Even the best tools and technology can’t keep your business going when your people are unhappy and unmotivated. Research shows that only a third of employees feel engaged at work—so if morale is down, there’s a good chance you aren’t alone. Use this mega-list of employee engagement ideas to help your team get back on track:
1. Recognize their hard work.
Just taking the time to recognize employees’ efforts can go a long way in helping them stay engaged and motivated. Show them that their hard work isn’t going unnoticed—either publicly or privately.
2. Volunteer together.
Find a local cause or charity your team can get behind and donate some time together to a healthy cause.
3. Assign mentors to new hires.
Give new employees a buddy for support, to answer questions, and mentor them through the first few months on the job.
4. Keep new hires involved.
Just getting hired doesn’t make you feel part of a team. Create opportunities for new hires to get involved or learn more about their fellow coworkers.
5. Give everyone some employee education.
Offer discounts for online training classes or designate an “education fund” for employees to use towards their individual learning and development each quarter.
6. Encourage personal projects.
Your employees likely have skills and interests outside of what’s required in their day-to-day role. Encourage them to look for new opportunities at work or take on a personal project they’ve been wanting to try.
7. Assess their individual strengths.
Find out what makes your employees tick. Do a strengths assessment to make sure they’re in the right role, and where their skills could make the biggest impact.
8. Try flexible work hours.
Depending on your business, your employees may not need to physically be in the same place at the same time to get work done. Try offering some flexibility in working hours so employees feel like they have more control over their schedule.
9. Get their feedback.
There’s no way to know how things are actually going without getting input from your team. Hold a listening session where everyone is encouraged to share their thoughts and suggestions.
10. Offer sick days in addition to vacation days.
Coming to work sick isn’t safe for your employees or your customers. Give your team sick days in addition to vacation days so that they’re not worried about using up their PTO—and are more likely to stay home.
11. Promote from within.
Show your employees that you’re invested in them for the long run. When it’s time for promotions or new roles, look first at your current staff before hiring an outside candidate.
12. Offer a wellness/mindfulness workshop.
No one in a small business is immune to stress. Give your team some time to unwind by inviting a wellness expert to host an office workshop.
13. Add some healthy snacks to the office.
What employees eat directly affects their performance. Help your team keep their energy going up with some “good fuel”, meaning snacks that aren’t high in sugar and will keep them energized through the afternoon slump.
14. Have a free team lunch.
Call it “Free Lunch Fridays” or “Meat Together Mondays.” Pick a day to bring lunch into the office (your treat) and encourage everyone to eat together.
15. Keep pay competitive.
Engagement doesn’t just depend on compensation. However, paying a competitive wage can go a long way in attracting the right talent and keeping employees motivated.
16. Define your company culture.
Today, employees want to feel like they’re part of something bigger. Put together a list of values that sum up your company culture and ask everyone to pitch in their thoughts.
17. Make sure employees know their path to promotion.
Employees need to know they have a way to grow and progress. Without a determined path for advancement, they’ll start looking for growth opportunities elsewhere.
18. Encourage work/life balance.
Work without balance is a sure path to burnout. Talk to your employees about how to create a balanced relationship between their work responsibilities and life outside of the office. Even better, live by example.
19. Set team goals.
Team goals encourage stronger employee communication and give everyone something to work towards together.
20. Set individual goals.
What does success look like for each of your employees? While you’re creating team goals, include individual achievements as well.
21. Have different types of workspaces (cubicle/non-cubicle).
Open office plans are becoming the norm—but they aren’t always the most productive setting. If your business takes place in an office space, try offering different types of workspaces (closed and open) that help employees be the most productive.
22. Offer gym and wellness discounts.
Show your team that you care about their physical well-being with discounts or monetary incentives for gym memberships or fitness classes.
23. Get to know everyone on a personal level.
As your business grows, so may your team. Stay committed to getting to know every employee one-on-one.
24. Hold family events.
Make sure employees feel valued, in all parts of their lives. In addition to team building events, invite employees to bring their families or significant others out for a barbecue or game night.
25. Make sure they take vacation.
It’s hard to take a break, especially when you’re putting your all into your business. Encourage employees to actually take time off and use their vacation—and don’t forget to take time off yourself.
26. Recognize the signs of burn-out.
Brush up on the signs of burnout and keep an eye on employees who seem overwhelmed. If you see the beginnings of burnout, talk through what you can do to help.
