No, this isn’t an article about how to propose to your employees.
Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about what employee engagement is, why it’s important for your business’s health, and how to improve employee engagement through creative strategies.
Let’s get right to it!
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is a method of measuring how dedicated your employees are to the success of your business, how passionate they are about the positions that they hold, and how driven they are to go beyond your expectations for them.
There are plenty of reasons why business owners should always be on the lookout for employee engagement strategies, including:
- Better customer experience
- Higher rates of productivity
- More employee retention
- Fewer accidents
- 21% higher profitability
By putting employee engagement initiatives into effect, business owners do more than just improve their bottom line. They make work a different sort of experience for their employees.
When you first hear the term ‘employee engagement activities’ you may be thinking of a company holiday party or happy hour. While those are fun ideas, the what really boosts productivity, profitability, and so on are opportunities for employees to grow, learn, make an impact, and to feel that their perspective counts.
What sort of employee engagement ideas will produce those sorts of results? We get to that right below.
10 creative employee engagement strategies
Top 10 employee engagement strategies for small business:
- Have an interactive onboarding process
- Clearly outline company goals
- Establish open lines of communication
- Create the optimal work environment
- Give your employees quarterly surveys
- Encourage employee health and wellness
- Acknowledge employee achievements
- Help your employees grow
- Provide managerial training
- Organize company outings
We expand on each of those employee engagement ideas below:
1. Have an interactive onboarding process
33% of new employees will decide whether or not to leave the company within the first month of their employment. Plus, 25% of new employees will leave a company within the first year of their employment.
That’s reason enough to develop an onboarding process that gives new employees every advantage possible. That includes opportunities to address their own concerns, as well as being provided all of the information they’ll need to succeed in the new organization.
Ultimately, new employees who attend a well-structured onboarding program are 69% more likely to stay at a company for three years. But even a standard onboarding process can result in up to 54% more productivity among new employees. Clearly, an onboarding process is one of the best methods of improving employee engagement.
2. Clearly outline company goals
A business with definite values and purposes are more likely to attract the right sort of employees from the outset. Everybody who works wants to make money – that’s not the ‘Why’ that an employee needs to have in order to feel driven. The idea of making a difference stretches far beyond the four walls of your business; your employees will want to feel that they’ve chosen to work at a company where their everyday responsibilities will be contributing to something greater and more impactful.
It’s up to you, the business owner, to create that state of mind. If you’re in residential construction, your employees should feel that they’re doing more than just building a structure. They should feel that they’re building a place for families to grow and memories to be made.
Okay, it might be a little bit corny, we admit. But the point is, we all want to leave our mark on the world. The right employee engagement initiatives will let your employees join their desire to make a difference with their need to earn a living.
Side note: Here at Become, our ‘company DNA’ outlines the characteristics that we look for in our team members: goal-oriented, team player, efficient, ‘own it’, and ‘think impact’. Does this resonate with your business, or are their different traits that best describe your team?
3. Establish open lines of communication
It doesn’t really matter if you design what you believe to be the best workplace for employees if they don’t agree. The best way to find out if your employees are satisfied or not, and how to improve employee engagement, is to leave the door open for them to come and air their grievances whenever they want.
Listen to your employees – enough said.
4. Create the optimal work environment
The best work environment is one that promotes a feeling of safety and openness but simultaneously keeps productivity as a key component. Research has found that there’s a significant relationship between employee engagement and how meaningful the workplace environment is.
It makes perfect sense since a safe work environment is one where employees can make mistakes without being afraid of the consequences. That means employees are also more likely to come up with creative approaches and solutions that they may otherwise have not felt comfortable taking a chance on.
5. Give your employees quarterly surveys
Having open lines of communication is a must, but there may be individuals who are less likely to bring an issue into discussion voluntarily. It may be one of the more simple employee engagement strategies, but surveys are also quite effective at not only gathering employee insights but also giving employees a chance to provide their input. Plus, employees who feel that their voices are heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel capable of performing to the best of their ability.
Side note: Consider giving employees the option to fill the survey anonymously, but be prepared to receive some brutal honesty! This will give employees an even bigger ‘vent’ for their frustrations and will give you an even clearer idea of how to improve employee engagement.
