How much does employee engagement matter for a company? Is there real value in making sure every employee feels engaged (i.e. connected, involved and enthusiastic) every day? In short, yes. A study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School cites that organizations with above-average employee engagement exceed the financial performance of their peers by over 70%, while a study from Wills Tower Watson revealed that companies with high and sustainable levels of engagement have operating margins up to 3X times higher than companies with lower levels.

More and more companies are investing in employee engagement and it has a lot to do with the employees themselves. Millennials will represent half of the workforce in the next year and three quarters of it by 2030. This generation of employees (followed by their Gen Z colleagues) expect personalized, thoughtful employee benefits and perks, and they love diverse, flexible choices. But according to Deloitte, 62% of millennials are willing to switch to the gig economy in the next two years, making employee retention more challenging than ever and employee engagement all the more crucial.

Investing in employee engagement is like investing in employee well-being – it’s an ongoing initiative and there are a lot of ways to do it. Here are some ideas to get you started:

You better recognize (everyone).

Recognition plays a huge role in employee engagement. Employee recognition is all about making each and every employee feel seen, heard, and understood. The more you understand the unique needs of your employees, the better you can engage them, and this isn’t just a theory. Another study from Willis Towers Watson noted that recognition increases employee engagement up to 60%. 

There are different kinds of recognition programs a company can incorporate. There’s top-down recognition (your typical employer-led performance review style); peer-to-peer recognition (an increasingly popular approach because it provides a more holistic view of a person’s achievements and context within the culture); milestone recognition (when a company makes a point of frequently recognizing individual achievements); and last but not least – awards. Most companies will have at least one of these recognition programs in place, but companies with higher employee engagement are likely to have a mix of them. 

Belonging is everything.

Inclusivity is an increasingly critical, unignorable topic of discussion these days. We’ve talked about it, written about it, and we will continue to shed light on the concept of inclusivity, particularly in the workplace. Fostering an inclusive work culture is about taking tangible steps to ensure every one of your employees feels a sense of belonging within the organization.

Does a sense of belonging have an impact on employee engagement? According to a recent study conducted by Harvard Business Review – it certainly does.

“High belonging was linked to a whopping 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days.”

Harvard Business Review

These numbers aren’t small, which tells us a sense of belonging means BIG things for engagement and productivity.

Think outside the pulse survey.

Pulse surveys have become fairly commonplace for a lot of companies wanting to elicit feedback from their employees. And tools like Google Forms and SurveyMonkey make it super easy to create and deploy them. But you don’t want to run the risk of survey fatigue, and also, surveys aren’t the only way to determine your employee’s degree of engagement.

You could switch up the survey format by instead asking employees to send a quick voice memo over Whatsapp to share their experiences. Or maybe ask for updates in photo form, or ask them to describe their current mood in a meme. The digital age has brought us seemingly endless channels through which to communicate, so for the sake of better engagement, company leaders should get creative with those channels as much as possible.

Work on that wellness program.

Once upon a time, employees were just looking for a company to offer them a good dental plan, but that’s not the case today. More companies are investing in the overall well-being of their employees, and those employees recognize it.

“62% of engaged employees feel their work positively affects their physical health, and 78% feel their work lives benefit them psychologically.”

Gallup

Employee wellness programs include things like the promotion of healthy habits, engaging the team together in healthy challenges and activities, offering solutions and guidance for issues around mental health, stress coping, and meditation. In a report published by Humana, over two thirds of employees at companies that prioritize wellness felt more engaged with the values and vision of the organization.

A little gamification can go a long way.

More companies wanting to increase employee engagement are turning to gamification. Gamification is essentially creating a digital system or environment that offers points, status, or rewards to empower employees to reach certain goals or objectives. 

Gamification isn’t just about fun for fun’s sake. Gamified, rewards-based systems trigger real, human emotions like happiness, intrigue, and excitement. According to one study by ResearchGate, 50% of all startups will invest in gamification this year. And according to the 2019 Gamification at Work Survey by TalentLMS, 89% of employees said gamification made them feel more productive, while 88% said it made them feel happier at work.

Teach your team what asynchronous communication is (then encourage it). 

Asynchronous communication is the act of sending someone a message without requiring an immediate response, whereas synchronous communication requires a response right away. In-person conversations and meetings require synchronous communication – i.e. someone says something, the other person has to respond instantly; but in recent years, synchronous communication has expanded to include more than a face-to-face meeting.

“Research shows that it is not uncommon for workers to spend a full 80% of their workdays communicating with colleagues in the form of email, meetings, and instant messaging apps.”

Harvard Business Review

Sure, they’re engaged. But is it meaningful engagement that leads to productivity? Or just a never-ending stream of interruptions? The reality is that a lot of synchronous communication is required to operate a business. But company leaders should consider ways to reduce it, or reduce the expectation of it, to give their employees a chance to get more deeply engaged in the actual work they have to get done.

Plan a workshop. Then plan another one.

If employee engagement is a priority for your company, then you should be all about the workshop. Hosting workshops are such a great way to get employees engaged with something that interests them, maybe pushes them out of their comfort zone a little bit, and in the end, leaves them with more knowledge and perhaps a budding new skill.

Workshops are easily adaptable to a virtual environment, which means everyone can join, regardless of location. Plus, you don’t have to bring in an outside expert to host it (although outside experts are great too). Companies are full of smart, multi-talented people who might love the opportunity to impart their wisdom on the team. Workshops are fun, they bring added value, and they represent a whole world of opportunities to get your employees engaged.

The ways a company can foster employee engagement are almost limitless, and the ideas we’ve featured here are just the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like more inspiration on employee engagement, read up on the Thriver app, bring your team together for one of our virtual experiences, or book a free consultation and one of our culture experts would love to brainstorm with you.