60 Surefire Ideas That Will Impact Employee Engagement Today

By Julie Lee

Illustration of woman sitting in chair using social media on her phone

In the most recent Gallup U.S. Mood survey, 67% of workers were reported as being disengaged. It’s no wonder business and HR executives are consumed in finding ways to improve employee engagement.

Here’s a guide we compiled from leading authorities, as well as our own views, on what employee engagement is. Not just what it is, but things you can do as an organization to impact it starting today.

(PS. While you’re here, check out what our clients have to say about how Motivosity has helped them increase their employee engagement and company culture.)

What is Employee Engagement and an Engaged Culture?

1. When Your Employees Say No

Paul Herbert via FistfulofTalent says, "You will know you have employee engagement when employee at some level in the company says “no” to a promotion, job change, raise, etc., because it doesn’t benefit the company long-term." Motivosity is a surefire way to improve employee engagement. 85% of our clients are listed as best places to work.

2. When Your Employees Give Their Best Every Day

We’ve all experienced those days when it is tough to be motivated at work. We’re human after all. But if you have the right culture -- and engaged employees -- you’ll find that those uninspired days are more of the exception than the rule.

3. When Employees Spread Your Employer Brand

Craig Fisher Employer Brand Leader of CA Technologies says, "An employer’s brand should be built from the inside out. Just as part of an organization’s marketing message should come from its customers, the employer brand should be championed by its employees. For better or worse, they are the vehicles by which the message will be conveyed on blogs and social networks."

4. When Your Employees Actively Recruit Others

Remember that time you had an amazing dinner at that amazing restaurant, and how you told all your friends about it? Same thing with your employees.

If your employees are so enthusiastic about your culture, that they tell their friends and actively recruit them to work there, you have an engaged culture.

5. When Your Employees Acknowledge Each Other

Steve Browne of Everyday People says, "People want to be acknowledged for what they do. This is more basic than appreciation. That is key and important, but we need to step back and acknowledge folks."

6. When Your Employees Go The Extra Mile

It’s one thing when your employees do the bare minimum to get by. But when you see your employees regularly going the extra mile - for no other reason than they love where they work - you know you have an engaged workforce.

7. When Your Employees Feel Attached to the Company

Alison Doyle over on The Balance says, “Employee engagement, also known as worker engagement, is a measurement of an employee’s attachment to his job, coworkers, and company.”

8. When Your Employee is Committed to the Company

In sports as in business, it’s easy to be a fair weather fan. It’s easy to gripe about frustrations, put in half-hearted efforts when the chips are done, or jump ship the first time of struggle arises. But those employees that stay true no matter the circumstance are those that are truly committed.

The more of those you can create in your organization, the more engaged your workforce truly is.

9. Knowing What Makes Your Employees Tick

TLNT and Fred Eck had a pretty good idea of gauging if you have employee engagement, “Knowing what makes your employees tick. Very cool! It is amazing that most engagement efforts never take this step. Movements are designed in HR and then launched on the company without any input from employees. Take this vital step to gauge the temperature of your workers before you take any further steps."

10. Your Employees Put in Discretionary Effort Into Their Work

Perhaps one of the biggest indicators of an engaged culture is how much of your employee’s discretionary effort is put into mundane tasks.

It’s easy to get excited about high-visibility and exciting tasks. But what about those mundane, everyday tasks?

If you find your employees putting their discretionary efforts into all of their tasks, chances are, you have an engaged employee base.

Want to start driving employee engagement today? We've got your back. Look at our secret sauce of features that are sure to drive engagement! Sign Up For a Free Trial

Who is Responsible For Employee Engagement?

11. Company Leaders Own Employee Engagement Design

The heart of this conversation is brought to light by Josh Bersin, of Bersin by Deloitte, "In this new world of empowered teams, how do we “design” the organization to drive customer results, employee engagement, and a focus on quality and communication? How do we reward people, what roles do leaders play, and how do we move people from team to team as the business evolves?"

12. Executives and Managers Own Employee Engagement

Jim Holincheck, formerly of Gartner (and currently with Workdsay) says, "I was asked the question "who owns talent management?" on an industry analyst panel… last week. I answered that the HR organization does not own talent management, it helps enable talent management. Executives and managers own talent management."

