Did you know that only 20% of employees feel engaged at work? That's because many organizations struggle to find employee engagement ideas and activities that actually stick.
Employee engagement means employees are invested in your company and willing to put in time and energy to make it successful. And this is especially important for your customer service team. Think about it: When your support reps are engaged with the business, they'll be more motivated to keep customers happy and satisfied.
Let's take a look at a few strategies to improve employee engagement along with some employee engagement activities you can implement at your workplace.
How to Improve Employee Engagement
- Collect employee feedback.
- Clarify team and business goals.
- Assess your corporate culture.
- Devote resources to employee engagement.
- Hire the right people.
- Encourage engagement from the start.
- Identify engagement opportunities for remote employees.
- Implement employee engagement ideas and activities.
1. Collect employee feedback.
If you want to improve employee engagement, the first step is understanding why your employees don't feel engaged 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 engagement feedback tools — like Culture Amp and TINYpulse — that can be used to gather insights and sentiment data from your team.
This information can help you brainstorm new ways to get employees more involved with your business.
2. Clarify team and business goals.
A good way to measure baseline engagement at your company is to see if employees are regularly meeting their goals.
But in order to do so, employees need to understand the initiatives they're working toward and be held accountable for their completion.
According to Officevibe, 73% of employees think that their manager could define more precise goals.
If people aren't aware of or invested in your business goals, there's a good chance they won't be itching to get involved in other types of engagement activities. Especially those outside of their regular scope of work.
3. Assess your corporate culture.
If you're struggling to improve engagement, then it may be a matter of corporate culture.
O.C. Tanner found that companies with a thriving corporate culture and superior employee experiences are 13x more likely to have engaged employees.
A good company culture inspires employees to do their best work. It creates an environment where employees are connected with each other based on a set of shared values.
Is employee engagement part of your corporate culture? If not, consider adding it to the values you're actively promoting to employees.
And keep in mind that culture forms from the top down. You need to make sure your executives and upper management are invested in employee engagement, too. If not, it'll be hard to motivate employees to get involved when their managers aren't bought in either.
4. 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.
Your culture committee can act as a liaison between employees and your management team to help you identify what changes need to be made to keep people engaged.
5. Hire the right people.
In some cases, employees aren't engaging with your company because they're not the right fit.
They're having trouble gelling with your culture. Or, they might not be interested in participating in your new initiatives. Either way, it's possible that these employees may not be ideal for your company — and that's OK.
But you can avoid this altogether by hiring the right people in the first place. Reassess your hiring model and look for candidates who share your company values and are more likely to engage with your business.
6. Encourage engagement from the start.
Along with hiring the right people, make sure they know how to get involved in employee engagement activities from the very beginning.
Some employees just don't know what's available to them. And, they may not participate because they don't know it's common practice at your company.
Try keeping a list of engagement opportunities in one centralized location so employees can easily see what you provide. And if you want them to participate in certain activities or events, be sure to make that abundantly clear.
When employees understand that your "voluntary meeting" isn't just for volunteers, you'll get the engagement you're searching for.
7. Identify engagement opportunities for remote employees.
In today's workforce, remote work is in. While some offices are operating in person, many employers are offering fully-remote positions and hybrid work environments.
Now's the time to get creative about keeping your employees engaged — from home.
Any meetings, parties, events, hangouts, contests, or other activities that you offer for in-office employees should be accessible in a virtual format, too. You could also consider developing a system where remote employees have the option to visit the office for special events.
8. Implement employee engagement ideas and activities.
Your team isn't going to be inspired out of the blue. They'll need a kick-starter to get them excited about their work. Creating and hosting employee engagement activities is a great way to show employees that your company is focused on more than just their daily output.
Let's go ahead and take a look at some employee engagement ideas and activities for your business.
30 Employee Engagement Ideas & Activities
- Set (and achieve) an ambitious goal.
- Plan a team outing.
- Acknowledge consistent performance.
- Start a contest.
- Assign peer mentors.
- Host networking events.
- Offer wellness perks.
- Distribute eNPS surveys.
- Hold an employee appreciation day.
- Encourage work-life balance.
- Go beyond the traditional workspace.
- Evaluate your hiring process.
- Adopt an employee onboarding program.
- Create a culture code.
- Remember holidays, birthdays, and achievements, and more.
- Give out annual awards.
- Sponsor charity events.
- Incorporate an ideas forum.
- Host career training.
- Invest in technology.
