Highly engaged teams are often more productive, motivated, and highly likely to stay with companies compared to less-engaged ones. If one of your management team’s goals is to improve employee engagement, it’ll take some time to achieve. However, here are some actionable ways to get started. 

1. Inform employees how their work helps the company

Many people get to a point where they feel like they merely go to work to earn paychecks. They often become drained due to feeling like they want their work to have a larger purpose. If you sense this is an issue within your team, consider meeting with people individually to reinforce that their work matters. 

Even in a broad sense, every interaction a current or potential customer has with a business could shape their opinions of it. However, you can also meet with employees one-on-one and go into more detail about how their role will help the company grow, keep its clients happy or address some other aim. 

When people have a clear understanding of how and why their work makes a difference, they should feel more engaged as a result. You can also attempt to help people see how your company is doing great things, whether that means donating part of its proceeds to an international charity or launching a new planet-friendly packaging material. 

2. Coordinate volunteer opportunities

Many employees love the idea of spending time among their colleagues while doing something for the greater good. Numerous studies indicate that volunteerism can help workers get more done while on the clock, boost morale and raise engagement levels, among other things. Those are some of the many reasons why you may decide it’s well worth organizing some volunteer options for workers.

However, before you get too deep into that task, take the time to ask employees what causes or types of giving back interest them the most. Workplace volunteering programs often highlight the management team’s priorities, which may not match what workers deem most important.

It’s also essential to account for the fact that there are many ways to give back. For example, a person’s obligations outside of work may prevent them from giving a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon to serve lunch to a homeless shelter’s residents. However, perhaps that worker may want to organize a fundraiser or personally donate money instead of their time to the facility.

Volunteering can also help your team form a stronger bond. When people share experiences, they quickly find common ground that could spark deeper conversations. That’s especially valuable for workers from different organizational departments who may not otherwise ordinarily interact with each other.

3. Take time to build connections with workers

One of the most effective ways to engage your employees is also one of the simplest. Make a conscious effort to get to know them. Many managers find that they start identifying workers only by the traits they show in the office. That may mean you know a certain person is always on time and often willing to stay late to work on projects but have no idea if they have a significant other or are a pet owner. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of easy and fun ways to start learning more about your workers and encouraging them to stay open to you. One option is to have employees create an office dream board featuring images of their hopes for the company’s future.

You can also get into the habit of asking one ice breaker question before each team meeting. Whether it relates to dreaming up the ideal dinner date with a famous person or what people would do with a million dollars, these lighthearted questions can prove eye-opening.

Having an open-door policy is another great way to build trust among your workforce and show them that you’re there when needed. If people feel it’s too complicated to set up a time to chat about something, they’ll probably avoid doing it.

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4. Ask employees for feedback

Most people have had experiences at workplaces involving wanting to give an opinion about something but feeling it wouldn’t make a difference whether they did or not. Not surprisingly, that belief can negatively impact employee engagement efforts. 

Explore how you could convey to workers that you welcome knowing what they think. Show them that their input influences the organization’s direction and that you take their opinions seriously. Remember that lower-level employees often have drastically different perceptions than those held by management. That reality could help you change the company for the better, making it stronger in the near and long-term future. 

If you choose to gather feedback with surveys, the best practice is to have at least three dedicated engagements with workers about the associated findings. Use the first one to go over the survey results and tell people what related actions the organization intends to take. Meet with them again once your company has put at least some of those plans into action. 

Finally, use the last meeting to remind people what the organization did to facilitate the necessary changes and assess how well they’re working. If your evaluation indicates you’re not getting the progress you’d hoped, that’s okay. The most important thing is that there are efforts underway to encourage the necessary outcomes.

When employees provide their opinions and ask that things change, take care not to promise anything other than that you’ll take their perspective into account when making related decisions. Even if you passionately want to change something specific, many matters are not wholly in your control or that of the company. 

5. Help remote team members participate

Perhaps your company recently increased its focus on remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Alternatively, maybe you’ve always had a significant number of people working off-site. In any case, any employee engagement efforts will be maximally effective when you include remote workers

Clear and continual communications are exceptionally important for remote workers. People will perform well when they know what others expect of them. Whether that means you have weekly video calls with remote workers or let them know they can contact you anytime with an instant messaging tool, keep the dialogue flowing. 

Look for ways to help your remote employees take part in fun activities at the workplace, too. For example, if your office has a Christmas sweater contest during the holidays, let people submit photos from wherever they are. If your office invited someone to conduct a self-care workshop, try to stream the content so that all workers can enjoy it regardless of location.

6. Recognize great work and recommend areas for growth

Just like getting feedback from employees can stimulate engagement, you’ll likely find that giving it to workers will do the same. One great starting point is to call attention to outstanding recent efforts during one-on-one meetings. 

Many people learn to dread being called into a manager’s office because they anticipate unpleasant experiences. You can help dispel that belief by setting meetings to say, “Well done! Keep it up!”

Of course, there will occasionally be times when you want to coach an employee about improving something. Even in those cases, try to frame the conversation in a positive and encouraging way.

Emphasize that the employee is doing a lot of things right, but everyone has room to grow. Then, offer clear, constructive guidance about how the person should improve. If possible, provide them with metrics to track their progress or some other benchmark that helps them move in the desired direction.

When employees feel uncertain about how they’re doing, they may feel demotivated and wonder about their chances for career advancement. However, ongoing feedback is a fantastic way to address those issues while promoting better engagement. 

View engagement improvement as a process

It’s understandable to want to work on employee engagement at your company. However, keep in mind that it won’t get better overnight. Try to see it as a journey with no well-defined end. You and your team can do tiny or massive things most days to enhance engagement. The effects of those things will gradually build up until you can’t help but notice the results. Let these tips inspire you about what to do next. 

AvatarEleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a prominent digital marketing agency prior to becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.