Needing to increase employee engagement can be difficult. That being said, I know your company’s different.

You have your own vision, your own people, and your own problems.

You also find your own solutions, because what works for one company might not work for you.

It’s no different for employee engagement. Sometimes that four-point list just doesn’t cut it.

You need options.

So here are 33 different ways you can improve employee engagement starting now:

  1. Say “Thank-you.” That’s it. One word makes a huge difference. Appreciate how an employee handled a difficult customer? Or fixed a problem that’s had everyone stumped? Let them know! Yeah, they may just be doing their job, but so are you—and isn’t it nice to have that work be recognized? Yeah? That’s what I thought.
  2. Don’t push. Recognize that you can’t force people to be engaged. Pressuring employees to be or feel a certain way can have the opposite effect, making them want to run. Just remember, change takes time. Keep doing your share, and eventually the little things will start to add up.
  3. Back your words up with nonverbals. What you say without speaking might be even more important than what you say out loud—at least if your body language contradicts what you say. Pay attention to how you hold yourself when you listen to employees, handling a disagreement, etc. Better yet, ask someone else to give you feedback on your nonverbals. They might catch something you won’t.
  4. Budget for training. Encourage employee growth by setting aside funds for additional training, conferences, etc. Then let employees know when there are opportunities they might benefit from. If it’s in the budget, you have one less reason to say no.
  5. Delegate! You aren’t Superman. You can’t—and shouldn’t—do everything. Instead of micromanaging, give your employees the information they need to work on a project, address any concerns, and then step back and let them do their thing. If you’re worried about needing time to fix mistakes, set a deadline for earlier than you actually need the work.
  6. Keep a finger to the pulse. Annual surveys aren’t bad, but addressing problems in real-time can be a challenge if you’re using info from six months back. Don’t settle for one employee survey a year; check in with your employees on a regular basis with an app like TINYPulse or Hppy.
  7. Pay attention to customer service and sales. According to research by Dale Carnegie Training, these two departments usually have lower levels of engagement. Check in with team leaders in these departments and talk about what might help.
  8. Survey long-term employees. Dale Carnegie Training also found that engagement levels tend to rise for the first five years of employment, before flattening out or declining. Don’t try to win these employees over with a commemorative mug for their 10+ years of work Instead, use a survey to find out where their engagement levels are at—and what might help them improve.
  9. Cut the red tape. Rules and regulations can be good; they establish consistency and keep everyone on the same page. But too many rules can be harmful, making employees feel like you don’t trust them to make the right decision. Make sure your policies are necessary, and that everyone knows why.
  10. Own up to your mistakes. Transparency is valuable for building trust, and that includes sharing bad news. You don’t need to detail every little failure, but you should inform teams when there’s been a major PR gaff or finances aren’t so good. These things affect the company as a whole, and if you aren’t upfront about them, you’ll sow seeds of mistrust when things don’t turn out as rosy as you’ve painted them.
  11. Let them cry. Getting emotional in the workplace is usually considered . . . unprofessional. But how much does that matter? If you want to encourage transparency, openness, and honesty, you need to know that you may see some tears here and there. Learn how to address distressed coworkers with empathy, and you’ll create an atmosphere of trust.
  12. Start an employee referral program. Engaged employees love their job, so it makes sense that they’d recommend it! And since they have the company’s interests at heart, engaged employees are likely to lead you to applicants who fit well with your company’s  mission.
  13. Try gamification. Use game elements to improve a specific area: efficiency, customer service, etc., and incorporate levels or points systems to give employees a consistent source of feedback on their work.
  14. Ask about life outside work. Get to know the employees you interact with on a daily basis, and encourage team leaders to do the same. You don’t have to be BFFs, but taking the time to really ask about their families, weekend plans, and interests shows that that they aren’t just employees to you—they’re people, too.
  15. Ask for other opinions first. If you really want employee input on an issue, don’t lead off with your own ideas, which can make employees feel like the outcome is already decided—or like they’re being asked to challenge you. Instead, say something like, “You’re directly involved in this project and knowledgeable of the issues. What do you think? I could really use your input.”