6. Encourage employee health and wellness
Of all the employee engagement ideas listed here, encouraging your employees to take care of their health is one that has some of the more obvious benefits.
First of all, if your employees are literally sick and tired, they simply won’t perform as well as they do when they’re healthy and well-rested. Secondly, 90% of employees who feel that their senior managers are concerned about their health and wellness say they’re more motivated to do their best and are satisfied with their jobs.
Additionally, research has found that employees who get support from senior leaders to focus on their well-being are more likely to tell their friends the company is a good place to work, and are less likely to leave their job over the next year.
Side note: Some employees are lone-riders. While it isn’t the best trait for an employee to have when joining a team, there can always be exceptions to the rule. In that spirit, you should consider the benefits of employees working from home.
7. Acknowledge employee achievements
Employee engagement strategies don’t need to always break the mold to have a strong impact. Whether it’s through a raise, a promotion, awarding the employee of the month, or any other form of recognition – acknowledging employee effort and achievements is well worth the investment.
It comes as little surprise that Gallup research has found that the most meaningful recognition comes from the employee’s direct manager; the superior who interacts most frequently with the employee would logically have the biggest impact when providing positive feedback.
What may come as a surprise is that the same research found that employees don’t list money as the top form of recognition. As the old saying goes, paychecks can’t buy passion. If you’re thinking of how to improve employee engagement, don’t dismiss this strategy.
8. Help your employees growth
When it comes to employee engagement initiatives, having opportunities to learn and develop has likely always been in the mix. But recent data suggests that younger generations are more concerned about having chances to learn and grow than their predecessors (59% of Millennials compared to just 44% of Gen Xers).
Plus, 87% of Millennials say that professional growth and development opportunities are important when considering a job. To put that into perspective, only 69% of non-Millennials answered the same way.
If you intend on maintaining a healthy business in the future, offering chances for your employees to grow is one of the best routes toward improving employee engagement.
9. Provide managerial training
All of the employee engagement ideas listed so far are certainly useful but without the right managers they could turn out to be useless. Among other responsibilities, managers are the mediators between employees and upper management – if they aren’t trained properly, managers can undermine all other employee engagement strategies you’ve worked so hard to develop.
It’s important to remember that managers aren’t born, they’re made. Teaching your managers the techniques necessary to foster employee engagement is absolutely key – there’s no way around it.
Managers must be able to:
- Coach employees on how to achieve the intended goal(s)
- Offer support and constructive feedback to employees
- Help employees grow
- Make changes when needed, without losing employees
- Be actively involved in communicating with employees
- Develop a culture of professionalism among employees
You may not be able to sow every one of those traits into your managers, but even a few of those characteristics will have a strong impact on improving employee engagement.
10. Have fun!
Let’s not forget about those sorts of employee engagement activities that help everyone blow off a little steam. There are a ton of fun things you can organize for your employees, including:
- Themed dinner nights (or lunch days)
- Team game nights
- Weekly in-office yoga lessons
- Escape room
- Cooking class
When it comes to fun employee engagement activities, the only limit is set by your imagination. The important thing to consider is that the activity you choose allows everyone to participate and feel comfortable doing so. The goals should always be to build stronger bonds between employees and of course allow everyone to let their guards down and enjoy themselves as a team.
Employee engagement strategies to avoid
The number of bad employee engagement initiatives certainly has no limit, but here’s a glance at just a few employee engagement ideas to steer clear of.
1. [Don’t] Micromanage
“It’s 9:06 – your shift starts at 9:00.” You’re running a business, not a babysitting service for adults. Making your employees feel that you don’t trust them to do their jobs without your constant and overwhelming attention to small details is simply a recipe for disaster. Employees are not robots, they cannot be programmed to always do their jobs according to your precise instructions (if that’s what you want, look into how retail technology trends or restaurant technology trends may be able to help).
Plus, even if you can get your employees to follow every step to-the-T, it will have the result of muting out creativity and freedom in the process of them doing their jobs. Only use micromanaging as one of your employee engagement strategies if you’re intent on demotivating your employees.
