Employee Engagement Ideas That Work and What to Avoid

Mar 17, 2022 | Employee Engagement

What is employee engagement? In a nutshell, it describes employees’ level of commitment and connection to their company. Employee engagement ideas have reverberating effects throughout the organization. And, of course, they can impact individual performance.

This means engagement plays a pivotal role in people management.

Let’s explore why managers should care more about employee engagement. Then, we’ll share great ideas for enhancing engagement (and what to avoid). 


1. Why Good Employee Engagement Ideas Matter

2. Employee Engagement Ideas and Disengagement

3. Benefits of Good Employee Engagement Ideas

4. Great Employee Engagement Ideas

5. Bad Employee Engagement Ideas

Why Good Employee Engagement Ideas Matter

Just 36% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, says Gallup. Globally, that number drops to 20%. And 74% of disengaged employees are looking for a new job. Most employers should therefore be ramping up efforts to increase engagement.

Over the past couple of years, engagement has varied widely. Many employees grew more engaged during the pandemic. Why? Engagement can actually rise during times of crisis. People band together to solve problems and weather the storm. But afterward, engagement levels returned to their normal low, Gallup asserts.

In fact, employees’ desire to stay at their jobs peaked in early 2020—just before it plummeted. Now, businesses are wondering how to boost engagement in the new normal.

Employee Engagement Ideas and Disengagement

Disengaged employees often do the bare minimum to get by. They don’t feel an emotional connection to their work or the company. They may not fully understand their role—and they don’t care to learn, explains SHRM. Look out for these symptoms of disengagement:

  • Frequent complaining or a negative attitude.
  • Absenteeism (without a clear reason).
  • Subpar work by people who used to perform above average.
  • A dramatic drop in productivity.
  • Lack of participation in group forums.

Look out for these red flags, so you can address them immediately!

Other signs of disengagement can also be signs of overload. For instance, not replying to emails promptly could signal disengagement. However, it could also imply that employees have too much on their plate. Likewise, missing deadlines could signal disengagement or overload. Rather than jumping to conclusions, check in with employees.

Your conversation will show you where they stand.

Benefits of Good Employee Engagement Ideas

Three Black women smiling discussing employee engagement ideas
Credit: Christina Morillo/Pexels

Enhanced engagement will bring significant benefits. SHRM names several key benefits of employee engagement:

  • Increased innovation and creativity
  • Greater productivity
  • Employee retention
  • Stronger business performance
  • Customer loyalty
  • Reputation and stakeholder satisfaction

Some benefits are obvious and immediate. Engaged employees stay focused and perform at their best, for instance. They are psychologically present, says Zinta S. Byrne in Understanding Employee Engagement (2022). Further, engagement makes employees 52% more likely to stay with their company. 

Other benefits are far-ranging. Engaged employees cultivate strong long-term relationships with stakeholders. This builds a positive reputation for the organization.

Great Employee Engagement Ideas

Woman discussing employee engagement ideas on video call with headphones
Credit: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

When you hear “employee engagement ideas,” what do you think of? Perhaps a Hawaiian T-shirt day or an office scavenger hunt? A lot of employee engagement ideas involve gimmicks. They may be entertaining, but they don’t necessarily foster ongoing engagement. Why? Because they’re not truly meaningful.

Instead, we’ll be focusing on ideas that connect with employees at a higher level.

Helping employees understand how they fit into the company’s vision will boost engagement. Inspiring them to believe in that vision is a critical first step. Having a strong relationship with their manager and peers also plays a crucial role. The ideas we share centre on these critical means of fostering true engagement.

Further, these ideas will boost engagement for any team model. Whether you’re in the office part-time or fully remote, they’ll help you engage your workforce.

Connect employee engagement ideas and values

Do your mission and vision connect with employees’ values? Or do you offer something of great value to the community? Take a survey to get employees’ perspectives. Then hold follow-up conversations to gain detailed insights. You can even hold a “town hall” forum on this topic. In this meeting, employees can discuss how to live their purpose in their work.

Involve everyone from senior leaders to interns.

Today’s employees want to work for social-minded organizations. “Studies show that people are willing to give up financial benefits to work for an organization that practices corporate social and environmental responsibility,” says HBR. 

Some employee engagement ideas may be about giving back to the community. Some companies donate a portion of goods sold, for instance. Others teach workshops at local schools. Find something that aligns with your mission and services. Better yet, let employees take part in designing the initiative.

Engage in job enrichment

Give job descriptions a makeover, connecting them to the vision, as SHRM urges. Communicate those changes and what they mean. For instance, play up the role of creativity. Or mention how their smart analytics contribute to the team’s mission. Liven up the description and consider even modifying their title. 

