Happy employees: 10 powerful employee engagement ideas

It’s no secret that happy employees are better employees. They do more work, better work, and ultimately stay with your company longer.

But when it comes to creating a happy, engaged team, salaries and job descriptions are just the tip of the iceberg. Engaged employees are interested and invested in their work. And getting employees interested and invested in their work is more about building relationships than it is about getting the pay scales right.

Employee engagement is challenging in any work environment. Even more so in today’s world, where scattered teams and remote employees are the norm. (As a remote-first company, we’ve gone through our fair share of trial-and-error on this ourselves.)

To help you build your own happy workforce, we’ve compiled ten of our favorite employee engagement ideas for in-person and remote teams (with a special nod toward engaging remote teams with out-of-the-box ideas, like making HR videos).

But first, what exactly is employee engagement and why does it matter so much?

What is employee engagement, exactly?

Employee engagement can be a blurry term, even for HR professionals tasked with improving it. What makes employee engagement tricky to understand is that companies and employees think of it differently.

To a business or manager, employee engagement means that people pay attention to their work and get things done. To an employee, being engaged means they’re interested and invested in what they’re doing.

Ideally, these two definitions will line up. Employees are interested and invested in their work, and as a result, they pay attention and get more done. And everyone is happy.

The trouble starts when these don’t match up. Attention and productivity lag. Employee turnover rises. Then upper management pushes HR teams and managers to get those metrics back on track.

The trouble gets worse if people start trying to increase productivity when they should be finding ways to get employees interested and invested again.

From a high level, the goal is to get everyone on the same page in these two areas:

Awareness

Employees need to understand the overall business strategy and their role within it. They also need to understand how they can be successful and valuable to the organization.

Alignment

Everyone needs to understand the shared goal and how they can help — individually and as part of a team — to move the company toward that shared goal.

This one starts at the top. The organization needs to have a solid understanding of its mission and values and clearly communicate these to employees at all levels.

When awareness and alignment are in place, employees tend to be happier and productivity improves.

However, simply telling everyone how they fit into the company and what they need to do won’t get you the engagement you’re looking for. Remember, employees need to be interested and invested in what they’re doing.

That means we need to dig into the next layer of what gets people engaged at work.

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The three basic ingredients for engaging employees

People are complex creatures. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for engaging employees.

But loosely speaking, employee engagement has three basic ingredients.

Responsibility

72% of employees want more responsibility in their jobs. And when people have the responsibility they want, they’re more likely to be engaged and invested in their work.

That means managers need to take time to learn about employees and give them as much responsibility as they want (and can reasonably handle). Both an employee with too little responsibility and an employee with too much responsibility will underperform.

Opportunity

42% of employees rate learning and development as the most important work benefit.

Nearly half of your company wants opportunities to grow and advance their career more than any other intangible benefit. And it’s likely that the people who value upward mobility are also ambitious, high performers.

Giving employees a path to advance is a huge aspect of retaining your most valuable team members.

But keep in mind, there’s also a large group of people who like where they’re at and prefer to keep doing what they’re doing.

These employees are also valuable to the company. Someone who’s been in the same position for years is an excellent resource for helping train new team members and for improving efficiency across that layer of the company.

The best method here is to make growth opportunities available to those who want them. But don’t penalize employees who don’t make use of the growth resources.

Recognition

This last one is the simplest because just about everyone enjoys being recognized for their contributions. The challenge is recognizing everyone’s contribution.

It’s easy to focus on the high performers and the one-off home runs, but it’s also important to recognize people who may not so obviously stand out. The employee who consistently shows up and gets their work done on time also deserves recognition for their consistency.

In short, be generous with recognition. And make sure everyone is being recognized for their work.

10 employee engagement ideas

Now we’re into the nuts and bolts.

The goal is to make everyone aware and get them aligned toward the same goal. The strategy to achieve that goal is to give everyone as much responsibility, opportunity, and recognition as they want.

These ten ideas are intended to help you put this strategy to work and accomplish your employee engagement goals.

Giving a nod to our fellow remote-work teams, each of these employee engagement ideas can be implemented in-person or rolled out remotely through video. (Or a mix of both!) We’ll show you how.

1. Show employees how they advance the company mission

Because rank and file employees are on the ground doing the work, they often don’t have a high-level view of the business. It can be tough for them to see how their work contributes to the company mission.

Remind employees, early and often, exactly how their specific roles fit into the larger mission.

Begin aligning new hires with the company mission during recruitment and continue through the entire onboarding and training phase. But don’t stop there. Regularly remind team members how their day-to-day work advances the mission.

Not in a broad sense. Give them specific, tangible examples.

  • Encourage managers to build “mission moments” into their team meetings
  • Incorporate mission and values into employee appraisals
  • Make a monthly employee spotlight video showcasing a specific person, team, or role and how their current projects advance the mission.

2. Give updates on company inside information

Clearly, there are some aspects of a business that not every employee needs to know.

But people like having inside information and feeling like they’re inside the circle of trust. Letting employees in on a few things that happen behind the closed doors of the C-suite makes them feel like the company trusts them.

When a new policy is announced, include the “why” behind the change (to the extent possible). Along these same lines, give employees a heads up on which direction the company is heading and the challenges leadership is working on.

Releasing periodic update report videos is an easy, effective way to do this.

3. Help new team members connect

One of the biggest challenges with distributed teams is that people often feel like they don’t know each other. It’s easy to feel isolated when you only interact with your teammates through email, Slack messages, and the occasional video call.

At Biteable, we ask each new team member to create a short video about themselves by the end of their first week and share that video on Slack. We find it helps new people feel part of the team sooner and helps existing team members put a voice and face to the emails and messages.