- Set up weekly meetings with management.
- Promote internal volunteer opportunities.
- Hold office hours.
- Foster community building at work.
- Launch an employee newsletter.
- Organize lunches with leadership.
- Encourage (and showcase) personal projects.
- Start a job shadowing program.
- Coordinate office visits for remote workers.
- Provide multiple options for feedback.
Before diving into this list, I'm sharing some employee engagement words of wisdom from Meg Prater, a team senior manager here at HubSpot.
"In general, when we are planning a team activity, I like to make sure it appeals to as broad of [an audience] as possible. I like to think of activities that meet the needs of both introverts and folks who are really extroverted. And, I try to avoid anything that puts people on the spot or makes anyone feel uncomfortable."
A good way to do this is to make certain activities optional, even if attendance is highly encouraged.
OK, let's forge ahead.
1. Set (and achieve) 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. For example, a customer service team goal could be to transfer every customer contact from one system to a new CRM. 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.
In the end, you'll be surprised to find that your impossible goal wasn't as farfetched as it sounded. And your employees are likely to have bonded over the experience.
Pro tip: Make it a hack day. Similar to a hack night, this means you bring all of your team members together for a specific amount of time with the aim of completing a project from start to finish. Hack nights can be exclusive of parents, caregivers, or others who may not be interested in working during the late hours. If you plan a hackathon during the day, everyone can get involved. And you can even include snacks, drinks, and incentives to make it worthwhile.
2. Plan a team or company outing.
Team outings — like sports games and karaoke nights — are a great way for employees to bond and have fun 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.
Make it virtual: For your next team-building event, try offering a virtual cooking class. Employees can hop on Zoom together and make some good food with the guidance of a culinary expert. You could also get your staff together to visit a virtual escape room where everyone can work together to solve puzzles, mysteries, and more.
3. Acknowledge consistent performance.
You don't always need to hand out awards or trophies to make people feel valued. Sometimes, 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 timeout in the office to update everyone on how well a particular employee or team is performing. You could also hold a "thank you" party (or hour) to celebrate your high performers.
4. Start a contest.
If you're looking for more immediate engagement, one of the best things you can do is start a contest. For example, you could hold a workspace design contest. Employees decorate their desk space based on a specific theme, like a movie or popular holiday. Then, you bring everyone together to vote on a winner.
If the "prize" is right, you'll be shocked to see how many employees flock to participate.
Make it virtual: Choose contests that remote employees can participate in, too. Like a virtual scavenger hunt where employees and teams compete against each other to complete challenges or find common items around the office or home. A giveaway or raffle is also a passive way to get employees in the competitive spirit.
5. Assign peer mentors.
When employees are starting out it can be difficult to understand how the company works and grasp the daily workflow of their new role.
By assigning them peer mentors, you can help them overcome common roadblocks that new hires may face when beginning at your company. That way, you'll get these employees on the fast track to success and reduce potential turnover.
Pro tip: If possible, try not to pair new employees with their manager or a supervisee. They may be hesitant to ask certain questions to someone in their direct management line. You could also consider assigning a mentor in a different department to help them build relationships outside of their immediate team.
6. Host networking events.
Networking events are a great way to connect employees with their colleagues and other people in your industry. Everyone can get to know each other and share ideas that help employees further their careers at your company.
You can also host internal networking events with upper management. This gives employees the opportunity to become more familiar with the executive leadership team and their vision of the organization.
Make it virtual: There are virtual conferencing tools available to help you host an online networking event — likeHopin for larger events and Zoom for smaller settings. You could also try using a hybrid format where attendees have the option to attend either in-person or remotely.
7. Offer wellness perks.
Sometimes it's the little things that get your employees excited to work. For example, offering healthy foods and drinks at the office ensures your team is fueled and physically ready to take on the workday.
At HubSpot's Cambridge office in the image below, there's a cafeteria stocked with fresh fruit and other healthy foods and beverages.
Pro tip: Host group wellness activities for employees — like a yoga class or meditation session — in your office or over Zoom at the beginning of the day, during lunchtime, or at the end of the day. Wellness at work, works.
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.
Make it virtual: eNPS surveys are typically taken online, so you have this one covered. But once you receive the data, you can set up a video conference with all of your employees to discuss the results together.
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.
Pro tip: Your employee appreciation day should reflect how much you value your employees. At HubSpot, management hosted a field day for customer service employees. Everyone was invited outside to play games and compete as teams for prizes. It was a great way for people to take a break and refresh from the everyday grind of customer support.