“An innovative job title should be more than simply “fun,” however; it should be a strategic descriptor, too,” notes SHRM. “Chief people officer,” “chief happiness officer,” and “adventure coach” have been used for HR roles

Make sure managers feel excited about their roles, too. Give them challenges they feel enthusiastic about pursuing. And provide regular training that expands their capabilities. Many companies don’t consider these options when discussing employee engagement ideas, but they should.

Implement an ongoing orientation program for new hires 

Enrich their experience through extended support and development. Create a weekly curriculum that new hires can see from day one. And set concrete tasks and goals. They’ll then feel excited to build new skills each week. 

Include details like who will be training and coaching them. Involve several people in their development to help them build relationships. Your attention to detail will impress them. Plus, it will foster trust and loyalty.

Hold group lunches

Consider holding a group lunch once a week to boost camaraderie. Bring fun check-in questions to ignite conversation. Ask, “How was your weekend?” or “Name one thing that didn’t go as planned for you today.” Meeting in less formal ways will help build camaraderie. 

You might also hold a “lunch and learn” program. Here, employees can get face time with the CEO. Or, another leader (or outside expert) can share skills or lead a discussion. 

Create a virtual “cafe”

Launch a regular virtual cafe where employees can speak with you or each other. Like a virtual coffee shop, it lets them drop in for informal conversations. Use Zoom or any platform that allows people to pop into a video chat at their convenience. Consider doing this once a week. Or, keep the cafe “open” for several hours each day.

Mix things up

Create a job swap program, or try job shadowing, suggests Inc. This makes employees’ work dynamic and interesting. The social element of these programs is also rewarding. While cross-training, they’ll also strengthen relationships.

Send out engagement surveys 

Ask behaviour-focused questions to gain helpful insights. This will help employees answer them as objectively as possible. Here are a few possible questions:

  • Are you using your skill set for current assignments?
  • Does your manager check in with you regularly?
  • Have you set appropriate stretch goals?

Make sure to use this data to improve their experience. Coach managers on how to help employees develop good goals, for instance.

Have a laptops-free catch-up

If meeting in person, have a laptops-free catch-up session, suggests Fast Company. After all, it may be your one chance this month (or year) to meet face to face! Put the gadgets aside for an hour.

Offload stress

Check in with employees about their stress levels. If they’re heading toward burnout, they’re heading toward disengagement. If they feel overwhelmed, work to distribute tasks more fairly. Roll up your sleeves and pitch in if need be. They’ll remember how you went the extra mile for them.

Seeing their boss help with even a small task makes a big impression.

Use the right tools

Using the right tools will play a major role in engagement. For instance, goal-tracking software will help employees visualize their progress. This can help them stay motivated to aim higher. Such tools give them agency in tracking their own progress. In turn, they’ll feel more engaged and invested.

Enlist support from leaders in leveraging these employee engagement ideas. Remind them of the importance of referring to the vision often. Share tips on how to do this in inspiring ways.


Managers often unintentionally engage in bad employee engagement ideas. They don’t realize that by doing so, they’re actually sabotaging engagement. Identify whether you’ve fallen into any of these traps!

Playing favourites

Say one employee consistently performs better than others. You might think putting this person on a pedestal will motivate others. But in reality, it can enhance frustration. Repeatedly giving one person appreciation or rewards makes others feel left out. Find ways to congratulate various people for their efforts.

Yes, they might be making smaller contributions than star employees. But recognizing them will build morale and encourage growth. The employee engagement ideas listed above can help.

Relying on financial incentives

Financial incentives can have a role in rewarding employees. However, don’t rely on them for employee engagement. They won’t make employees feel more invested in their work. And they don’t make work more interesting. 

Sugarcoating problems

Pretending that problems are no big deal doesn’t benefit anyone. For instance, say an employee approaches you for guidance in addressing a significant issue. Responding with, “You can handle anything—you’ve got this!” will ring hollow. Instead, truly listen and collaborate with the employee to find a solution. And empathize with their experience.

Likewise, don’t stigmatize the sharing of problems and challenges. (If you always sound overly upbeat and optimistic, you may unintentionally do this.) Instead, create a culture in which it’s okay to discuss hurdles and problems. In one-on-ones and meetings, share challenges you’re facing. Encourage employees to voice what’s on their mind. 

Shaming employees

Avoid shaming employees about their lack of engagement. That’s a surefire way to make them more disengaged. Instead, ask them about challenges they’re facing. Show that you’re on the same team and want to help find solutions.

As you implement meaningful employee engagement ideas, you’ll see engagement rise. Employees’ job satisfaction will increase in turn. As a result, you’ll have a more motivated and competent workforce. And your employees will be happier!

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