How to Boost Employee Engagement

Everything you need for a happier and more productive workforce.

We spend a third of our lives at work—shouldn’t we enjoy that time? Employee engagement has transitioned from buzzword status to a respected business metric. It’s estimated that disengaged workers cost businesses between $450-550 billion annually. Making matters worse, only 49% of employees are actually engaged. With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that both people teams and C-Suite leaders have become so invested in employee wellbeing.

There are real, actionable strategies that businesses can leverage to drive employee engagement. From offering affordable benefits to enacting generous vacation policies, we’ve outlined some of the ways you can make a difference.


1. Employer Brand

Employer brand has become increasingly important to attracting and engaging top talent. While a company’s branding generally refers to how organizations are perceived by the public at large, employer brand is the company’s reputation amongst prospective and current talent. The responsibility falls on HR to build a brand that’s both recognizable and appealing to the broader workforce.

Thankfully, HR doesn’t have to go it alone. HR can work with the marketing and design teams to create branded assets for every touchpoint in the employee lifecycle. Be it your employer profile on job search sites or the branded swag you give new hires on their first day, branding extends beyond a logo or color scheme.

Every employee is an ambassador for your employer brand, so once you define your values and create supporting assets, it’s time to encourage participation company-wide. Asking for feedback with regular surveys, featuring employees on company social media, and giving employees branded swag are just a few of the many ways you can encourage your entire team to share what they love about working at your company.
 


2. Vacation Policies

We could all use a break, HR included. Offering your employees a competitive time off package is one way to quickly boost your retention efforts and ensure workers are well-rested and engaged. That’s not just a nice thing to do, it’s good business sense: 87 percent of employees rate paid time off (PTO) as one of the most critical factors in determining whether they stay at a job.

Some businesses are starting to go a step further by offering unlimited or “flexible” PTO plans. With the right policy in place, this approach can reduce confusion around accruals and dissuade employees from “saving up” vacation days for emergencies. While this added flexibility makes it easier to calculate time off, managers and HR teams will have to keep watch to ensure that employees don’t abuse the system.

Drafting a PTO policy is half the battle. According to one survey, less than half of workers actually use the days they’re entitled to each year. Even individuals with unlimited PTO take an average of just 13 days per year. Be sure to encourage (or even require) employees to take PTO from time to time. A less than subtle way to do this is to have accrued days potentially expire. More practically, work with managers to ensure that workers are taking the time they need to recoup.


3. Employee Benefits

Basic medical, dental, and vision coverage have become a standard expectation in an employee compensation package. Knowing this baseline, employers all too often settle for a minimal healthcare package and supplement it with perks. However, it turns out that most employees would rather have more robust health coverage than flashy perks.

In a survey of over 500 full-time workers across the country, we found that 70 percent of employees would sacrifice extra perks to receive better healthcare benefits. Perks like company holiday parties, happy hours, and free meals were ranked as significantly less important to respondents than health insurance. However, in the struggle to attract talent many companies have opted for eye-catching perks in attempt to boost employee engagement.

Companies have room to improve when it comes to employee benefits. In fact, the number of employers who fully-fund employee insurance premiums has decreased from 34 percent to 9 percent since 2001. In the landscape of rising healthcare costs, unpredictable medical expenses, and individual budget constraints, what employees really want is a robust benefits package that puts their minds at ease in the face of difficult medical challenges.


4. Perks at Work

While healthcare is an important foundational benefit for employees, many workplaces are stepping up their game to include a full offering of perks: beer on tap, in-office massages, nap pods, and more. These creative perks let companies showcase their culture, compete for top talent, and increase employee happiness.

While some companies go as far as paying for employee weddings, perks don’t have to be expensive. A survey of over 450 workers revealed the most requested perk was flexible scheduling or remote work, which doesn’t cost a dime. Casual dress codes, mentorship programs, and pet friendly policies can also keep program costs down, while still showing you care.

Beyond in-office amenities, employers can offer wellness, financial health, or professional development perks. These additional company-sponsored resources can have a huge impact on employee morale—just be mindful of your audience. Over time, employees might care less about office happy hours and more about paid parental leave, for example. Ask your employees what perks they care about in a survey and shape your programs around their priorities.


5. Employee Training

Learning doesn’t stop after graduation day. Unfortunately, when it comes to professional development, most employees feel underserved by their employers: 70% report that they don’t have the training or resources needed to move their careers forward.

Technology can play an important role in boosting your learning and development initiative. If you don’t already have one, consider implementing a Learning Management System (LMS). These platforms provide a platform for businesses to store, segment, and distribute learning materials. You’ll be able to load trainings, schedule instructor-led sessions, and run analytics on your learning initiatives. They also provide an easy way to roll out major, company-wide compliance initiatives, like anti-harassment or HIPAA trainings.

In addition to providing training to individual contributors, you should also focus your L&D efforts on managers. Developing leaders (especially new leaders) is crucial for your company’s success and benefits every level of the organization. Consider launching a coaching-certification program. The best programs rely on roleplaying and even wrap up with a final certification process.


6. Employee Surveys

What are employees really thinking? When it comes to gauging employee morale, your gut-instinct can only go so far. Surveying employees on a quarterly basis can give you surprisingly deep insights into engagement and how workers view your company, their managers, and their peers.

There’s one new metric you need to consider alongside old standbys like turnover and time-to-hire. Measuring your company’s employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) empowers your team to get an accurate read on something as subjective as how individuals feel about work.

If “NPS” sounds familiar, that’s for a good reason. The surveys have been used for decades in business circles and rely on asking participants one “ultimate” question: “What is the likelihood that you would recommend blank to a friend or colleague?” Respondents are asked to measure their approval on a scale of 0 to 10. Those who respond with a 9 or a 10 are considered “promoters,” and those who answer 0-6 are detractors.

Beyond eNPS, there are other survey questions you can ask to get more targeted insights. Some of our favorite “strongly agree, strongly disagree” style questions preferred by HR professionals today include:

• I would recommend [company] as a great place to work.
• I am proud of the work that I do.
• When I get up in the morning, I’m excited to go to work.
• I’m happy when immersed in my work.
• I would recommend my manager.
• Diversity is a priority at [company].

Surveying employees is about a lot more than just gathering feedback. After you’ve had time to analyze the results, communicate your findings to company leadership and then to the broader employee population. After identifying strengths and opportunities to improve, you’ll be able to work on next steps and execute accordingly. Being transparent here helps build trust and projects your genuine desire to help improve the employee experience.


Conclusion

Engagement touches every facet of the employee experience, from an applicant’s first interaction with the employer brand to their exit interview. An engaged workforce will be more productive and more likely to stay with your company for the long haul. Be it compensation, performance, feedback, or culture, a focus on employee engagement gives your company a competitive edge in today’s talent race. To set your organization up for engagement that scales, start with the foundational elements—like company values, training, and benefits—and let that shape the supplemental perks and policies you add over time.

Download our eBook to learn the tactics that some of the top companies with the most engaged workforces are using to keep their teams motivated every day.