Successful businesses aren't built by one person. They're grown by committed teams that are working towards the same goal. The harder the team works, the more likely the business will succeed.

Having a ground-breaking product is great, but it'll sit on the shelf if you don't have passionate personnel who can market, sell, and support it. You need a team that's invested in your company and willing to put in time and energy to make it successful.

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And, that's no easy task no matter how big your company gets.

Employee engagement is a problem that many organizations struggle with. It's hard to motivate employees, especially when you can't afford to pay them more than your competitors do. Eventually, people start wondering why they're doing the same amount of work for less pay.

But, even if your company is faced with this roadblock, you can still keep pace in your industry. There are plenty of ways to improve employee engagement without raising your team's wages.

Let's review how you can do that in the section below, then we'll provide you with some specific ideas to increase engagement at your business.

1. Collect employee feedback.

If you want to improve employee engagement, the first step is understanding why your employees don't engage with your business. You need to learn what your employees want that your company isn't offering. This will give you an idea for the type of initiatives and programs you'll want to adopt.

One of the best ways to do this is with an employee feedback survey. There are plenty of employee feedback engagement tools that can be used to gather information about your team.

2. Clarify team and business goals.

Even if employees aren't itching to get involved with your engagement activities, at the very least, they should be meeting your team and business goals. These metrics should act as the baseline for engagement at your company. Employees should be clear on their initiatives and held accountable for their completion.

3. Set expectations for engagement.

Some employees just don't know what's expected of them. They don't participate because they don't know it's common practice at your company.

This is where you need to set clear expectations for your team. If you want them to participate in certain activities or events, make that abundantly clear as well as the repercussions for missing them. When employees understand that your "voluntary meeting" isn't just for volunteers, you'll get the engagement you're searching for.

4. Create engagement activities.

Your team isn't going to be inspired out of the blue. Rather, they'll need a kick-starter to get them excited about their work. Creating and hosting engagement activities is a great way to show employees that your company is focused on more than their daily output.

We'll list out a bunch of these activities later on in this post.

5. Assess your corporate culture.

If you're struggling to improve engagement, then it may be a matter of corporate culture. Culture forms from the top down, so you need to make sure your executives and upper management are invested in employee engagement. If not, it'll be hard to motivate employees when their managers aren't bought in either.

6. Devote resources to employee engagement.

Employee engagement is like any other business program. If you don't put resources behind it, it'll fizzle out and your culture will revert to the status quo. You need to permanently invest in employee engagement if you want to see long-term change at your business.

One way to do this is by creating a culture committee. This is a team that's dedicated to internal engagement and makes sure your company is constantly rolling out new initiatives for your employees.

7. Hire the right people.

In some cases, employees aren't engaging with your company because they're not the right fit. They don't jell with your culture and aren't interested in participating in your new initiatives. These employees may not be ideal for your company and you should consider having a conversation with them to see if you can captivate their interest.

Better yet, you can avoid this altogether by hiring the right people in the first place. Reassess your hiring model and look for candidates who are likely to engage with your business. We'll discuss this more later on.

Now that you know how employee engagement works, let's dive into the unique and effective ideas you can implement to improve it.

1. Set an ambitious goal.

Tom Bilyeu, co-founder of Quest Nutrition, calls this a "BHAG," which is short for "big hairy audacious goal."

Have your team set a goal that seems impossible or out of reach. Then, work backward to determine how you could realistically achieve that goal. Once your plan is in place, set aside some time for your team to work on this project. You'll be surprised to find that your impossible goal wasn't as farfetched as it sounded.

2. Plan a team outing.

Team outings are a great way for employees to bond outside of work. They can share personal stories and act more casual than they would in a professional setting. This forges stronger bonds between teammates which carries over to their day-to-day work. When employees see each other as peers in addition to coworkers, collaboration and productivity increases.

Check out this list for the best team outing ideas.

3. Acknowledge consistent performance.

You don't need to hand out rewards or trophies to make people feel valued. Instead, simply acknowledging employees who do consistent, excellent work is enough to make your team feel appreciated. Call these people out in meetings or have a time out in the office to update everyone on how well a particular employee is performing.

4. Start a contest.

If you're looking for more immediate engagement, one of the best things you can do is start a contest. Set a goal and a deadline, then provide an incentive for the first employee or group of employees who achieve that goal. If the prize is right, you'll be shocked to see how many employees flock to participate.

5. Assign peer mentors.

When employees are starting out it can be difficult to grasp the daily workflow of their new role. By assigning them peer mentors, you can help them overcome common roadblocks that new hires face when beginning at your company. That way, you'll get these employees on the fast track to success and reduce potential turnover.

6. Host networking events.

Networking events are a great way to connect employees with executives and upper management. They can get to know each other and share ideas that help employees further their careers at your company. And, by introducing them to your higher-level employees, your team will be more familiar with its executive leadership and their vision of the organization.

7. Offer healthy foods and drinks.

Sometimes it's the little things that get your employees excited to work. For example, offering healthy foods and drinks ensures your team is fueled and physically ready to take on the workday. Your management may think that's trivial, but you're removing one more distraction that's keeping your team from achieving business goals.

At HubSpot's Cambridge office, we have a cafeteria stocked with amazing foods and beverages. I can say firsthand that the fresh fruit in the image below and some mixed nuts are the perfect afternoon pick-me-up that energizes me through the final portion of my day.


8. Distribute eNPS surveys.

While NPS measures customer satisfaction, eNPS monitors the happiness of your employees. Like NPS, this system uses the same 10-point scale to determine how satisfied your employees are with your business. If the score is lower than a nine or 10, employees are asked to explain their response. This helps identify areas of friction in your workplace and create solutions that improve the employee experience.

