too many organizations have floundered with respect to employee engagement simply because they lack a written plan and knowledge about what drives it.

Whether you’re struggling to increase employee engagement with your current plan or you need a fresh outlook, these employee engagement ideas have been proven to work in companies of all sizes.

1. Focus on Transparency and Direction

A portion of your employee engagement strategy needs to focus on the direction of the company, which in turn, boosts transparency at all levels of the organization. Putting forth a vision for the organization helps employees discover what’s important to management and leadership and allows them to embrace the same vision.

Transparency allows employees to realize your intentions in every task or move you make, allowing them to see how their work improves the company and — perhaps more importantly — why they’re doing what they do. Through transparency, employees can tie value to their work, see their impact on the company, and share goals.

2. Improve the Enjoyment of Work

Engagement levels often improve when employees enjoy what they do. Though the idea may seem obvious, putting it into practice can feel overwhelming, especially in entry-level jobs with limited responsibility or repetitive-task positions.

However, you can bring a newfound enjoyment of work by following some simple practices:

  • Help employees in whatever way you can. Provide support and advice when necessary and always provide clear-cut job roles and responsibilities.
  • Create a flexible work schedule. Hybrid and remote work came to prominence during COVID-19, but flexible work schedules have been shown to improve engagement and improve work-life balance. Though you may need employees in the office for certain projects or tasks, understand that working from home is a perk — one that helps you increase employee engagement, retain talent, and find talented new hires.
  • Provide autonomy: Trust is earned. And yet, micromanagement hinders trust. When you’re hovering over employees, they don’t feel trusted; work and engagement suffer. Remember that you hired your team for a reason. Trust their skills and work ethic, offer autonomy, and watch engagement flourish.

3. Gather Employee Feedback

Not every employee engagement plan is going to be a success. When you implement new plans, always make sure to gather employee feedback.

Employee surveys and pulse surveys provide valuable insight into your employee engagement practices and processes. As a result, you can tweak them to meet the expectations and suggestions of your employees.

Employee engagement processes that employees actually enjoy are far more valuable. Ignoring feedback can have the opposite effect on your intentions, acting as a catalyst for disengagement. Use your employee engagement survey to gauge the effectiveness of your programs and adjust accordingly.

4. Create Employee Recognition Programs

Positive reinforcement is a cornerstone of employee engagement. If you want to increase employee engagement, you need to give credit where credit is due.

Starting an employee recognition program that honors employees for their contributions is almost a necessity. Around two-thirds of employees don’t feel appreciated at work, which can drastically decrease employee engagement.

Through an employee recognition (or peer recognition) program, you can show your appreciation while also giving incentives or rewards for exemplary work.

5. Conduct Frequent Team-Building Activities

According to one study, 37% of employees stay with a company because they work with great people. While that’s less than the majority, it’s the number one driver of company loyalty and employee retention.

You can’t force this type of camaraderie between employees, but you can certainly do things to improve it. Through frequent team-building activities or team retreats, employees connect with each other on both a personal and professional level. This increases employee engagement, as well as helps employees learn skills they can apply to real-world scenarios.

6. Evaluate Your Operational Efficiencies (or Lack Thereof)

Repetitive, mundane, or unnecessary tasks have a negative effect on employee engagement. So if the goal is to constantly increase employee engagement, you need to cut the fat so to speak.

Analyze your current operations, analyze their effectiveness, and evaluate the process as a whole. Can some tasks be altered to save time? Can you find ways to make necessary tasks more engaging?

Ask these questions, evaluate the process, and you can find solutions to increase employee engagement at the operational level.

How To Get Started

Employees holding tablets and papers in the office while smiling at the camera

Creating employee engagement initiatives, having regular check-ins, and fostering a culture of engagement of team members from the onboarding process onward are crucial to increasing employee engagement.

But internal plans aren’t the only way to improve engagement. An outside consultancy is always an option to help new employees, first-time managers, and other members of your organization.

At Unicorn Labs, we thrive on turning employees and managers into present and future leaders. When these individuals feel engaged, they’re more likely to give their full effort — they just need some direction on how to do it.

Thanks to self-guided 12-week individual leadership courses, company retreats, leadership coaching, and individual and team assessments, Unicorn Labs has the answer to the overarching debacle of how to increase employee engagement. With leadership training that’s applicable to real-world situations, you can foster a sense of engagement that improves every facet of your business.

Schedule a meeting today to learn what Unicorn Labs can do for you.

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