27. Let employees lead meetings.
Take turns sharing the spotlight. Let employees get experience presenting in front of their peers and practicing their leadership skills.
28. Let them personalize their work uniform.
If you have an employee dress code, give your team the freedom to show some personality.
29. Recognize work anniversaries.
Employee retention is about paying attention to the little things—and the big ones. Mark down and celebrate work anniversaries, whether it’s a new hire’s first month or an employee’s first year.
30. Give feedback more than once a year.
Managers can often limit feedback to formal performance reviews, which only happen once or twice a year. Instead, provide feedback at regular intervals so employees can continue to grow and improve.
31. Hold skip-levels.
Your employees may be used to always reporting to the same supervisor or manager. If your organization has several levels of management, create a new feedback format and arrange for employees to do “skip-levels”, or meetings with their manager’s supervisor.
32. Encourage individual recognition from team members, not just management.
When someone does a good job, call it out, and get your employees comfortable doing the same. Make it commonplace for team members to recognize each other’s hard work.
33. Make them part of the hiring process.
Identify your most successful employees and invite them to be part of the interview process. After working together day-to-day, your employees have valuable insight into what makes a good team member.
34. Match their charitable donations.
Encourage your team to support causes that they’re passionate about, and offer to match their giving to a charity of their choice.
35. Give them extra time off just because.
When the weather’s nice, it can be tough to focus on what’s happening inside. Give your team a surprise Friday off in the summer “just because”—your treat.
36. Make sure they feel safe, and give them a strategy if they don’t.
Everyone deserves to feel safe at work. If your employees feel uncomfortable in any situation, make sure they know you’re there to talk to, and have an escalation plan in place so that they can express their concerns safely.
37. Be transparent about diversity/inclusive of all employees.
Make employees feel welcomed and valued by being transparent about your diversity numbers. If diversity is a goal, be clear and accountable with your team about the progress you’re making along the way.
38. Create clubs for different hobbies and interests.
Give employees ways to connect and get to know their coworkers by starting clubs centered on different interests. It could be an intramural sports team, a book club, or even a meetup for burger enthusiasts.
39. Provide mental health support/resources.
Mental health can hard to talk about in the workplace. Provide your employees with a go-to list of mental health resources and make sure they know your door is always open.
40. Try gamification.
Work isn’t a game, but you can use gaming psychology to drive employee engagement. When employees complete certain “challenges” or tasks, let them “level up” with different awards and badges.
41. Allow for anonymous feedback/Q&A.
Employees can only provide honest feedback if they aren’t worried about retaliation. Share an anonymous email survey or set up a questions box to give employees a way to share anonymous feedback and questions.
42. Immediately act on feedback.
Once you have feedback, don’t let it sit. Create a plan for how you can start enacting your team’s feedback today.
43. Have them write their ideal job description.
To find out what your employees truly want, ask them to write their own ideal job description. This can give you insight into what’s missing in their current role, along with ideas about new tasks and responsibilities they may be interested in.
44. Focus on your own emotional intelligence as a leader.
Emotional intelligence is “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” It’s a skill found in the most effective leaders, which helps you create environments that inspire your employees.
45. Support them as they grow.
Growth is important for employees. But it’s also important to give them the support they need as they take on new roles and responsibilities.
46. Pay attention to Glassdoor reviews.
While you may come across a few disgruntled employees, Glassdoor reviews can also provide you with important feedback about your hiring process and company culture.
47. Share company KPIs/specific goals.
It’s inspiring to declare that you want to be the top small business in your industry. But it’s even more inspiring (and realistic) to determine and share specific company goals and numbers you can all work towards together.
48. Encourage them to take risks.
No one ever accomplished anything great without taking a few risks along the way. Encourage your employees to stretch out of their comfort zone and try something new.
49. Give them room to fail.
But in order for employees to take risks, they need room to fail. Give them the chance to fail hard and learn from their mistakes.
50. Host retrospectives after big projects or each quarter.
“Retrospectives”—or “retros”—are a principle of Agile, a project management methodology. Similar to a debrief, after a big project or quarter wraps, sit down with your team and discussed what went well, what didn’t, and how you can improve moving forward.