10. 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 a business owner or manager, it's your job to make sure every employee is finding the right mix of work and play. Give your employees the flexibility to decide what that means for them.
After all, employees who are satisfied with their organization's flexibility are 2.6x more likely to be happy working for their employer and are 2.1x more likely to recommend working for their employer.
Pro tip: Here are a few ways you can make work-life balance a priority for your employees:
- Measure output instead of input: Evaluate your employees based on results instead of how many hours they spend working toward those results.
- Offer flex hours or a flex day: Give employees the chance to take a couple of hours off or a day to themselves without charging it against their PTO.
- Make sure employees are actually taking PTO: Push managers to encourage their employees to take sick days and vacation time.
- Experiment with power naps: Allow employees to block off 15 to 30 minutes of their day to hit the snooze button on work.
11. Go beyond the traditional workspace.
If you say you want to "break down barriers," 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.
Make it virtual: Remote and hybrid work is here to stay. If their role allows it, let your employees work from anywhere — home, their favorite coffee shop, or even another country. You can also encourage remote employees to meet up with their local colleagues during the work day.
12. Evaluate your hiring process.
As mentioned above, 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?
Pro tip: Ask your candidates these questions during the interview process. Getting the answers you need before hiring is the key to bringing on employees who are the right fit for your business.
13. Adopt an employee onboarding program.
Onboarding programs aren't solely for customers. In fact, they can be used to help new employees learn more about the company, get to know their fellow colleagues, and adapt to their roles. This can help reduce stress and frustration for the employee, especially when they need to learn complicated software or procedures for their work.
You could even organize new employees into cohorts based on start date or department so they have a designated group of people to engage with throughout their time there.
Make it virtual: If your company offers remote job opportunities, consider creating a virtual onboarding program for offsite employees. This could include welcome video conference meetings, self-paced training, or virtual breakout sessions with teammates.
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.
Pro tip: This document should act as a public resource that your employees can refer back to. And if you're wondering what a culture code looks like, here's what it looks like at HubSpot.
15. Celebrate holidays, birthdays, and achievements, and more.
When you're running a small- to medium-sized business, your brain may be so focused on growth and improvement that you forget dates like holidays and birthdays. Or, professional achievements like work anniversaries and promotions.
It's important to recognize these days as it shows employees that you value them as people, not just coworkers.
You can create a calendar that records this information and set up reminders that alert you when an important milestone is coming up. Or, establish a dedicated team to keep track of key dates and make sure your employees are celebrated accordingly.
Pro tip: To save resources, consider consolidating celebrations for multiple employees into one event. For example, you could recognize all birthdays in April at the beginning or end of the month. Either way, it also doesn't hurt to include a more personal touch for employees, like a signed birthday card or an achievement bonus.
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 set a standard for the rest of the team as well. Awards could range from formal business-related achievements to more lighthearted topics like "yearbook" awards (e.g., most likely to … win an award).
By giving out awards on a regular basis, your employees know exactly what they need to do if they want to stand out in your organization. And, when they'll be acknowledged for it.
Make it virtual: Set up an online poll where employees can vote for other people to win in different categories. Then, bring everyone together to announce the winners in an online awards ceremony. Or, be sure to live stream your in-person awards event so remote employees can tune in.
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. They can give back as a team and bond over doing good deeds together.
Pro tip: Tell your marketing team to leverage these events as a public relations campaign for your business. And, have your HR team showcase these events to help get prospective employees in the door. In short, 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 creative recommendations.
Make it virtual: Ditch the old suggestion box. Create an online idea box where 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.
Pro tip: Effective career training can look different depending on the employee. Some people may be interested in attending large conferences. Others may want to pursue independent professional development — like these must-have customer service certifications and courses. If possible, give your employees the flexibility to choose the training that works best for them.
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 roadblocks like pricing and limited time for onboarding.
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.
Pro tip: Automation software — like Zapier and HubSpot — can help you set up workflows to run routine tasks in the background. Example tasks may include moving a customer request through your ticketing system or triggering a "thank you" email once a customer makes a purchase.
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.
Pro tip: If possible, encourage employees to get out of the office during your weekly meetings. Managers should grab lunch or take a walk with their employees every once in a while to catch up.
22. Promote internal volunteer opportunities.
If you or your team needs extra help with a project or task, these are good opportunities to outsource jobs to your coworkers.