13. Managers Own Employee Engagement

Kris Dunn the HR Capitalist says, "…a bad manager can override whatever it is you're trying to build/sell culturally. A great manager becomes their own solar system - developing a culture within their team that transcends whatever you're trying to build globally.
I think culture is probably best delivered at the managerial level. That's why I think that anyone working on culture in a company has to look at the area of performance management."

14. Leadership Owns Employee Engagement

Nisha Raghavan over at Your HR Buddy says, "If the management feels that engaging employee is only HR’s responsibility alone then the whole effort would be of no use. All leaders from the top management to the front line managers should play a role in engaging the employees. Most of the time employees quit not the company but their managers. In fact front line managers should be accountable to the senior management for the way they treat their team members."

15. Leadership Can Kill Employee Engagement

Jennifer Miller at The People Equation says, "There are innumerable ways that leaders kill employee engagement. That’s not their intention, but it is often the unfortunate outcome."

16. Managers Are Responsible for Creating a Happy Environment

The HR Gazette says, “A manager’s responsibility is this: To create an environment at work in which it’s easy to be happy. Whether or not employees take this opportunity is up to them, and you simply can’t force people to be happy…

“Top management’s responsibility is to enable managers to create that atmosphere where it’s easy to be happy at work.”

17. Managers and Senior Leaders Own Employee Engagement

Over at Monster, they report, "Managers and senior leaders are responsible for driving engagement by recognizing employees, developing them, and filling them with belief in the future of their organization.”

18. Top Leaders are the Source of Employee Engagement Problems

Chris Penttila at Workplace Diva says, “...,the attitude of the manager you report to impacts your own attitude which in turn rolls downhill to impact your subordinates' attitudes on the job. So, we may have to look to the top leadership as the source of our national job ‘engagement’ problem.”

19. Human Resources Owns a Part of Employee Engagement

Many are quick to dismiss HR as being the organization that is ultimately accountable for employee engagement.

And while that may be true (they have so much on their plate already!) they are often the first line of refuge employees seek when things start going wrong.

With that in mind, HR in a very real sense owns a big part of employee engagement.

20. Everyone Owns Employee Engagement

Peter Hart, writing over at HR.com says, "Employee engagement is a “we” thing. It’s a state of connectedness not a state of mind. Employees are engaged when everything they experience in a company just “feels” right – when it feels connected and aligned. And, that happens when everyone – when “we” – are working together on engagement.”

Who then, is responsible for employee engagement?

When Do You Start Working on an Engaged Culture?

21. Employee Engagement Starts at the Very Beginning

Bob Corlett, founder of Staffing Advisors puts it bluntly, "[Employee engagement] starts from the very beginning."

When should you start your employee engagement efforts?

22. Start Today (No Matter Where You’re At)

They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So does creating an engaged culture. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting, or are years into the process - start (or start improving) today.

23. When Absenteeism Starts to Increase

The folks over at Barrett Rose & Lee point out an important statistic, “When employees feel dissatisfied, are not as invested in the work they produce or discontented with managers, the level of absenteeism increases, leading to less productivity. Unscheduled employee absenteeism costs an average of 9% of payroll.”

24. When Employees Leaving Affect the Employees Staying

Jennifer Costa writing over at FurstPerson says, "When an employee leaves, especially for what co-workers perceive to be a better opportunity, this can crush morale, leading to a ripple effect on the workers who stay… While a “leaver” may not have been productive, they may still have had a positive influence on co-workers, providing social cohesion to the group and leading to decreased work-performance by the “stayers” once this person has left.”

25. When Customer Service Complaints Rise

Susan Moore at Gartner says, "Employees with higher levels of engagement care more about customers. It’s not surprising, then, that many organizations have discovered that employee engagement scores correlate strongly with customer satisfaction scores.”

26. When Silos Appear

John Mattone writes, "Silos, distrust between departments, and disenchanted employees Silos, distrust between departments, and disenchanted employees certainly don’t signify operational excellence or success. Understand and measure employee engagement… A healthy culture along with engaged employees is the winning combination for maximizing operational success and making your organization a great one to work for.”

27. When Performance Lags

Gallup's 2016 Q12 Meta-Analysis confirms what we all know, "Top quartile business units outperform bottom quartile units: 10% in customer loyalty/engagement, 21% in profitability, and 20% in productivity.”

28. When Employees are Just Punching the Clock

PwC has an interesting take on employee engagement, "That’s the value of engagement: employees who are most committed to their organizations put in 57% more effort on the job—and are 87% less likely to resign—than employees who consider themselves disengaged.”

