How to boost employee engagement is arguably the HR conundrum of the decade. And no wonder with its strong correlation to a host of business metrics including improved productivity, reduced staff turnover, increased discretionary effort, and lower levels of absenteeism.

According to Gallup’s most recent State of the Global Workplace report, global engagement has risen to “record-breaking” levels. Which sounds great, until you realise it’s only 23%. That means 77% of the world’s employees are either unengaged, or actively disengaged. This is completely unacceptable.

And, honestly, it’s not rocket science. But it is about getting the foundations right to build a workplace environment where you people can thrive. So here are 10 top tips on how to improve employee engagement at your organisation to set you up for a stellar 2023.

1. Understand your current employee engagement baseline

The workplace is becoming harder than ever to define, what with the ever-changing face of work and the rise in popularity of remote and flexible working practices. You may have staff working across offices, cities or even countries, at different times of day or days of the week and though difficult, crafting a workplace culture that encourages, supports and nurtures your people is key to great employee engagement.

Focus on openness and inclusivity in order to build a workplace culture that appeals and develops. Regularly take note of where the company culture is, and where it needs to be in order for you and your people to succeed.

This is where we recommend running a light-touch pulse survey that asks relevant, appropriate questions so you have a benchmark to reference. Continuing with a regular employee check-in will then help you build on this baseline.

2. Give feedback more often

Regular, open, two-way communication through official feedback loops need to be central to all you do around when you’re trying to fix employee engagement.

Waiting for annual or quarterly reviews to give feedback and allow employees to share their thoughts is not an effective nor efficient approach to harnessing the power of employee engagement. Constructive feedback isn’t timely, meaning the impact it can have is greatly diminished. Details of events are forgotten meaning they either don’t get shared or are over-embellished. Issues are left to fester and turn into bigger, more serious challenges.

Research has shown that in line with the instant-gratification of digital life in the 21st century, younger generations expect feedback more frequently, with millennials preferring, on the whole, to have formal feedback in work at least once a week. What’s more, there are various approaches to feedback, which all have their uses.

Continuous feedback

Continuous feedback is arguably the most important kind of feedback you can deliver. Annual, biannual or even quarterly reviews don’t cut it by themselves. Feedback is always most effective when it’s immediate, or at least soon after the need is identified. Continuously checking in with your people also provides opportunities to recognise their hard work, which is essential for motivation.

Asynchronous feedback

1:1 conversations can be a great performance management tool. But their scheduling requirements mean they can’t be your only method for continuous feedback. That’s where asynchronous feedback comes in. This refers to any communication tool where you leave feedback for the employee to review in their own time, and vice versa.

Two-way feedback

Feedback isn’t just something you give to employees. It’s something you should also accept from them in return. They may have room to grow as employees. But so do you as a manager or employer. If you want to engage your people effectively, you’ve got to listen to what they have to say. And two-way feedback is how you achieve that.

360 feedback

360 feedback is when various people from different levels of an organisation submit anonymous feedback for an employee. That means senior management, immediate colleagues, and even people junior to the staff member in question. These are usually run through a survey tool, with different question sets for each participant, depending on their role type and seniority.

It’s essential to adopt clear processes and channels for feedback. Those might be free solutions, like diarized email sessions. Or you might choose a more professional solution, such as Zensai (which covers every type of feedback listed above). This means feedback becomes habitual and something all areas of a business can engage positively with.

3. Empower staff to recognise the great work you might miss

If you’re a business owner, you probably know better than anyone that you can’t keep an eye on every part of your business at all times (no matter how hard you likely try to). The same goes for your managers. That’s because they’ll more than likely have multiple team members working at different times of day on different projects. Potentially with staff from other areas of the business.

What this can mean, is sometimes, often through no fault of any one individual, the good work and additional efforts of staff can go unnoticed. We all know how demoralising it can be when our hard work is missed and the hit our motivation takes. Conversely, research has shown that 76% of employees find peer praise extremely or very motivating!

But don’t slack off on managerial and leader recognition

As vital as peer recognition is, it doesn’t absolve you of your need to recognise the hard work of your own employees. If you just send out a few generic thank-you emails at the end of each quarter, you may as well not have done anything. Recognition is about acknowledgement, both direct and indirect.

It’s about both personal connection and broader perception. Good managerial praise is personal, whether it’s in-person or not. It’s about managers showing genuine understanding and appreciation for their employee’s efforts and achievements.