For example: If your support team is experiencing high call volumes, there may be other people in your organization who can help answer phones and triage customer requests.
Your employees are always looking to stand out and simply asking for help is a great way to drive engagement.
Pro tip: Be sure to thank your "volunteers" as soon as the job gets done. Maybe you can treat them to lunch or give them some additional time off as an incentive.
23. Hold office hours.
Managers are busy, but that doesn't change the fact that employees want to feel connected to their managers. It's important for leaders to have open lines of communication with their staff.
Holding office hours is a great way to give employees the opportunity to engage with leadership while saving managers time throughout the work week. For example, customer service managers could designate an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays for support reps to bounce questions and ideas off of them.
That way, there are less ad hoc requests coming in on a regular basis. And employees still feel heard.
Make it virtual: Give employees the option to pop into office hours virtually. This is especially important for remote employees who may not have the chance to join the conversation face to face.
24. Foster community building at work.
Work activities are great. But sometimes, they can still feel like work. When you encourage communities to form outside of company-structured events, your employees are more likely to feel engaged in the office.
Communities could be created around anything — from culture to sports to books.
Pro tip: Let your employees build communities organically. Try not to put formal rules around how your employees connect with each other over their common qualities and interests.
25. Launch an employee newsletter.
Newsletters have withstood the test of time. Even today, they're a great way to share information and stay connected with your employees.
Here are a few ideas you can include in your newsletter:
- Team and employee spotlights
- Business updates
- Employee birthdays and anniversaries
- Industry best practices
- Customer stories and case studies
Make it virtual: Gone are the days where company newsletters have to be boring. Make it a video newsletter. Or a blog. Or a movie. Whatever it is, make sure your newsletter is written by your employees — and for your employees.
26. Organize lunches with leadership.
It's time to peel back the curtain. Employees want visibility into what leadership is doing and how the business is functioning overall.
An easy way to do this is by organizing monthly or quarterly lunch meetings with leadership. This gives your employees an informal platform to engage with your executive team and voice any questions or concerns.
Make it virtual: Virtual lunches are the new brown-bag meeting. You can host lunch meetings online using video conferencing software. And, if you have the means, you might consider treating your employees to lunch with a DoorDash or UberEats gift card.
27. Encourage (and showcase) personal projects.
Employees have lives outside of their day jobs. Show them you care beyond work by investing in the success of their personal projects.
You may be shocked to learn that someone at your company makes candles in their spare time. And, it may surprise you even more if multiple people do. When you create an environment where people can discuss their personal lives, you open the door for even more connections across your organization.
Pro tip: Try scheduling a quarterly show-and-tell where employees can show off their projects. Or, encourage your most talented staff members to host company-wide activities based on their skills. Like if someone is a sommelier on the side, they could lead a wine tasting for your employees.
28. Start a job shadowing program.
Some employees know the job they want, but don't have the skills needed to get it. Job shadowing is one way for employees to meet and learn from each other.
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. Plus, they can get a feel for the day-to-day responsibilities of someone in their desired position.
Pro tip: A job shadowing program doesn't have to be reserved for employees who are interested in switching departments. Simply let employees shadow one another to build relationships and gain a new appreciation for different teams across the company.
29. Coordinate office visits for remote workers.
Thanks to the pandemic, remote work has become the new normal for a lot of industries. But, as offices open back up, there's an opportunity to invite remote employees for a visit.
All of the people that you only know from the boxes on your screen can come say hi IRL (in real life). And you can make it optional so employees who are located further away from your office aren't forced to travel if they're unable to.
Pro tip: Organize an office visit around an all-staff meeting, annual retreat, or other large company event. That way, you can bring remote employees in with a purpose and ensure they meet everyone at once.
30. Provide multiple options for feedback — and act on it.
Feedback is queen, king, and everything in between. Employee engagement idea #8 was all about using eNPS surveys to measure employee satisfaction. And #18 was focused on creating an ideas forum where employees can make suggestions.
But the most important thing you can do with feedback as a manager is: act on it. Put it into practice. Show your employees that their needs are being listened to and their requests are being considered.
Pro tip: Be sure to create a feedback-safe environment. Give employees the option to submit feedback anonymously and through different channels. Also, make it clear that there are no negative repercussions for sharing direct and honest observations.
Employee engagement activities can work wonders for your company culture. But you can't sit back and wait for your employees to feel engaged.
You have to commit to making it happen.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.