A robust employee engagement strategy can include ideas and activities to keep your staff motivated and committed to the organization and their work. There are some incredibly creative, low-cost ways to improve engagement levels. They keep the workplace dynamic and provide opportunities to improve wellness, community, and your organization culture, all the while boosting levels of engagement.
We’ve worked with organizations for over 25 years, and here are some great ways to keep things interesting.
Inexpensive, Unique Employee Engagement Ideas
Include a wellness budget for the upcoming year. This can entail everything from providing staff with stipends for gyms, athletic gear rental, an appointment with a personal trainer or dietitian to bringing in professionals to give lunch-and-learn discussions. Launch creative wellness challenges to promote employees' physical and mental well-being. Consider initiatives like step challenges per department, mindfulness sessions, or friendly fitness competitions. Bring wellness to work with lunchtime yoga classes or an after-hours Zumba class. Set up a weekend walking club, birding club, geocaching club, or book club. There are so many low-cost ways to get your employees moving and connecting and thinking. Your employees’ health matters.
Your employees lead interesting, dynamic lives. Empower them to share their knowledge and passions by hosting workshops on topics they are passionate about. This can be everything from favorite directors to pasta making to someone excited about digital marketing trends.This can be a great space to encourage ongoing learning and peer-to-peer knowledge exchanges. It’s a wonderful community builder.
Flexible Work Arrangements:
If the pandemic taught us anything at all, it’s that we can often do our work from home. By extending flexible work arrangements, including options like remote work or flexible hours, your organization can accommodate employees' needs and improve work-life balance. Try a “work-anywhere” policy that gives employees the space to choose their work location for a set number of days each month. Stagger start-times and end-times to help employees who are caregivers work around their hectic home schedules. During peak holiday seasons and vacation, try half-day Fridays. Trust your people to get their work done, whether they’re sitting at a desk in the office, at the beach, or breakfast table.
Originally, hackathons were events in which computer programmers gathered to solve problems or complete projects that required collaboration. Now, it’s a great way to foster innovation and brainstorming sessions, providing a platform for employees to propose creative solutions to company challenges. This can be an exciting way to disrupt the monotony. Hackathons can be external (to try to attract new hires, raise brand awareness, ) and internal (training sessions, launching new services, building a stronger corporate culture). And participants can join from anywhere. Host a 24-hour hackathon where cross-functional teams collaborate to address specific business problems.
Before jumping into the mentor pool, establish objectives. Oftentimes mentor programs never take off because mentors and mentees have no idea where to start. Take a survey of personal and professional growth goals of your teams. Define these goals and create a mentorship structure. (eg The program structure for leadership development will be different than the structure for functional skills growth.) Create mentoring circles where employees with similar career interests or aspirations can meet regularly for discussions and guidance. Structure sessions to be productive – shadowing, reading the same book or articles, conducting a resume revision session etc.
Implement a recognition platform where employees can publicly acknowledge and celebrate their colleagues' exceptional contributions. Peer recognition contributes to a positive workplace culture. Use an internal social platform where employees can post shout-outs and commendations. Try something radical – like hand-written thank you notes. Keep it personal and specific. How did this employee or colleague make things better at work?
Career Path Workshops:
Growth and opportunity are tenets of employee engagement. Be instrumental in lifting your employees up so they learn more, can do more, and succeed. Organize workshops that offer employees insights into potential career paths within the organization, encouraging goal setting and skill development. Read job descriptions for various leadership positions within the company. Conduct a workshop titled "Mapping Your Career Journey at [Company Name].” Set up the skills workshops employees need to develop the abilities and grow to reach these positions. Then, finally, when new positions open, always begin with your pool of candidates from within the organization.
Provide employees with an annual learning and development budget they can use for courses, books, workshops, conferences, or certifications aligning with their career aspirations. This can be apart from the budget you allocate for ongoing skills training. As an organization, have a library space with industry-related books, leadership books etc. Host book clubs based on readings. Open a Masterclass account or try other platforms like Udemy and LinkedIn Learning. There are so many incredible options out there to make your organization a learning organization.
Promote cross-functional collaboration by assigning employees to projects outside their usual roles, expanding their skills and perspectives. This is a great way to ignite innovation, reduce silos, and leverage the unique strengths of team members. Assemble a project team comprising members from marketing, sales, and product development to launch a new product.
Employee Resource Groups:
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary groups of employees whose goal is to build diverse, inclusive, and equitable organizations. They can monitor and improve an organization’s DEI initiatives, ensuring actions in the organization align with its missions and goals. These groups are led and comprised of employees who share a characteristic, whether it be religious, ethnic, gender-identity, affiliation, or interest. Note – ERGs are found in 90% of Fortune 500 companies.
The physical, emotional, and financial health of your employees impact productivity. Organize periodic lunchtime sessions where employees can learn from internal or external experts on a wide range of topics. Consider a session on how to pay down credit card debt, saving for retirement or higher education. Bring in experts to discuss ways to manage stress. Hire a corporate nutritionist to discuss how to eat on a budget, modifying eating habits for health and more. Provide your staff with interesting, practical learning opportunities to improve their wellbeing.
Personal Development Plans:
Give employees a North. So many people get caught up by the currents and can get a little lost. Have one-on-one sessions with each employee. Teach them how to craft personal development plans with specific objectives and milestones. Offer resources and support to help them achieve their goals. Take it a step further and offer one-on-one coaching sessions to assist employees in setting and attaining their personal and professional objectives. Set up mentoring circles (see above) so they can hold themselves accountable to their dreams.
Offer paid time off for employees to volunteer for causes they are passionate about, promoting corporate social responsibility. Incorporate two-days of paid volunteer time each year. During the holidays, improve wellness by holding book drives, food drives, coat drives and more. As HBR says, “strike a balance between impact and meaning.” Bring in beneficiaries of volunteer programs, so people can see how what they are doing directly impacts someone’s life. Try starting hyper-local (the neighborhood community garden, for instance) so employees can see their work grow.
These are just a few employee engagement ideas. Really, the sky’s the limit. Customize your initiatives to fit your organization's unique culture and objectives. Create an environment where employees feel valued, motivated, and inspired to contribute their best, ultimately leading to greater success for your organization.