9. Hold an employee appreciation day.

If you can afford it, take one day off each year to recognize all the hard work your employees put in for your business. You can host events, plan an outing, or give everyone the day off. It doesn't matter, so long as it shows how much you value your employees.

At HubSpot, we hosted a field day for our customer service employees. We invited everyone outside, played games, and competed as teams for prizes. It was a great way to take a break and refresh from the everyday grind of customer support.

lQHL-YXk6WyyFUGJNOw1OQM0jHGpnwkUYCAcaD79h1gZz2xjXVGShdld-e8TGwW7mgtJ5bRgRzhRzLj0L3ZlDtTy593fWMAmz2XZq97Vm3SANuF5T2tYWR_KtfcY7iWJA5KevB0D10. Encourage work-life balance.

It's great if your employees are committed to your business. But, it's not so great if they never stop working. Employees need to have a healthy work-life balance if they want to avoid burnout. As an SMB owner or manager, it's your job to make sure every employee is finding the right mix of work and play.

11. Remove cubicles.

When we say to "break down barriers," we really mean it. Tear down those cubicles and create an open-space environment where employees can actually see each other. This encourages collaboration because employees can look and speak to one another instead of having to get up and walk around a maze of plastic walls.

If removing cubicles isn't an option, consider standing desks or communal workspaces. These alternatives push employees out of their seats and get them talking about their work.

12. Evaluate your hiring process.

We mentioned above that hiring the right people is crucial to employee engagement. So, you should evaluate your hiring process to ensure you're interviewing ideal candidates for your business.

First, consider your company's goals. What experience or skills will the candidate need to help your team achieve them?

Next, think about your cultural values. What characteristics are you looking for in this candidate? How will they fit with the rest of your team?

Finally, ask yourself if there's room for growth. Once they've mastered their role, how will they continue to add value to your business?

Answering these questions before hiring is the key to bringing on employees who are the right fit for your business. This makes it much easier to rally your team and motivate them towards a common goal.

13. Adopt an employee onboarding program.

Onboarding programs aren't solely for customers. In fact, they can be used to help new employees adapt to their roles. This reduces stress and frustration for the employee, especially when they need to learn complicated software or procedures for their work.

14. Create a culture code.

The biggest challenge for employee engagement is getting management on board with your new programs and initiatives. One way you can do this is by creating a culture code that summarizes everything your company values, including employee engagement. This document will act as a public resource that you can use to enforce your engagement policies.

If you're wondering what a culture code looks like, here's what we did at HubSpot.

15. Remember holidays, birthdays, and achievements.

When you're running an SMB, your brain may be so focused on improving your business that you forget dates like holidays, birthdays, and professional achievements. It's important to recognize these days as it shows employees that you value them as people, not just coworkers. Create a calendar that records this information and set up reminders that alert you when an important milestone is coming up.

16. Give out annual awards.

Awards are a nice way of recognizing employees who go above-and-beyond for your company. They make individuals feel proud of their contribution and sets a standard for the rest of the team as well. By giving out awards, your employees know exactly what they need to do if they want to stand out in your organization.

17. Sponsor charity events.

Some employees will engage with your company if it's for a good cause. After all, if they're going to volunteer their time it should at least be for something they're passionate about.

Sponsoring a charity event is a great way to appeal to these employees. Employees can give back as a team and bond over doing good deeds together. And, your marketing team can leverage these events as a public relations campaign for your business. Everybody wins.

18. Incorporate an ideas forum.

Almost every employee has a great idea to improve your business. But, let's face it. Setting up time to discuss all of them in-depth is nearly impossible.

However, if you have an ideas forum, you can create a communication channel for employees to voice their ideas. Team members can upload suggestions and have coworkers comment or upvote their posts. This way, management can quickly review the most popular ideas uploaded by your staff.

19. Host career training.

Every employee wants to succeed in their career, but not everyone knows how. Career training is a great way to teach employees how to get the job they want at your company. This gives them an actionable plan to pursue and keeps their career path centered around your organization. By investing in your employee's long-term growth, you can retain valuable staff members before they look to your competitors for work.

20. Invest in technology.

In some cases, employees aren't happy because their workflow is more difficult than it needs to be. This is usually the result of an outdated process or software that can be corrected by new technology. However, it's common for businesses to refrain from updating their systems because of pricing, onboarding, etc.

It's important to invest in technology if it makes your employees' lives easier, especially in customer-facing roles where speed and efficiency are key. Your employees will be more productive in the long-run and happier with their day-to-day workflow.

21. Set up weekly meetings with management.

Another way to encourage engagement from the top down is to hold weekly meetings between employees and their managers. Have your employees sit down for 30 minutes each week to catch up with their manager and update them on anything new that's happening in their life. Managers can also bring up anything they observed earlier that week or highlight new information for the employee. This keeps everyone on the same page, strengthens relationships, and reduces surprises between employees and managers.

22. Promote volunteer opportunities.

If you need help with a project or task, these are good opportunities to outsource jobs to your coworkers. Your employees are always looking to stand out and simply asking for help is a great way to drive engagement. Just be sure to thank your peers as soon as the job gets done.

23. Hold office hours.

Some employees know the job they want, but don't have the skills needed to get it. This is where you can host office hours where employees can meet and learn from one another.

For example, if a support rep wants to transition to the marketing team, they can meet with a marketing associate to learn about their role. They can learn about the skills they'll have to acquire and the experience they'll need on their resume. And, since they've worked with your team to prepare, they'll already have a foot in the door when they apply for the role.

For more ways to rally your team, read this guide to employee engagement.New Call-to-action

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Originally published Nov 6, 2019 8:00:00 AM, updated June 15 2021


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