29. When Your Innovation is Down

Diana Neves de Carvalho over at Innovation Excellence says, "...engagement brings about innovation… Over the next five years, the most innovative companies in the world will grow at a rate of 62.2%, as compared to a 21% average for all the businesses analysed.”

When do you begin?

Where Do You Start?

30. It Starts With Leadership

Bob Corlett, founder of Staffing Advisors says, "To inspire top performance from your employees, they need to know what's important about their jobs and why they're working to achieve results… Ultimately, the best way to demonstrate the importance of the work is through your own engagement. Employees notice your level of commitment. They look at who you hire, what you pay, what resources you provide and the attention you pay to helping them succeed."

31. It Starts at On-Boarding

Kevin Martin of i4cp says, "Best-in-Class organizations are utilizing a formal onboarding process to drive positive impact in the pre-hire and through the new employee's first year with the company. In fact, at Best-in-Class organizations, onboarding is seamlessly integrated with both recruitment and performance management."

32. It Starts at Recruiting

Sharlyn Lauby, founder of HR Bartender, says, "...in order for employees to be engaged, they have to fit with the culture. Meaning that cultural fit needs to be an important part of the recruiting process."

33. It Starts With Management

Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor at HRZone suggests engagement is impacted with the relationship of the employee and their immediate manager,

34. It Starts With Happiness

Jenna Evans over at Women of HR quoting Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California says, "...if you implement a daily dose of positivity, your employees will be more engaged and motivated, which will lead to better job performance, – ‘happy people frequently experience positive moods and these positive moods prompt them to work actively towards new goals."

35. Kill Your Company Culture if it Sucks

Lance Haun over at The Starr Conspiracy Intelligence Unit says, "It’s okay to kill your company culture, especially if it sucks."

36. Start With Your Most Engaged Employees

Ben Eubanks over at upstartHR says, "...maybe we should be focusing on making sure those engaged employees get the best service that the [company] has to offer. If we consider it logically:

  1. It helps to maintain or improve engagement levels
  2. It helps to prevent a slide toward disengagement
  3. It might help to drive additional results from those individuals

37. Start With Treating Your Employees Better Than Your Customers

Mike Haberman at Omega HR Systems says, "The guest experience will never exceed the team experience. To my way of thinking that is a major key to success."

38. Get Rid of Dissatisfied Employees

Rakshita Dwivedi at HR Thoughts says, "Some dissatisfied employees will only add more negative vibes to the system. More they stay in the organization worse impact they have on the others. Letting them go will save a lot of fuss later."

39. It Starts With You

Here at Motivosity we believe that no matter who you are, or what role you play in an organization, employee engagement starts with you.

You don’t have to have a formal responsibility or title to be a leader. It doesn’t take a company initiative or mandate. You simply have to choose to be a champion of happiness and good in the organization.

Happiness is contagious. So is engagement.

Why Should You Care about Employee Engagement?

40. Unengaged Employees Are Detrimental

Says Meghan Biro founder of TalentCulture, "If your employees aren’t engaged, that’s a serious detriment to your employer brand, and that’s what going to translate down the pike."

41. Employees Will Go Above And Beyond

Jacob Shriar of OfficeVibe, "Employees that are engaged will care about your business as much as you do. They'll go above and beyond and try extra hard to do their jobs the best they can and give incredible service to customers. The research is very clear on this, engaged employees lead to more successful organizations."

42. Culture is Central to Success

Josh Bersin, of Bersin by Deloitte, "Culture is central to success in this new organization. Without a clear, meaningful, and well-aligned culture, networks of teams cannot share information, communicate, collaborate, and avoid competition."

43. Talented Employees Are Pivotal to Success

Arie Ball, most recently VP of Talent Acquisition at Sodexho reported, "Our product to our clients is our people, our ability to attract and retain talented employees is pivotal to our company’s success."

44. Employee Attrition is Costly

Aaron Queen over at EffortlessHR says,"It is difficult for company managers and CEOs to find top talent and hold on to that talent. In 2014, only 26% of business leaders thought it was important to retain employees; now in 2015, 50% of businesses believe that it is vital to find a way to keep your best talents. Sadly, even if CEOs admit that engagement matters, 60% of them don’t have a program to improve and measure this engagement."

