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How to Drive Employee Engagement (In-Office, Hybrid, or WFH)

Employee engagement is on the decline today. Read up on what drives it, plus ways to increase it within your organization.

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Since the pandemic, the working world has been obsessed with where people work as much as what they accomplish. Although the initial pandemic years focused on the rise in remote and hybrid work models, this has now been countered with a push for some employees to return to the office full-time. While some people feel more engaged in a face-to-face office organization, others are positively balking at the prospect of ditching their flexible lifestyles. 

In all scenarios and locations, companies must focus on employee engagement to ensure workers feel a positive emotional connection to their role and the overall organization. This guide kickstarts the process by introducing six effective employee engagement strategies. 

Employee engagement defined

Employee engagement is the mental and physical connection your workers have to their role, the tasks and projects they complete, the team members they work with, and the overall organization. These feelings of involvement and enthusiasm can enormously impact personal well-being, especially when engagement is lacking. 

Unfortunately, Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace study reveals that engagement is an ongoing problem that companies want and need to fix. In 2023, only 23% of employees were engaged and thriving at work. In contrast, 59% were not engaged, and 18% were actively disengaged—Gallup respectively refers to these categories as quiet and loud quitting. 

The data isn’t positive, yet some companies can and do engage their employees wherever they’re based. 

How Microsoft achieves employee engagement in a hybrid workforce 

Microsoft is an excellent example of a company that achieves high employee engagement levels. Its flexible, hybrid approach to work is one of the biggest drivers of engagement for 180,000+ employees in 100+ countries. To understand how workers feel at any given time, Microsoft has created an ongoing listening system to understand and act upon employee sentiment. Here’s how it works: 

“Each day, we conduct an opt-in survey of a random sample of 2,500 global employees on a range of topics. We survey our employees intermittently on their return-to-office plans and also conduct an annual company-wide poll. These have allowed us to better understand the ever-evolving way we work as an organization and to hear firsthand from employees about what is and isn’t working. We’re sharing what we’re learning from our own employees—a potential microcosm of what others may be experiencing—in an effort to help organizations navigate two trends reshaping the workforce: the Hybrid Paradox and the Great Reshuffle.”

Why create an employee engagement strategy?

Although engagement can feel intangible, it becomes tangible when companies design a successful employee engagement strategy to measure and improve it. Here are some of the key reasons why this process is worth your commitment: 

Increased well-being 

When employees feel happy and healthy at work, this has a tremendous impact on their personal well-being, too. Take the Sunday Scaries as an example. If your employees spend their weekends dreading Monday mornings, this significantly impacts their ability to relax. They return to work feeling anxious, stressed, and unmotivated. 

Gallup’s State of Workplace report states:

“Having a job you hate is worse than being unemployed—and those negative emotions end up at home, impacting relationships with family. If you’re not thriving at work, you’re unlikely to be thriving at life.” 

Lack of job satisfaction can also lead to employee burnout, a condition 65% of employees have experienced this year. Of these, 72% mention that it has impacted their performance.

Improved retention 

65% of employees have one foot out the door, according to an Achievers Engagement and Retention report—41% actively seek a new role, and 24% are open to working elsewhere. 

But intuitively, engaged and satisfied employees will likely remain with your company long-term. Instead of covering the recruitment costs associated with job hoppers, investing in retention strategies will reduce turnover and improve morale by stemming the flow of departures. 

Greater productivity 

Your motivation to create an effective employee engagement strategy shouldn’t be about working your team until they drop. However, it makes sense that happy employees work hard and produce a greater quantity and quality of work. And if your current employees aren’t constantly taking on their departing colleagues’ work, they’ll enjoy increased focus on their individual projects, leading to a consistently high output. 

There’s much debate about how a person’s work environment can influence their productivity. Some employers still struggle with the idea that home workers are actually working. Yet, a study by Global Workplace Analytics found that remote teams are 77% more productive than working in an office.  

6 stellar employee engagement strategies

Regardless of company size, location, or work style, here are six employee engagement strategies to uplift and motivate everyone on your teams: 

Keep a pulse on employee sentiment 

Start with some basic benchmarking. You can’t improve employee engagement in your organization until you understand the current levels experienced by your workforce. Are they jazzed about a new client you’ve won or quietly quitting because disengagement has taken hold? Do you notice differences between engagement levels in your remote, hybrid, and on-site workers? 

To learn your exact position, take your workers’ pulse by collecting qualitative and quantitative data using the following methods: 

  • Employee engagement surveys: Include a mix of closed and open-ended questions. Closed questions are easier to measure, but open-ended questions are where you’ll gather insights that could truly revolutionize how your company works.
  • Exit interviews: If people leave your organization regularly, ask for honest feedback before they go and take action on any recurring issues they raise. 
  • Stay interviews: Before your best people are tempted by the exit sign, conduct an informal interview with them and make sure they’re content. This gives employees the space to share any concerns or ideas without feeling uncomfortable in front of a group. It’s crucial to act on any dissatisfaction before employee morale nosedives. 
  • Skip-level meetings: Cut out the middle man by conducting meetings between direct reports and their manager’s manager. When these senior leaders meet with employees at every level of the organization, they better understand how things are going on the front lines—just like an episode of “Secret Millionaire.
  • Engagement committees: Form a team of employees representing different departments and roles. They’ll develop new initiatives to improve employee engagement, allowing your workers to steer their own experience and positively impact the company’s strategic plans or goals. 

Recognize your employees’ contributions 

Compensation, fancy job titles, and employee development opportunities can all influence employee engagement. But at their core, every employee wants to feel valued for their hard work and dedication to the company. Achievers data finds that 72% of employees would stay at a job longer if they felt valued, cared for, and supported. Only 28% of employees confirmed they would stay at a job longer if they were not valued, cared for, or supported but received 30% more compensation. 

