Do You Have An Employee Engagement Strategy?

You feel it in the hallways. You experience it at the lunch table. You notice it during meetings. We’re talking about employee engagement. It’s a big topic in the HR world, and it’s never been more important to pay attention to.

The bad news is that employee satisfaction has hit an all-time low, with just 32 percent of the U.S. workforce reporting that they feel engaged day-to-day. That means just three out of every ten employees feel challenged, supported, and happy at their job today.

The rest of your employees? You guessed it — they’re busy looking for their next job (yes, even during work hours). And that’s costing employers $450 billion to $550 billion per year in lost productivity.

To keep your hard-won talent feeling engaged and fulfilled at your company, here are some steps you can take:

1. Master the Onboarding Process

Your onboarding process can make or break the overall experience employees will have working for your company. Done well, they’ll feel well-equipped, connected, and supported. Done poorly? They’ll quickly feel like an outsider and start looking for their next opportunity.

We recently featured several Boston companies with outstanding onboarding strategies. Here are the key takeaways: 

To be effective, onboarding needs to be educational and welcoming at the same time. The reason we chose the companies highlighted in the post is because they balanced both facets of the onboarding process really well.

The purpose of onboarding is to give new hires all the information they need — not only for their specific roles, but also about the company as a whole — so that they can hit the ground running and feel like a valuable contributor from day one. To that end, new hires can benefit from one or more of the following:

  • Technical training (if applicable)
  • A brand and company overview
  • Meetings with management and leadership
  • One-on-one pairing with employees from different departments

Just as important, onboarding should integrate the new hire with their immediate team and the company at large. Taking a new hire out to lunch, scheduling coffee meetings with leadership, and sending a warm welcome via email to the entire company are all great approaches.  

2. Invest In Career Development

Whether your company is a stepping stone in a person’s career or the place they want to plant their roots, it’s your job as an employer to foster professional growth.

Hannah Hanks, who runs Recruiting and HR Operations for OpsGenie explains, “We want everyone to grow and develop at OpsGenie, but if for any reason someone leaves, we want them to leave with the skills they need to continue their career.”  It’s important to Hannah and her team that every person works on what they enjoy doing most. She adds, “We want to be sure they feel well supported, trained, and developed and for their experience here to be worthwhile.”

Aside from the training you can provide in-house, consider giving your employees access to courses and networking opportunities offered by outside companies such as: 

These local organizations all offer fantastic training and/or development programs in the Boston area, and some even have online options. Giving employees a stipend to enroll in a program of their choice, or coordinating team or company-wide training events at one of these facilities can be a great way to promote their ongoing learning and show them that you’re invested in their development as a professional.

When we spoke with Dania Lieberthal, Sales Manager at Test Double, she shared that as a remote-only company, they, too, invest heavily in employee development through monthly one-on-one meetings with one of their co-founders. She says the meeting isn’t about tactical work topics, though; it’s focused on personal goals and career development.

“The first meeting is about how we’re doing, what our personal goals are, and how he can help us reach those,” she explains. “That’s why 20 percent of our work week is dedicated to personal growth, whether that’s working on hobbies, side projects, or anything else.” Employees also get to meet with the company’s other co-founder for technical training each month. “We get to talk through technical problems we’re having and can learn new techniques and tools from him,” says Dania.

Putting your employees in touch with leadership and providing them with additional learning opportunities are two easy way to make them feel visible and valued, and can go a long way in keeping employees engaged at your company.

3. Budget for Company Outings

Company outings and events are another way to encourage team bonding and inclusion. We spoke with Devin Bramhall, Director of Content at Help Scout, who said, “Every year we have a company-wide retreat that our whole team gets excited about.” Just like Test Double, Help Scout invests heavily in face time. “We were all talking about the retreat months in advance and couldn’t wait to meet new hires face-to-face; it’s a real testament to how well we’re connected [digitally] throughout the year.”

Even if your employees are all located in a single office, getting out and mingling with colleagues they may not interact with day-to-day or in a more casual way will help them build closer ties with each other.

Here are a few examples of company outings and events that can help you build a close-knit team:

  • Retreats
  • Brewery tours
  • Red Sox games
  • Paint nights
  • Go-karting
  • Team running events (like the annual JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge, or a casual run around the Charles River)

How often should you schedule these types of events?

Hannah Hanks says that at OpsGenie, “We try to do these quarterly because it’s really important to us.” Other more regular events that can be a bit more budget-friendly include company happy hours, sponsored lunches, team lunch-and-learns, and dinners.

The best way to know which outings and events your employees will enjoy most is by talking to them! Find out their hobbies, passions, and interests and develop events around those.

4. Keep the Doors Open

Nothing is more alienating as an employee than feeling like you have no one to go to when an issue arises. That’s why it’s important that both the HR team and management are vocal about having an open door policy so that employees feel comfortable discussing problems before they proliferate.

These problems may include:

  • Management 
  • Promotions
  • Harassment
  • Equality and inclusion
  • Burnout

Career coach Lisa Quast explains in Forbes:

Managers who demonstrate high levels of accessibility are more apt to have employees who feel comfortable stopping by for a quick chat to bring difficult issues, situations, or ideas to the attention of their manager. This gives open door managers a better understanding and ‘pulse’ on what is happening in the department or company on a daily basis.

An open door policy can have a big impact on employee engagement, as well as reducing turnover. A study by Gallup found that poor management accounts for up to 70 percent of overall employee attrition.

Another study by the Center for Talent Innovation found that 32 percent of women will quit within a year if they don’t feel they are treated fairly, given advancement opportunities, and paid in a way that is commensurate with their male counterparts.

So it’s clear that being proactive about transparency and communication can have a positive impact on employee satisfaction.

Build a Strong Team

Investing in your employees has never been more important than it is today. Great candidates disappear quickly from the job market, and are equally as quick to leave a position if they don’t feel valued.

Done right, employee engagement starts with a new hire’s very first week on the job, continues in day-to-day conversations, and is reinforced through extracurricular events and acknowledgements of hard work. Implementing a mix of the tips in this post will go a long way in keeping your employees engaged, happy, and productive members of your team.

What other employee engagement strategies have you tried at work? Let us know in the comments section below!