51. Recognize any “invisible work” and share the mental load.
The “mental load” is the total sum of responsibilities that you take on to manage “the remembering of things.” It includes all the small, unseen steps that certain team members take to keep your team running smoothly—and often aren’t paid for.
52. Make sure they’re actually taking breaks (not just eating lunch at their desks).
Almost two-thirds of workers in the U.S. eat lunch at their desks. Invite your team to move away from the computers or work station during their designated break times, whether it’s just to step out for some fresh air or to eat.
53. Set clear boundaries and expectations for after-work hours communication.
Your employees should know when they’re off the clock. Keep the boundaries clear and make sure they have the tools they need to easily swap shifts and figure out after-hours issues like work schedule changes.
54. Put up a community board.
Put up a community board in a common area for all employees to see and write a new prompt every week. Ask questions from “What motivates you?” to their favorite vacation destination. It’s a small way to learn something new about each other and feel closer as a team.
55. Give them stretch goals.
Boredom is the root of disengagement. Continue to give your employees new challenges, including “stretch goals”—goals that don’t require small moves, but big changes to get completed.
56. Hold exit interviews.
Before an employee leaves, sit down and ask them to share feedback about their experience working at your company. It may be hard (or great) to hear, but either way, you’ll get valuable insight from an employee that has nothing to lose.
57. Make sure their basic needs are met.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applies even in the workplace. In order to become highly engaged, your employees have to move on from having basic needs met—like safe working conditions and guaranteed pay—to believing they’re an important part of your business.
58. Give them their own space (let them personalize it).
Give employees a space to make of their own. This could be the breakroom, a back wall of your restaurant, or anywhere employees feel comfortable enough to be themselves.
59. Share the “why” behind decisions, not just the “what”.
Don’t just make sweeping changes and expect employees to follow. Include your team in the decision-making process and explain the “why” behind big changes.
60. Criticize privately.
There’s no reason to dress down an employee publicly when the feedback can be given in private. Embarrassing an employee for a mistake is a quick route to high employee turnover.
61. Share praise publicly.
On the other hand, don’t be afraid to sing their praises in public. If they’ve done a fantastic job, make sure you aren’t the only one who knows.
62. Respond with “yes, and”.
“Yes and” is a key part of improv comedy. It means that instead of turning down what your partner suggests, you accept their scenario, and then add onto it. The same principle applies to employees. Instead of striking down ideas or immediately saying no, try responding with “yes, and.”
63. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
We’re all human. Treat employees with respect and they’ll respect you in return.
64. Give them the tools they need.
It’s hard to do a good job without the right tools. Whether it’s new technology or other workplace updates, ensure your team has the best tools to do their best work.
65. Give them autonomy.
A small business owner makes a hundred (or more) decisions a day. Give your team the freedom to think for themselves and make their own decisions wherever possible.
66. Consider profit-sharing/making them part of the company.
Employees can have a vested interest in your company—literally. Encourage employee loyalty by making them part owners or offering them company shares.
67. Set individual KPIs
Individual KPIs are just as important as company KPIs. Make sure your employees’ key performance indicators are actually measurable, so they’re able to track improvements as they progress.
68. Show that their work is meaningful.
Engaged employees need purpose. Show them how their role, no matter how small, contributes to the greater wellbeing of their team members and your entire business.
69. Encourage some friendly competition.
Competition can get everyone’s motivation up. See who can make the most sales during a quarter or offer a prize for whoever resolves the most customer service issues within a month.
70. Recognize they have passions and goals outside of work.
Work isn’t all your employees do. Take time to learn more about what they’re interested in outside of work and encourage them to keep their hobbies up.
71. Learn to identify toxic coworkers and have a gameplan.
It can only take one toxic employee to bring down your entire company culture. Harvard researchers have found that a single toxic employee can cause almost 80% of employees to feel less committed to their workplace. Know how to spot a toxic coworker and have a strategy in place to protect your other employees and your bottom line.
72. Ask for their opinions in big decisions.
A sign of high employee engagement is that they care about the place they work. Your employees are committed to seeing your business succeed as much as you are, so make them feel like they have a say in what happens next. If a big decision is on the horizon that could affect them too, make them feel heard in the process.
73. Maintain fair and ethical work practices.
Finally, keep your business up to standard with your state’s workplace laws. Treat your employees well, compensate them fairly, and continue making your business a great place to work for everyone.73 Employee Engagement Ideas for Any Budget Grace Madlinger