Top Employee Engagement Activities (Backed by Research)

May 18, 2015
Robin Dominik Havre
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It’s time for a change in the way we view employee engagement activities.

The workplace landscape has shifted significantly in the past few years. Just a few key examples of why include:

  • Smartphones and tablets have blurred the lines between our personal and work lives
  • People are increasingly bombarded with information and it’s tough to stand out
  • Expectations are different from both employers’ and employees’ perspective alike

What’s worse? There’s never been a more fierce fight to cherry-pick talent pools and, in many sectors, fresh job opportunities are delivered to employee’s email inboxes regularly.

The result? Choosing the right employee engagement activities is more important than ever. But few businesses are stepping up.

As we discussed in this article on how employee intranet boosts productivity, Aon Hewitt published research stating there’s a direct correlation between employee engagement and company output. The findings stated that 1% percent of engagement increased output by 0.6%.

That makes research published by Gallup that states how 26% of employees are “actively disengaged” while just 13% of employees are “highly engaged” particularly alarming.

Engaging employees has always been tricky. How can we improve things?

Read on to find out.

1. Goal setting (bear with us on this one…)

Okay, goal setting is almost as tired a subject as staff engagement surveys. Plus it’s one you hear everywhere, not just in HR and internal comms best practices. But we’re going somewhere with this in the next subheading, so stay with us.

Also, Deloitte University Press discovered that companies who set small, simple goals that get reviewed every three months instead of every year can triple their performance.

So, if you’re reviewing goals annually, it’s costing you a lot of money.

We all like to achieve things because it makes us feel good. There’s a reason for that, too. When we strike something off our to-do list, a neurotransmitter called dopamine is released, giving us a little surge of pleasure.

When that happens, our brain is hard-wired to seek out more of the same.

With small, simple and clear goals set, you’re much more likely to trigger this response and create what scientists call “intrinsic reinforcement”. That means motivation.

If you can cross things off the to-do lists regularly, you engage staff and teams to seek more of the same.

There’s another good reason to set goals and that brings us to the next subheading.

2. Showing gratitude for achievements

A simple thank you goes a long way.

With goals clearly in place, people know what they’re working towards and can feel good when milestones are achieved.

But it also means lots of opportunities to show appreciation and gratitude for employees’ hard work. Whether you do this through “thank you” emails, small bonuses or a set amount of money put behind the bar for some work drinks after work up to you.

When JetBlue partnered with social recognition company, Globe Force, they saw an 88% increase in employee engagement. You don’t necessarily have to enlist a service to help with showing a little appreciation, but the lesson is clear.

If you can find a way to let your gratitude be known and to let it spread among your employees (such as through the use of a mobile intranet) you can expect good things to happen.

3. Look to the high-tech sector for inspiration

For the past few years, the “Google office” has been a hot topic.

In many of its buildings, this tech behemoth offers free yoga classes, free food, commuter buses with access to the Internet and even free laundry services.

The environments are fun, full of beanbags and relaxation areas, vending machines and fridges full of refreshments, all offered at no cost.

It’s okay if many of these things aren’t relevant or possible for your company. But, you have to ask yourself: What can you learn from these strategies? What could be the return on investment from recognising the increasingly blurred and busy line between personal and work lives and making your employees’ lives easier?

Start off with something small. Whether it’s a quality coffee machine, a relaxation corner or whatever you think is suitable. But don’t underestimate the value of these strategies.

4. Room for growth

Your employees expect more room for growth now more than ever. Research has shown that many people expect promotions every two years or so.

Because that might not always be possible, there are other things you can do.

For example, promoting the idea of “inward mobility” whereby employees have options to take on more responsibility, to try new things, to develop their skills sets, even if regular promotions are not an option.

The important thing is to recognise that this is so relevant right now. Because then, you can look at your business and think about what opportunities you can offer to satisfy the need.

5. Have a mission

Whether you want to call it a company mission, credos, ethos, vision or anything else; it’s important you have one.

People want to know what they’re working for. This fact has been recognised in many sectors such as the pharmaceutical industry. After a history of bad press, it’s now re-branding itself as the “wellness sector”.

Retailers are pitching themselves as being providers of healthy food with a mission to make a healthier world and tech companies the world over seek to provide people with information and tools to make their lives better. Everyone is out to help and make a difference.

If you don’t have a clearly defined purpose for why you’re working, think about what that might be. If you work on individual projects, make sure you have a mission each one so people know why them getting out of bed in the morning is making a difference.

In conclusion

Things have changed.

Employee engagement is no longer some facet of the human resources department, but should be a company-wide aspect of your business.

There’s a fight for your talent right now. Fail to implement these ideas at your own peril.

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Robin Dominik Havre

Robin is the CEO of New Intranet. He's helped many companies deploy successful mobile intranets that are easy to use and specially designed for employees not working in front of a computer. The goal of this blog is to provide research-backed intranet and internal communications advice for more successful HR strategies.

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