  16. Train employees to use social media. Your employees can be some of your best advocates in the marketing world, so take advantage of that and certify your employees in using social media for your company, à la Dell, whose employees even tweet about their company on their personal accounts.
  17. Be accessible. An “open door” policy doesn’t do any good if you’re never available. Make time for your employees, and if you schedule a one-on-one, be sure to keep it. If you find that you never have any time, maybe you should consider delegating some things.
  18. Create an experience. Make some memories. It sounds sappy, I know, but if a paycheck is the most memorable part of your employees’ jobs, that’s a problem. Include them in a fun, new campaign, or pull a WestJet Airlines, and invite them to do something meaningful for customers.
  19. Train them outside their skillset. If you have employees in positions that don’t really challenge them, offer them training that does. The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas trains staff in skills like communications and photography, not only offering employees extra growth opportunities, but also making it possible for things like professional-level photo shoots to be done in-house, instead of having to hire a photographer.
  20. Ask employees about purpose. Being connected to the company’s mission is important to engagement. Have leaders talk with  their teams about that mission—and find out what it means to them.
  21. Encourage well-being. Gallup found that “when companies add a well-being focus to their engagement program, it has an accelerating effect,” with the catch that this can’t be done with a one-off event. Make it a part of your company culture, whether that means adding a gym, or creating a rewards program for making healthy choices.
  22. Find Out Your Employees’ Strengths. If you want to work with their strong points, you need to learn what they are! Have employees take a test like Gallup’s Strengthsfinder 2.0 and discuss their results with their team leaders.
  23. Volunteer together. Create opportunities for employees to work together and make an impact on the community. But make employees a part of the process. Send out surveys, or have team leaders talk with their teams about community projects they’re interested in helping with.
  24. Offer flexible work hours. Take some of the stress off your employees by giving them the option of adjusting their schedule to suit their current lifestyle or family situation.
  25. Celebrate! You’re all on the same team, so when you hit a company goal or a new campaign goes particularly well, share in that victory. How you do it will depend on your company culture, so knowing your employees’ values is important (e.g. if the majority of your staff are vegan, a party with chicken wings and pizza might not go over as well as you’d like.)
  26. Set goals together. Give your employees some say in how they connect to your company’s purpose. Have managers talk with their teams about company and team goals—and have employees come up with how they can help those goals become a reality.
  27. Check in regularly with team leaders. Keep people accountable by setting goals with leaders, asking for updates, and meeting when an issue needs to be addressed.
  28. Keep supplies stocked. Don’t make a difficult job more difficult by failing to keep basic supplies on hand. This is especially important for jobs with direct customer interaction. It’s pretty frustrating to get chewed out by a customer for bad service because your boss hasn’t ordered any ink cartridges/plastic cups/cardboard boxes lately. Take inventory regularly, and make sure to order new supplies well before you’ll need them.
  29. Train managers to address specific needs. Different employees need different things, so train team leaders to ask about employees’ individual needs, instead of applying blanket solutions to their entire team.
  30. Tell stories. Stories are compelling. They can create a personal connection, inspire, and rally employees around a common goal. So share stories about customer experiences in meetings and in messages, both the good and bad, and help your employees see the impact of their work.
  31. Encourage differing opinions. Looking at a problem from more than one angle can help you catch something you might have missed otherwise. Encourage team leaders to ask for other perspectives on a problem, and let employees know that it’s okay to be themselves and try new ideas.
  32. Figure out your top priority. You may need your employees to be engaged, but to do what? Is efficiency the goal right now? Higher quality work? Customer service? Some engagement strategies will work better for certain priorities, so sit down with your team leaders and talk about what the focus needs to be for right now. Reassess the situation again in several months and see if there’s another issue that needs to be addressed more.
  33. Let them go. This should be your last resort, but remember: a few bad apples can spoil the barrel. If you’ve done everything you can to connect with an actively disengaged employee and they still don’t want to change, you may need to cut ties for the sake of the team.

What do you think? Did I miss something important? Let me know in the comments.

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