This type of video works well for both remote and in-person employees, allowing them to introduce themselves in a creative way that doesn’t induce a public-speaking panic.

Make it easy by offering employees a meet the team video template.

4. Tap into employee knowledge for new trainings

Offering opportunities to get outside training and additional certifications is incredibly valuable both for employee engagement and employee competency.

However, most companies also have a huge wealth of knowledge within their teams. Unfortunately, most knowledge is passed from employee to employee off the cuff, usually when someone is stuck or struggling with something. It’s not focused or efficient.

A better approach is to encourage employees to put on official internal trainings to help upskill the rest of the team, based on the challenges they see from day to day.

This gives knowledgeable employees an opportunity to take on more responsibility if they’d like it. And it enables your teams to proactively spread knowledge around, rather than waiting until work gets stalled.

For a less labor-intensive option, consider asking employees or teams to develop a micro-training video on a single topic. Help them keep it focused (and short) with a template like this “how to do something” video.

5. Make public recognition the norm

You may have heard the mantra, “Praise publicly, criticize privately,” or some variation of it. It’s simple, effective advice.

But how often do we actually follow that advice?

Normal work environments guide us into giving praise and feedback in the worst way possible. It’s just natural to give someone a quick high-five after a meeting or in their cubicle. And it’s just as natural to bring up problems in group settings.

We all have to work on giving feedback privately. But HR teams and managers can do a lot to develop a culture of public praise.

Implementing a company-wide kudos system is fairly easy. You can go old-school with a whiteboard in the break room or “high-five” moments during all-staff, but why not take it up a notch with quick kudos videos that recognize people for doing a great job.

Send them to the whole company. These videos are fun. People will watch them. And best of all, it’s a great way to get around our tendency to give praise quietly.

6. Crowdsource solutions

Every company has plenty of business problems to solve that may not fall under the responsibilities of a specific employee or team. Often, it’s left to upper management to solve these problems.

But every company also has plenty of smart, creative people who can help. And many of these people would love to help, if only they were given the opportunity.

The traditional way to get the whole team involved is group brainstorming. And it’s a great problem-solving method.

However, group brainstorming requires yet another meeting. It also inherently overlooks quieter, yet equally valuable voices. Instead, take a chance and give an all-call asking employees to suggest solutions.

Create a short video that outlines the problem and invites everyone to give their best ideas. Include a call-to-action explaining exactly what you want people to do and when you need them to do it.

This gives people who want more responsibility the chance to take it — and get public recognition if they present the best solution.

7. Give employees values-based recognition

Company values are important. And every organization wants their team members to follow those values. However, we tend to recognize people solely for work performance. This often overlaps with adhering to company values, but not always.

Develop a recognition program that also praises people for living up to your core values. You’ll create even more opportunities for public recognition, and at the same time encourage a culture in which employees strive to live up to a shared set of values.

8. Build open, complete feedback loops

Most organizations have some method for getting feedback from employees — an open door policy or suggestion box. Most managers ask for feedback during performance reviews.

However, employees often feel like they’re speaking into the void because they never get any follow-up on their feedback. And sometimes it’s difficult for people to see what the company is doing in response to employee feedback. That’s an incomplete feedback loop.

HR teams and managers can close this loop by sending out short “you asked, we listened” videos that show how they’re addressing employee concerns.

Employees will see that the company is listening. And you’ll build greater accountability, because they’ll know how the business intends to correct issues. Then, team members can give more feedback if they feel the company isn’t making good on its promises.

9. Create incentive programs based on what employees value

Incentive programs are often built using a sort of cookie-cutter approach. And the common assumption is that cash is the best incentive. Cash is a good incentive. But it’s not always the best incentive. Remember that employees can be unhappy despite being satisfied with their pay. An effective incentive program might not involve any direct expenses at all, depending on what employees value most.

For some people, being able to leave early one or two days a week, as long as all the work is done, might be the best incentive. Being allowed to work out or pursue side projects on the clock for a half-hour a day might motivate other employees.

Tangible incentives may be the way to go. But you won’t know unless you ask. Similar to crowdsourcing solutions to tough problems, crowdsource ideas for your incentive programs.

Send out a quick video. Let everyone know you’re looking to build or improve your incentive programs and need the team’s help. To get a broader array of options, you might even specify that you’re looking for ideas other than cash incentives.

10. Give your employees more say in company recreation

This is another area where companies typically make decisions in isolation. They decide they want to have a team-building day or an out-of-office event. They come up with an idea and plan it without ever asking employees what they’d like to do.

The military is famous for this approach. These are known as “mandatory fun days.” Sometimes it works. Sometimes it flops.

But, even if it turns out to be not all that fun, people will almost always be more satisfied with a company recreation event if they had some say in planning it.

The simple solution is to ask your employees what they want to do. The key is to set parameters. Otherwise, you might get some rather outlandish ideas. Make sure everyone knows the time frame, how far you want (or don’t want) people to travel to attend the event, and what the budget is.

Once you’ve solicited ideas, choose the best one, and create an announcement video giving the team the deets (this works for virtual events, too!). Remember, give a shout out to everyone who gave input to encourage people to send in their ideas next time you plan an event.

Get out there and engage

Adding these ideas to your employee engagement package will help you achieve the awareness and alignment that you need, across remote teams or traditional workforces.

And with Biteable, the world’s simplest video maker, any manager or HR team can put these ideas into action with production-quality videos in minutes.

Choose from 1.8 million clips, images, and custom animations, plus hundreds of templates. You’ll have your first employee engagement video faster than you can say “tacos in the breakroom.”

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