12 ideas to increase employee engagement

Employee engagement helps build a more effective and efficient organization - here are 12 quick ways to increase your employee engagement.

What we'll cover

12 ideas to increase employee engagement

We can boil employee engagement down to two key employee attributes.

Attitude – how an employee feels about the company, their co-workers, their managers, and their role. And behavior – the effort that an employee is willing to invest in their work.

These two attributes have a huge impact on your business.

When an employee has a positive attitude and is willing (on most days) to give their all, they’re more energized and productive. They’re keen to learn and find solutions for workplace problems.

Engaged employees are also more loyal to your organization. Teams with high engagement have turnover rates 18% to 43% lower than those with low engagement. They have lower rates of absenteeism, too.

It’s easy to see how employee engagement can help to build a more effective and efficient organization. You reduce costs linked to recruitment, sick leave, and low productivity. And you get the very best from your workforce.

Understanding the importance of employee engagement is the first step. However, finding ways to improve employee engagement within your organization, is another - And that’s what we’ll be focusing on here.

We’re going to explore a range of employee engagement ideas that you can put into practice at your business to increase engagement. But first, let’s take a look at how employee engagement applies to frontline organizations.

Employee engagement in frontline organizations

Employee engagement is so often focused on those working remote or behind a desk, rather than your frontline employees. Common activities or ideas to increase employee engagement actually actively exclude frontline workers, as well. Think in-office lunches, social happy hours, or team building activities during the standard workday. 

But the truth is frontline employees want to feel engaged in the same way a desk-based team does. They benefit from a sense of belonging and connection. And your business benefits too.

Engaged employees working on the frontline provide a better service for customers or patients. Like their office-based co-workers, they take less time off sick and are less likely to look for another job.

All frontline organizations should be looking to improve employee engagement - and it’s easier than you might think. Below are our top ways to improve employee engagement across your entire organization - applicable to not only desk-based teams, but frontline organizations as well. 

12 ideas to improve employee engagement quickly

Employee engagement goes way beyond team building activities and the standard annual employee review. The most engaged organizations weave employee engagement activities into the fabric of their workplace.

Our tips to improve employee engagement:

  1. Embrace technology
  2. Promote two-way communication
  3. Recognize and reward
  4. Offer growth opportunities
  5. Foster work-life balance
  6. Gather feedback from employees
  7. Set clear expectations
  8. Give regular feedback
  9. Promote team collaboration
  10. Celebrate milestones
  11. Lead by example
  12. Measure and act on feedback

1. Embrace technology

Today’s tech is intrinsically engaging, to the extent that people spend an average of 4.8 hours a day on mobile apps. That’s a third of their waking hours.

People leaders can take advantage of this fact by embracing mobile tools to increase employee engagement. Of course, embracing a clunky old intranet is going to do more harm than good. It won’t offer the user experience that employees now expect from their tech. But with cutting-edge software and apps, leaders make the cornerstones of engagement – communication, collaboration, and recognition – more appealing and accessible to employees.

For frontline organizations, this can revolutionize the way you work.

Employees no longer need a desktop or company email to access internal comms. With an employee engagement app like Blink, they can simply use the smartphone in their pocket, meaning everyone stays connected.

Teams can access chat functions, recognition features, and company tools and resources – all from the same interface.

Leaders can make the most of employee engagement surveys and analytics features. They can use data to understand employee engagement like never before, finding more effective ways to improve it.

When you put the very best tech tools at the heart of your employee engagement strategy, you connect your frontline to co-workers and management. You also make measuring and improving engagement a whole lot easier.   

2. Promote two-way communication

Good communication is the key to employee engagement. It’s a way to share information and company values and to include every member of your organization in company culture. But 80% of professionals rate their organization’s communication as poor or average.

If your company comms aren’t hitting the mark, it may be because communication only moves top-down. Your leadership team speaks and everyone else listens.

You’re much more likely to motivate employees when you create channels for two-way communication. (Like they did at Domino’s). When you give them a voice, encourage them to speak up, and listen to what they have to say, employees are much more engaged.

In fact, employees who say their voice is heard at work are 4.6x more likely to give their all.

Creating two-way communication is harder in large, hybrid, and frontline organizations. How do you connect co-workers, managers, and leadership when they don’t physically cross paths? And what do you do when frontline employees don’t have a company email account?

Again, it comes down to having the right tech tools. You need communication channels that are easy to access – from the office, at home, on the shop floor, and on the road. So everyone stays connected and updated wherever they’re working.

3. Recognize and reward

When employees feel that hard work goes unnoticed, there’s less incentive for them to bring their A-game. So if you’re looking to improve your employee engagement strategy, recognition and rewards are another key focus area.

Some organizations go all out with a points and rewards system. Employees earn points for good work and can then spend points to get gift cards, company merchandise, or even make a charitable donation.

But there are lots of other ways to show your appreciation for employees. An employee of the month program or a simple thank you goes a long way. And – as we’ll see in a moment – rewarding high performers with training and career progression opportunities may prove more meaningful than small monetary prizes.   