Motivation is a key cornerstone of high employee engagement. Consequently, we need to invest time and resources to keep it high. Setting up a process whereby employee efforts can be highlighted, clear lines of visibility can be built across a company and success stories shared and rewarded, is a fantastically effective way to get a real view of all the good work being carried out at your company.

4. Use goal-setting to give people a purpose

Underpinning all we do is ‘why’ we do it. Though we’re not always clear on the reasons for doing something. Employees want purposeful which matters and makes a difference.

Not knowing why we are completing a task or how it will positively impact the businesses we work for can be hugely demoralising leading to decreased employee engagement, not boosted.

Ensure your staff understand the company’s goals and motivations, not only at a high-level but also at department and team levels of the organisation.

OKRs are a great way of doing this. They help to create visibility and alignment throughout your whole organisation. Visibility, because everyone can see the impact of their contributions, as well as those of others. And alignment, because turning your projects into key results helps to keep them focused on their intended goals as part of your major objectives. So, as well as OKRs being a great tool for transparency, they’re also quite the motivator.

5. Ownership will boost employee engagement

Studies in behavioural economics by the likes of Dan Ariely and Daniel Kahneman have shown that there’s a significant link between ownership and our perceived value of that thing. The more ownership we feel, the more we value it.

Whilst not always an option for established businesses, staff equity programmes are a hugely powerful motivator that will very quickly boost employee engagement across a business. In the long run, consider looking at how you can offer up some level of ownership to staff in your company.

6. Career growth and personal development drive engagement

If you want to know how to boost employee engagement, start by enabling career development. 2021’s Great Resignation showed that employees aren’t satisfied with the status quo. Organisational loyalty is a huge part of engagement. If you want to build that up, HR must work to support the professional development of employees.

Career progression opportunities are one of the key things on the radar of workers, with 65% of employees citing career growth and training as their key workplace motivators. We must do what we can to enable this. First, that means educating and training employees. But it also means creating paths for career development besides the traditional leadership track.

In order to engage employees, you need to offer up these opportunities, otherwise result that staff will start looking elsewhere. Personalised training programmes and development should make up a frequent part of your staff’s time at work.

Developing staff skills and knowledge provides a boost in their own expertise, confidence, productivity and employee engagement levels. It’s therefore a win-win for your organisation and people. There are plenty of options at your disposal. Upskilling, secondments, mentorships, and much more.

7. Focus on work-life balance to boost employee engagement

Remote and flexible work options provide freedom to employees to work from anywhere at any time. This allows the flexibility to fit work around all the other stresses and trappings of life.

Research and real-world experience from businesses (such as creators of WordPress, Automattic) has shown that whilst sometimes challenging to implement, providing these facilities will result in a huge boost in employee engagement, and often additional boosts to productivity!

8. Take time to get to know your people

We all like to feel valued, not just for how good at our work we are, but for who we are. Unsurprisingly research has shown that employees are no different, with 83% of engaged staff stating “my supervisor cares about me as a person” compared to just 3% of disengaged workers.

So, if you want staff who care about their work you must show you care about them. Spend time getting to know them – learn the names of partners and children, get to know their hobbies and likes or where they are going on holiday next year. It’s a small thing to ask someone about themselves, but it can have significant impacts on employee performance.

9. Having fun will boost employee engagement

We are all at work to be productive and help push forward the organisations we call home. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun whilst doing it. Occupational psychology studies have shown that up to 90% of staff say a fun-focussed working environment is very or extremely motivating and can help boost employee engagement levels.

10. Make wellbeing one of your priorities

Long working hours, high levels of pressure and looming deadlines can very easily build stress among employees. Add to this, external stresses from home life, and it’s easy to see why stress is the number one cause for workplace absences in the UK.

Organisations need to lead the charge on tackling stress and keeping staff mentally healthy with a robust wellness strategy. Offer up services such as mental health first aiders and mindfulness causes and workplace changes (such as flexible working) to help stave off stress and keep your employees happy, motivated and engaged.

Why employee engagement matters in 2023

With studies from Gallup putting the global hit to productivity from poor levels of employee engagement at between £650 billion and £900 billion, it’s no surprise to see employee engagement being focused on so much over the past few years.

Whether you’re a business owner, department manager or team member we all share the same dream when it comes to work; for our employees, team members or colleagues to share our passion and drive for the business we give our time to.