Regularly recognizing your workers’ contributions is critical to your engagement strategy, with 81.9% of employees confirming that recognition impacts their engagement and 39% strongly agreeing that it influences them. There are numerous ways organizations can weave consistent recognition into their company culture, many of which are affordable: 

  • Shoutouts in team meetings: Delivering praise publicly can be impactful—consider calling out an employee for their hard work or small wins in your next in-office or virtual huddle. 
  • Personalized thank-you notes: Sometimes, the best recognition is a handwritten note thanking your workers for contributing to a recent project or event. This act of gratitude shows you’ve thoughtfully taken the time to think about what they did and acknowledge it.
  • Employee spotlight: Social recognition effectively shines a light on someone’s achievement. Share their accomplishments internally or by tagging them on social media for extra impact.
  • Peer-to-peer recognition: Providing a vehicle for employees to celebrate each other’s wins creates camaraderie between coworkers and reinforces company values. Use your internal communications tool or platform to allow workers to recognize their colleagues with a message, badge, redeemable points, or monetary reward. 
  • Employee awards: Create regular awards for “Employee of the Month,” “Rookie of the Year,” or similar to recognize top performers and make them feel appreciated. These awards can also link up with performance metrics, so employees have something tangible to work toward.
  • Anniversary recognition: Celebrate individual work anniversaries to show you appreciate their loyalty and hard work over the years. 

Address employee feedback 

Employee feedback can have a powerful impact on employee engagement, but only when you follow this three-part recipe: 

  1. Give your employees a voice by asking their opinions, collecting employee engagement survey data, etc. 
  2. Actively listen to what they say by combing through the data and approaching their valuable insights with genuine curiosity. 
  3. Act on the results by making changes and communicating the improvements to your employees. If you’re unable to act on a particular point, explain why. 

O.C. Tanner’s Global Culture Report finds that positive outcomes rise dramatically when leaders and organizations respond to employee feedback. Even if you’re not able to take your employees’ “preferred action,” your company might witness above-average engagement levels of up to 1,388%. 

Build a community your employees never want to leave 

Employee engagement isn’t just about checking daily tasks off a to-do list and achieving the next big win. It’s also about creating a sense of community within your organization, where engaged employees feel connected to each other and the company as a whole. Leaders can encourage this through various initiatives in their remote, hybrid, or on-site communities, such as:

  • Team-building activities: Plan fun and engaging team-building activities that allow employees to interact with each other in a relaxed setting. Think book clubs, coffee dates, virtual team trivia, escape rooms, or enjoying cultural celebrations together. 
  • Employee-driven events: Allow employees to take the lead on planning and organizing company-wide events, such as holiday parties or team outings, to give them a sense of ownership and investment in the company culture. 
  • Onboarding buddy programs: Assign new employees a “buddy” or mentor during onboarding to help them feel welcomed and supported in their new role. 
  • Employee resource groups: Create employee-led groups that offer support and resources for specific communities, such as women, LGBTQ+, or people of color.
  • Volunteer opportunities: Encourage employees to give back to their communities by offering volunteer opportunities during work hours or organizing company-wide charity events.
  • Mentorship programs: Pair employees with a mentor within the organization to help them develop their skills and grow in their careers. This arrangement also creates valuable connections and relationships within the company.

Empower your employees with autonomy

Leaders play a critical role in their employees’ job satisfaction, with Gallup research revealing that managers account for up to a 70% variance in employee engagement rates. There’s nothing worse than feeling micromanaged as an employee, so it’s critical to train managers to give employees more autonomy wherever they’re based. The training might include techniques enabling managers to:  

  • Trust employees to do their jobs well without constant supervision 
  • Encourage employees to take ownership of their projects and make decisions independently 
  • Provide resources and support when needed, but also give space for employees to find solutions on their own
  • Allow flexible working arrangements and trust employees to manage their time effectively

Create an inclusive engagement strategy 

An inclusive community prioritizes fairness across the entire company. Ensuring all employees are treated equitably regardless of their role is crucial, which could include: 

  • Implementing policies and practices that promote fairness within and across teams: This could include standardized performance review criteria that apply to everyone, clear and equitable pathways for career advancement, and transparent communication about how decisions are made at all levels of the organization.
  • Integrating HR and C-suite into the community: Senior leaders, including the C-suite and HR team, should actively engage with employees at all levels, participating in the same community-building activities and adhering to the same standards of behavior. Leading by example humanizes the leadership team and demonstrates a commitment to your company’s core values and culture. 
  • Consider all employees in your engagement strategy: Remote, hybrid, and on-site employees all want to love and perform well in their jobs, so everyone deserves the opportunity to become immersed in company and team activities. For anyone working remotely, consider virtual sessions of Pictionary, Codenames, or other team games. You could also host “get to know your coworkers” activities or create themed Slack channels centered around specific topics like Wordle, music, or food photography to involve people’s different interests. 

Accelerate employee engagement with a comprehensive benefits package

It’s much easier to engage employees who enjoy an excellent work-life balance, and that begins by providing them with supportive and flexible benefits plans. Benepass offers a wide range of pre-tax benefits and perks programs to suit every remote, hybrid, or on-site employee in your organization. Build your unique benefits mix from the following options: 

Ready to drive engagement in your organization? Arrange a free Benepass demo today or contact sales@getbenepass.com to connect with a benefits specialist. 

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Rebecca Noori

Rebecca Noori is a freelance HR Tech and SaaS writer who is obsessed with our world of work. She writes about everything from employee benefits and performance management to upskilling and productivity tips. When she's not writing, you'll find her grappling with phonics homework and football kits, looking after her three kids.

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