However you approach recognition and reward, the key is finding a strategy that works for all employees. 

Perhaps a frontline employee stays late to get a job done. Or receives positive feedback from a customer. These employees should enjoy the same level of manager and peer-to-peer recognition as their office-based co-workers.

With Blink’s recognition tool, it’s easy to create a culture of appreciation. Anyone can send personalized messages of appreciation, sharing posts with individuals, teams, or the whole organization. 

4. Offer growth opportunities

Employees who have a clear career path are more likely to stay working with your company. They’re also more engaged and productive in their work.

But too often, the focus is on the professional development of management and office-based employees. According to McKinsey research, many employers underestimate the value that frontline workers place on learning and career advancement opportunities.

Of the 2,100 frontline employees McKinsey surveyed, 70% said they had applied for a promotion or a job with more responsibility. But only 25% of those who applied were successful. And 65% said they were unsure how to achieve advancement.

Source: McKinsey

As well as highlighting the lack of growth for frontline employees, McKinsey made several recommendations:

  • Share professional development, mentorship, and promotion opportunities with every team member
  • Give managers the training they need to help employees establish career growth goals – and support them to achieve them. 
  • Where a promotion isn’t possible, consider a lateral move or the assignment of new challenges within an employee’s current role to satisfy their hunger for growth

Ultimately, when employees are given the support they need to thrive in their careers, it’s a win-win. An organization retains employees and improves performance. Employees get to enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of expanding their talents.

5. Foster work-life balance

Achieving work-life balance as a frontline worker isn’t always easy. Shifts tend to be long and unpredictable. And when employees are supporting customers or patients, it can be hard to even take scheduled breaks.

This has long been accepted as “the way things are”. But with a third of workers saying that work-life balance is a top priority when looking for jobs, frontline organizations looking to increase employee engagement have a real opportunity – to outshine other employers and better support their staff.

You could offer predictable shifts and – where that isn’t possible – communicate shifts in advance. Consider flexible working and fair overtime policies. Encourage employees to get enough downtime by addressing an always-on culture.

Another key consideration? We know that 70% of frontline employees have suffered from burnout or felt at risk of burnout. This is something that the Starbucks team has taken on board.

Starbucks employees get access to a mental health care platform and free therapy sessions. They also get 10 days of backup care for the children or adults they care for, helping them balance the competing responsibilities of work and caregiving with less stress.

By helping employees to plan and enjoy their time away from work, organizations can count on improved productivity and engagement each time workers arrive for a shift.

6. Gather feedback from employees

Frontline employees are your eyes and ears on the ground. They can provide valuable perspective on what is and isn’t working operationally and how you can improve the customer experience.

But if your organization – like many frontline firms – is suffering from a frontline connection gap, you struggle to access that insight. More often than not, frontline employees don’t have the access they need to provide this valuable feedback.

This means you miss out on all kinds of frontline employee feedback – including their thoughts on employee engagement. You find it much harder to identify and address engagement issues before they affect morale and retention.

The first step to fixing this issue is developing feedback channels for all employees. Tech tools can help. An app like Blink allows you to send a feedback request to a frontline worker’s smartphone, meaning they’re much more likely to see it and respond. 

Remember that different employees prefer different feedback methods so open up a variety of options.

Make pulse surveys, annual employee engagement surveys, and manager one-on-ones part of your feedback request schedule. And give employees the option to leave feedback anonymously so they feel comfortable being completely honest.

With up-to-date employee feedback, you can make your employee engagement strategy more relevant and effective. You get to the heart of how employees feel – and discover the areas where change is most needed.

7. Set clear expectations

Uncertainty and employee engagement don’t mix. Role ambiguity creates stress and it’s one of the leading causes of employee burnout.

Employees need to understand exactly what’s expected of them. They need to know what work to do, how to do it, and who to do it with. Even when a frontline role involves a lot of autonomy, employees need guidance on their remit to feel confident and motivated.

Managers are responsible for setting clear expectations. And it all comes down to good communication.

Frontline managers should clearly define the role and its responsibilities for new hires. They need to set key performance indicators (KPIs) so employees know what success looks like. And they need to give clear instructions when assigning new tasks.

Employees also need to know how their role fits into the bigger picture. How do their tasks relate to overarching company values and goals?

By giving employees clarity you improve employee engagement. But you also promote accountability and show employees that their work is valuable.

8. Give regular feedback

Picture an employee – let’s call him Jim – who hasn’t had any manager feedback in a while.

Jim keeps running into the same customer service problem. But he doesn’t feel comfortable approaching his manager about it. And he’s not due a one-to-one for months.

So Jim keeps at it, doubting that he’s doing a good enough job but unsure what to do about it. Without regular manager input Jim feels less confident in his abilities. His job satisfaction inevitably takes a hit.

Now let’s picture a different scene.

Jim’s manager – let’s call her Jane – understands how important feedback is to employee engagement. She sets up regular, informal one-to-ones, where both she and Jim can raise any issues.

