How to start an employee engagement strategy
We know why employee engagement matters. But how can we implement a solid strategy to ensure our employees are as passionate about the company from the time they enter the business until the leave — hopefully at retirement?
First, it’s important to look at the path an employee takes. They have to enter the fold through an onboarding process, and if they’re lucky they can do some additional training. Then they begin their career, where they may attain promotions and build relationships with their coworkers. Overall, you’ll want to think about how employee engagement can become a part of every department — not just HR.
That said, we have a few strategies listed below that detail how you can help increase engagement at different stages of your employees’ career.
1. Start at onboarding
The best time to capture your new hire’s passion is during the onboarding process. Onboarding is more than filing away paperwork and handing your new employee the company handbook.
You’ll want to ensure that your employee knows what to expect on the first day itself. Consider sending them an email with all the pertinent information: your dress code, who to see, and where to go. You may also consider sending them any documentation you require in advance. Not only will this save you time as a manager or employer, but it will make your employee feel more welcome and more prepared to get started.
But of course, onboarding doesn’t end on the first day itself. Depending on your new employee and their experience, you may need to assist them and answer their questions for a few days or a few weeks as they learn the ropes. It may be worth it to pair your new employee with a more seasoned worker or mentor to help them adjust and create relationships from day one.
HR Expert for Choosing Therapy Laura Handrick agreed that a solid onboarding process is essential for employee retention and engagement. “I’ve seen it happen when the recruitment process is great but then the manager starts out with a very top-down approach and the new employee walks. Your focus should be reconnecting your new hire with why they wanted to come to your company in the first place.”
You’ll want to check-in with your new hire within the first month, and then between months 3 and 6. 90% of new employees leave after the first 6 months, so keeping up communication with them during this time is vital to increase engagement and reduce turnover.
To keep your process streamlined, you may want to keep a detailed onboarding checklist on hand.
2. Invest in training
Teaming up your new hire with a mentor is an excellent way to build relationships within your company. But you may want to take training a step further by providing specialized training for your employees in the schedule.
According to this survey, 91% of companies that invest in reskilling or upskilling have found that it has increased productivity. What you’re really doing as an employer when you offer extra training or upskilling sessions is that you’re showing your employee that you want to support their career growth.
The added bonus, of course, is that your employees can use these new skills to improve their performance at work.
You can provide opportunities for job training or upskilling in various ways:
- Match your new or low-performing employees with a high performer
- Find ways to reward employees for using what they learn in a training seminar
- Plan an outdoor training retreat or attend a local seminar
- Offer training sessions at different times of day, or consider creating recordings so employees who can’t attend the original session can still benefit
- Bring in professionals to answer questions and educate your employees
- Invest in an online education platform to provide your team with more resources
- Start a book club with relevant non-fiction books. Employees can discuss them over lunch or on their communication channels
- Ask employees who have completed a job training or outside certification course to teach the team
- Allow employees to shadow senior leaders or professionals in different departments
3. Consider interactive assessments
Most traditional self-assessments are boring and may be substandard when it comes to understanding an employees’ weaknesses or strengths. Rather than pick up a pen and paper or ask for a self-assessment, you may want to use online quizzes that can offer immediate results and usually contain more off-the-wall questions.
You may also want to forgo a formal assessment and instead schedule a more informal interview to see that your employee is doing well and try to pinpoint any issues. This may be called a “stay” interview since the point is to ensure that your employee is doing well and isn’t interested in leaving.
Directly conducting an employee engagement survey can also be beneficial. Sample responses may include:
- My managers let everyone know what’s happening.
- My managers set clear goals for the team.
- I have a healthy work-life balance.
- I am able to develop new skills in the company.
- I have access to resources to help me do my job properly.
4. Offer career planning
One way to keep your employee engagement is to offer career guidance or planning. By talking about your employees’ career goals, you are helping them to link their future with your company and consider how your business can help them achieve their dreams.
This is a rather simple discussion, but it can have an extremely positive ramifications on your employee’s productivity.
To keep things on task, you can create a brief based on your discussion with your employee and provide your recommendations to help guide them towards their goals. Some ideas of what to include in your career planning brief are:
- Potential positions within the company
- A promotion map
- A list of skills your employee can work on
- Possible horizontal transfers
- Recommended mentors or coaches
- A budget for training or other resources
You can revisit this plan during your regular assessments to see if they need help adjusting their goals.
5. Rewards are never a bad idea
Rewards can be useful in moderation. Giving rewards and recognition is a strategy that can help you sustain your employee engagement long term. Appreciate an employee for their exemplary work through in-person praise, company-wide emails, a title promotion, or even extra vacation days.
If used correctly, this method works. In fact, a study by Westminster College found that 69% of employees admitted they would work harder if they felt appreciated. In fact, using this tactic alone suggests you may be able to boost engagement by 48%.
Outside of thanking or highlighting your employees’ achievements, there are other rewards you can test out:
- Let your employee be “CEO for a day”
- Themed team launches
- Free company apparel and gifts
- VIP parking spots
- Gift cards for exhibiting company values or going the extra mile
- More time off
- Allow them to work from home
- Let coworkers support each other through peer-to-peer recognition
- Employee competitions
- Keep a recognition bulletin board
6. Listen to your employees
Another simple fix for employee engagement is to let them know you are listening. Your employees may have insights on how to improve their workspace or process. Consider their suggestions and even if you are not able to implement a change, let them know why and ask them to keep giving you good ideas.
Make sure to regularly check in with your employees before or after any changes to policies or the workplace and make a note of their feedback.
There are a few different ways you can gain insight from your employees:
- Send out a pulse survey every month or every quarter
- Arrange regular 1-1 meetings
- Keep a “feedback” box in the break room for when inspiration strikes
- Create regular employee engagement surveys
- Have an open forum during team meetings
- Follow up on survey results
7. Foster an inclusive environment
Today’s workplace is more diverse than ever and you probably want to make sure that all your employees feel that they are welcome and belong.
This may mean you need to better follow up with your employees of color. This can mean running focus groups and compiling direct reports to pinpoint areas where company culture can become more inclusive.
There are other, simple steps you can take to ensure that diversity and inclusion is embedded in your company culture. Some examples include:
- Ask new hires for their preferred pronoun and encourage them to use it in the office and in materials like their email signature.
- Schedule company events before or during work instead of after office hours to include workers with families and other responsibilities.
- Consider keeping a quiet, safe space in the office.
- Include different religious holidays in your company calendar.
- Invite hosts and guest speakers from different backgrounds when organizing seminars or training sessions.
- Ensure that your office is accessible for employees or visitors with disabilities — even if your building is already ADA-compliant.