19 Employee Engagement Activities that Keep Employees Happy

You want employees who are excited to come to work and ready to contribute. Engaged employees are good employees, and they’re the type who make your job easy as a manager.

But it’s on you to create an environment that fosters employee engagement. Without strong leadership, employees will be reluctant to get invested in their company. They look to you for cues. If you focus on employee engagement and motivation, they will too.

There are a host of activities that can boost motivation and encourage ownership among employees. Budget the time and resources to engage in these activities and take the first steps towards an employee-first environment.

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What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals, as stated by Forbes

Employee engagement is how much your employees care about their work at your company. Are they invested, responsible, and excited about projects? Can they collaborate and do they respect one another? If so, you probably have healthy employee engagement already. If not, there are many things you can do to boost spirits and get employees more motivated.

Why does employee engagement matter?

If an employee can do their job, does it matter if they’re engaged? Yes! Studies show that engaged employees are happier, more productive, and a lot more likely to stick around.

In 2012, Gallup found that businesses that had engaged employees were two times as likely to be successful. Those who had the most engaged employees fared even better—they were four times as likely to be successful.

Additionally, the study found that high employee engagement resulted in:

  • Better attendance 
  • Fewer safety incidents
  • Higher productivity and profitability 
  • Lower turnover 

Fun employee engagement activities

There are many ideas on how to engage employees, but the goal should always be to prioritize activities that put employees at the center.

Here’s our comprehensive list of employee engagement activities:

1. Workplace parties

Most companies throw annual summer and winter parties to celebrate another year of business. Festivities can make people feel as if they are a valued part of the organization. Some workplace party ideas to boost engagement include:

  • Halloween parties
  • Thanksgiving dinners
  • Potluck meals
  • Ugly sweater parties 

Two annual parties are enough, but make sure they count. For example, make sure to invite families, significant others, and spouses to these events. To save money, throw a party during the day, or barter with other businesses for their services.

2. Learning lunches

Learning lunches are the perfect way to bring your team together and help them learn. Encourage different departments to share what they’re working on. Recognize  birthdays and tackle a new topic as a team. Bitly hosts lunch and learns once per week because they build community, foster learning, and help boost  transparency. Just make sure they’re short and sweet, not boring. No one wants to have a long lunch meeting. Keep these lunches light and fun!

3. Employee games, tournaments, and competitions

Employees love getting involved in games. Tournaments and competitions build comradery and they don’t have to be fancy. Consider hosting a ping pong or pool tournament, or challenge the office to a bake off. Even creating a fantasy football league can do wonders for the employees at your organization. Some offices hold 5K races and other sporting events as well.

4. Special days

Special days such as “Bring your Dog to Work Day” change the pace and give employees something to look forward to. Other ideas? Bring your child to work day, pajama day, or even a “no uniform” day can all engage and excite employees.

5. Training

Training has a reputation for being boring. That’s because…well…they often are! But what if you’re able to bring in a special speaker for a truly interesting and invigorating training session? You’ll engage your employees and teach them something new.

6. Recognition programs

Recognition programs are a great way to get employees to engage with each other. Zappos is famous for this type of strategy and has four ways that employees can reward each other. They have a “Zollars” program where employees can earn Zappos money to spend as they please. Zappos also has a parking program that lets employees give each other the best spots in the company lot.

7. Sporting events

Sporting events are a great time to bring your employees and their families together. Choose a local basketball, baseball, or soccer team, and invite everyone. If you’re tight on cash, consider a college or minor league game. If you have a marathon that goes through your city, host a party along the route with all your employees.

8. Team-building activities

Team-building activities, especially those outside of the office, are something that employees love. Laser tag, go-kart racing, and bowling are all options, as are brewery and winery tours. These types of activities will facilitate bonding outside of the workspace, and give employees common ground.

If you manage a remote team, virtual team building games can be just as effective as being in-person. 

9. Bar nights

Many workplaces hold bar nights per week at a local watering hole to offer employees the opportunity to blow off some steam. Just make sure you have offerings outside of alcohol-related events, as they can be exclusive to those who don’t drink. Bar nights should be a supplement to other employee engagement activities.

10. Fundraisers and charity days

Fundraisers and charity days are a great time to bring employees together for the common good. Give your employees the opportunity to organize events for causes they are passionate about. 

11. Barbecues and picnics

After a long winter of being cooped up indoors, hosting a barbecue or picnic when the weather starts to get better is a great way to help employees feel refreshed and appreciated. No one wants to be stuck inside on the first warm day of spring. Take advantage of that feeling by getting your staff outside and offer them a fun meal.

12. Wellness programs

Showing your employees that you value their health and wellness is a great way to increase engagement. Offer yoga classes or a discount to a local gym. Bring in a mindfulness coach to do a workshop and guided meditation. 

13. Employee-led clubs and interest groups

Have a few runners on staff? Start up a running group so they can enjoy some time together doing what they love. Maybe you have a few voracious readers—they would love a book club. Open the door for employees to start the clubs or groups that are important to them. It makes them feel valued and engaged in a way that lets them bring their authentic selves to work.

14. Career development programs and opportunities for advancement

Starting a management training group or a weekly meeting where employees can talk about how they can develop competencies to get promoted is a great way to increase engagement. Not only will you be investing in the future of your company, your staff will know that there is a long-term place for them on your team and they’ll be more likely to stay on.

15. Employee surveys and feedback sessions

Ask your employees how they would like to be engaged. But here’s the catch—be sure you’re listening and ready to act on some suggestions. There’s nothing that will make employees feel disengaged faster than being asked what they think and feeling like no one cares about their answer.

16. Flexible work arrangements and remote work options

If it’s possible, offer up remote work options for your staff. You might find your team is more engaged when they’re not dealing with the stress and hassle of a commute. Remote work not an option? No worries, you can still use flexible scheduling to give your employees a voice in their schedule. They’ll feel more valued and you’ll get better shift coverage.

17. Employee referral programs

Workers are more engaged when they like their coworkers. Create an employee referral program to find great workers who already know your current staff and like to be around them. 

18. Company-wide book clubs or TED Talk discussions

Increase motivation and engagement with company-wide discussions of some interesting books that apply to your industry or field. If you don’t think your team would be interested in reading a book, keep it a little lighter by showing a TED Talk and discussing it with your staff to see what you all can use in your day-to-day work life.

19. Employee recognition and appreciation programs like Employee of the Month or Years of Service awards.

Recognizing your employees for going above and beyond is a great way to increase engagement. Some will find it motivating and work hard to achieve that award. Some won’t, but that doesn’t mean they’re not as important, so make sure you find small ways to recognize them, too. Years of Service awards are a great way to call out your appreciation for someone’s dedication to your business.

Employee engagement for all

Engaged employees are ideal for managers. These are the employees who make it easy to do your job well. Set aside time, budget, and resources for employee engagement activities. This will increase motivation and boost employee retention, all while making your workplace more efficient and productive.

Have you tried out any activities in this guide? Which are the most important to your organization?

Still not convinced that dedicating resources to employee engagement is worth it? Your customers will disagree with you. Check out our guide on How Employee-first Workplaces Improve Customer Satisfaction.  

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