45. Reduced Absenteeism (aka Fake Sick Days)

Helen Tracey at HR Potential says, “There’s something innately [sic] human that seeds doubt in our minds about whether people’s illnesses are genuine, especially when it comes to absence in the workplace... more than three quarters of GPs feel under pressure to issue sick notes (DWP survey).”

46. Lost Productivity is Expensive

Victor Lipman, writing for Forbes says, “One especially substantive Gallup study, including over 350,000 employees, estimates the annual cost in lost in lost productivity at over $450 billion.”

47. Engaged Employees Serve Customers Better

Sarah White at CIO.com, interviewing Adam Ochstein of StratEx reports, “Engaged employees mean happy employees, and happy employees serve customers best. Providing great service is important in every industry, and it's hard to get employees who don't care about their job to want to provide great service.”

48. Engaged Employees Help Each Other More

Margaret Jacoby writes, “Employees who are engaged tend to focus their time working on objectives that not only improve their daily work processes of other workers as well.”

49. Everything Gets Better

Gallup makes a great point, “When a company raises employee engagement levels consistently across every business unit, everything gets better.”

How Do I Create an Engaged Culture?

50. Gather Regular Employee Feedback

Says CEO Tracy Maylett of DecisionWise says, "We try to practice what we preach… Some of the areas we’ll always focus on… are gathering regular feedback (employee surveys and team communication) and ensuring we have the 'MAGIC' – Meaning, Autonomy, Growth, Impact, and Connection."

51. Create The Right Employee Conditions

David Macleod, Co-Founder of Engage for Success, tells us that employee engagement is, "...about how we create the conditions in which employees offer more of their capability and potential."

52. Make Sure Your Employees Have a Voice

Proven reports that you should, "...make sure all employees have a voice and feel comfortable approaching peers and leaders regardless of title."

53. Make Work Meaningful

Nick Lucs of When I Work says to, "...[make] work meaningful [by connecting] day-to-day tasks with the mission of your organization."

54. Respect (and Protect) Personal Lives

Meghan M. Biro of TalentCulture says that, "[in order] to keep people inspired, fresh and happy, the organization has to support them. Job seekers are savvier than ever and will turn on a dime: a company that touts ‘long hours in the trenches’ translates as ‘doesn’t respect my need for a life outside of work."

55. Allow Employees to Unplug at Night

Tim Sackett of The Tim Sackett Project considers the impact of the always connected workforce. Says Sackett, "Most white collar jobs currently have no ‘unplugged’ off the clock hours any longer. People are connected from the moment they wake until the moment they go to sleep, many even getting up during the night when they hear notifications coming in on their devices.

That’s a problem. That’s an organizational problem because we will see burnout at a faster rate than ever before. I am starting to hear about organizations that are shutting down email servers at 6pm and not turning them back on until 5am, trying to force their employees to shut it down and refresh, even shutting down during the weekends. It’s a drastic step, but one some organizations feel is the right one."

56. Make Employees Happy

China Gorman says "…early in my career the notion of employee happiness didn’t register as a leadership imperative, I now believe that creating a culture that… delivers happiness to employees is quite clearly a practical and effective way to achieve top line growth, profitability, customer loyalty and, most importantly, employee loyalty."

57. Let Employees be Human at Work

Susan Strayer LaMotte, Founder and CEO of exaqueo says, "...being human at work makes work better... No one works in a vacuum. If you want your employees to be engaged and more productive, you have to recognize they're human. And so are you."

58. Encourage Friendships at Work

Trish McFarlane, founder of HR Ringleader shares some bad advice received early in her career, "The idea that HR is an island and we are “nobody’s friend” stuck with me for years. This likely meant I missed out on some really great relationships in my lifetime. But, I’m not bitter. I have learned in the past few years that being myself (professional when needed, fun when it makes sense) is the best approach. I don’t mind clients getting to know me personally… It’s a much more human, caring way to work, and I love it!"

59. Put Employees at the Center of Engagement (not Business)

Jon Ingham reminds us adeptly, "...if there was one area that shouts out the need for a people centric stance it's got to be engagement.

Why? Well if you don't do this… [if your only] desire to do engagement [is] to fix something in the business then you're not going to get engagement."

60. Acknowledge and Reward Business Contributions

Rich DeMatteo at Corn on the Job, says, "One of the easiest things you can do to keep your top employees happy is acknowledge and reward their contributions to the business. Although many managers and company owners don’t bother to make the effort to congratulate employees on a job well done, or for their continued hard work, it is something that is actually of extreme importance to workers."

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