2. [Don’t] Motivate with money
Employees are people (we hope that doesn’t come as a shock). They will naturally want to feel that their role in the business is making a difference. If you’re unable to give your employees opportunities to feel self-fulfillment in their jobs, don’t be surprised when a raise in their paycheck just doesn’t cut it.
Even if a salary boost can help resolve many issues for an employee, it doesn’t address them all and it won’t work forever. Money comes and goes, but showing true appreciation and chances to develop within the company are much more effective and longer-lasting solutions.
3. [Don’t] End the onboarding process too quickly
There’s definitely something to be gained by throwing employees into the deep end before they feel 100% ready to be there. A bit of a stress-test shouldn’t be a deal-breaker if you also provide employees with the support system they’ll need to succeed in the long run.
On the other hand, if you have a habit of hiring employees and then leaving them to do-or-die after a week or two or orientation, you might also find that your employees have a habit of quitting soon after. There are much better employee engagement strategies to make use of which will have much more reliable results – avoid this one.
4. [Don’t] Intimidate employees into working harder
Fear may be an effective way to drive results in certain circumstances, but only if the alternative consequences will impact everyone in the business equally. Singling out individual employees or teams may help you get the task done in the short term, but the bottom line is that nobody wants to work for somebody that they’re scared to make angry.
When you’re choosing employee engagement ideas you should always keep the principle of respect in mind. Don’t belittle or threaten employees in an attempt to improve employee engagement – it will likely backfire, and you may find your business calculated in the small business failure rate.
How to measure employee engagement
There are a number of different ways to measure how much you’re improving employee engagement, including:
- Using employee surveys (annual and pulse)
- Tracking your productivity levels
- Inviting employees for one-on-one debriefs
- Holding group discussions
- Keeping an eye on employee retention rates
- Performing exit interviews
While some of these strategies for measuring employee engagement may be a better fit for certain business types, the best route of action is for business owners to use a mix of methods.
Results from one measurement or another will shed only a limited amount of light on employee engagement rates. On the other hand, when you collect data from several places, the pieces come together to show a clearer picture.
But the question remains: why should you measure employee engagement?
The cost of employee turnover
The average cost of employee turnover, according to CAP research, hovers around 20% of the employee’s annual salary. They also found that there was a clear difference in the cost of employee turnover when comparing jobs that paid $30k or less (16.1% replacement cost) with jobs that paid $50k or less (19.7% replacement cost).
While it’s important to mention these differences, the average cost of replacing an employee should be especially alarming when you consider retention rates. Those rates naturally vary by industry – here are a few examples:
- Retail – average 60% turnover rate
- Construction – average 2.3% turnover rate
- Manufacturing – average 1.6% turnover rate
- Software Development – average 22% turnover rate
When you start crunching these numbers, you’ll find that it’s much cheaper to keep the employees you have than to find a replacement and onboard them. That’s even truer when you think back on the earlier statistic that 25% of new employees will leave a company within the first year of their employment.
The bottom line: you’ll want to avoid the cost of replacing employees by improving employee engagement.
Investing in your employees
A business is much more than just a money-maker. It’s a way of life for tons of employees across a wide variety of industries. For that reason, it’s crucial to realize that the return on investment in your employees is well worth it. Fostering strong and long-lasting relationships with your employees is always a work-in-progress. But, as the data shows, the cost of losing employees isn’t something you should ignore.
If you have certain ideas on how to improve employee engagement that seem to be a bit outside your budget, consider business loans as a way to implement that strategy. The lending process isn’t what it used to be. With the power of financial technology, you can now get matched with a lender that is the optimal match for your business’s specific needs.
Direct your search for business financing towards new solutions such as Become’s online lending marketplace. This new approach to business lending will not only save you time, energy, and stress – it can save you money by helping you obtain the right funding solution you need to keep your employees engaged and productive.
Of course, the type of business will affect the kind of industry loans a business needs, as well as the specific circumstances that business finds itself in. Be sure to weigh your options carefully in order to choose the right funding solution for your business.
Don’t. Neglect. Your. Employees. Need we say more?
If it isn’t exactly clear why, then scroll back up and have a read! Keeping employees engaged will keep your small business healthy. And will keep employees from quitting as often, which will also save you quite a bit of cash.
Start using these employee engagement initiatives today and watch your small business thrive!