Jim gets to hear that he’s doing a great job. And gets useful, actionable advice on what he could do better. He gets recognition where it’s due and a regular reminder of role expectations.

Feedback needs to move in both directions. And it’s as relevant to your longest-serving staff as it is to new hires. Feedback boosts the confidence of employees and increases their job satisfaction, which means better employee engagement.

Employees also stand to benefit most when feedback is constructive. This means managers focus on facts, not opinions. They talk about the actions of an employee, not their personality traits.

They also approach feedback as a two-way conversation, where employees get a chance to share their thoughts within an open and supportive environment.

9. Promote team collaboration

Two heads are always better than one. And employees who work well together are happier, more productive, and less stressed. Team collaboration can help to prevent loneliness, too.  

Glassdoor research shows that 60% of employees with less than five years of work experience feel lonely all or most of the time. But 89% of all workers say that a sense of belonging within their company is essential for workplace happiness.

Bringing teams together, including frontline employees who tend to work alone, is therefore crucial to employee engagement. And it starts with company culture.

You need a psychologically safe environment where everyone feels comfortable contributing their thoughts and ideas. Like a calendar of team building activities. Special consideration for new hires and team members who work in isolation. And praise for team successes as well as individual wins.

The right communication and collaboration tools are another important part of the puzzle. Project management software helps people to collaborate when they’re not working in the same location. And chat tools allow workers to share problems, ideas, and solutions with ease.

Elara Caring is one of the largest care providers in the US, with around 32,000 carers working on their frontline. The company found it hard to connect its carers and was experiencing a collaboration problem.

By making Blink their communication hub, they improved team collaboration dramatically. Now 95% of employees say they feel more connected to the organization and their co-workers.

10. Celebrate milestones

Mavis Mills, an ASDA supermarket employee, recently celebrated her 80th birthday. And the whole team celebrated with her. They decorated her checkout with banners and balloons and gave her gifts, flowers, and a cake.

Celebrations like these bring teams together. They boost employee engagement for the person being celebrated and inspire other employees, too.

You can celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, passing probation, or the successful conclusion of a company project. Anything that fits with your company values and culture.

Of course, it’s easier to plan a celebration for on-site teams. You can organize a gathering in the office or – as ASDA did – around the checkout where Mavis was working.

But that doesn’t mean hybrid and dispersed frontline teams have to forgo celebrations. You can still improve employee engagement by celebrating milestones via internal communication tools.

For example, with the Blink Feed, you can share meaningful milestones with a team or the whole organization – and encourage employees to join in the celebration. You can celebrate little and often to show appreciation for employees on a regular, informal basis.

11. Lead by example

The leaders of today do things differently. Good leaders understand that transparency, fairness, and emotional intelligence help to improve employee engagement.

Unlike workplace leaders of the past, they know that when everyone, at all levels of a company, sticks to the same rules and values people feel more invested in a company’s success.

As a leader, this means practicing what you preach.

You should demonstrate the same commitment to two-way communication, collaboration, and recognition that you want to see in employees. You should model work-life balance so workers find it easier to follow suit.

By living and breathing company values and culture, you inspire trust and respect in your workforce. And when you join them in using the same communication and employee engagement tools, you make it much more likely that people will follow your lead. 

12. Measure and act on feedback

Gathering feedback is an essential part of any employee engagement strategy. But simply getting employees to leave feedback isn’t enough. You have to measure and act upon employee feedback, too.

Research shows that people who say their employer takes meaningful action based on their feedback are 37% less likely to look for another job. And they’re also much more likely to take part in future surveys.

So mine employee feedback for data. Then create employee engagement KPIs so you can measure progress. You can base targets around metrics like:

  • Absenteeism rate
  • Employee retention rate
  • Employee net promoter score (eNPS)

It then all comes down to good internal communication. Share your feedback findings and engagement progress with employees. It shows that you take their views seriously and are committed to making improvements.

Employee engagement: the next step

In thriving organizations, the drive to improve employee engagement is more than just an HR team initiative. It’s something that the whole organization embraces as part of its ethos.

Communication, feedback, and recognition become part of everyone’s every day. And the organization benefits from better staff retention, productivity, and satisfaction.

Your organization may not be at this point yet. But wherever you are in your employee engagement journey, the 12 ideas listed above will help you move forward. Weave these activities into your employee engagement strategy and you’ll encourage the employee attitudes and behaviors you want to see.

When it comes to frontline organizations, the right tech tools are a priority because they make employee engagement so much easier. They provide the vital line of connection between every member of your workforce, from new hires to stalwart staff, and frontline workers to your office-based team.

Blink’s mobile-first super-app helps every frontline employee to feel valued and heard. And with a news feed, secure chat, recognition features, surveys, analytics, and more, you have everything you need to transform internal communication and employee engagement for the better.

Use Blink to supercharge your employee engagement strategy. Book a demo to see what we can do for your frontline organization.

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