A record 50.5 million people living in America quit their jobs in 2022 — and a further 40% of US employees considered leaving their jobs. Organizations need to step things up a notch if they want to start engaging both their desk-based and frontline staff.
The good news is there are many employee engagement strategies, tactics, and ideas you can implement to turn around the situation. The 12 strategies we discuss in this guide will help you create an engaging workplace experience and drive employee engagement for both desk-based and frontline employees.
Frontline Employee Engagement in 2023
Blink created this guide after working with hundreds of frontline organizations. Now, these insights can help other leaders prepare for a year that promises both challenge and opportunity.
Download to learn more: The top eight frontline engagement trends to watch out for and the six key strategies for success
A quick recap: what is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is the ongoing process of ensuring your workforce feels:
- Emotionally connected to their job, coworkers, and organization as a whole
- Satisfied with their job role and function
- Aligned with your company’s values
- Able to give 100% during work hours
Industry statistics cite employee engagement as a key factor in employee satisfaction, retention, and even company profitability. Employee engagement should be a number one priority for businesses globally — and yet, as of 2023, only 23% of employees globally are engaged.
You can use a number of methods to measure employee engagement levels in your business. Think surveys, metrics, and other engagement KPIs that will help determine how motivated, satisfied, and fulfilled your employees are in their work.
Remember, employee engagement is often the byproduct of a great employee experience. If you provide a fulfilling, enjoyable, and inspiring workplace experience, you enable and encourage engagement.
With this in mind, you need to tailor and adapt your employee engagement strategies to meet the needs of different types of employees, including frontline workers. This will make their overall experience positive and rewarding.
The foundations of effective employee engagement strategies
Engaged employees can be your greatest business asset. They are more focused and committed than disengaged workers, encourage their coworkers, and positively impact your bottom line.
But improving employee engagement is not about what you do. It’s about what you are as an organization, the culture you cultivate, and the values that you live by.
So before we jump into the employee engagement strategies, it’s important to look at the key values of employee engagement that form the foundation for those strategies. Those core values are:
Respect is an essential consideration for all your high-level decisions about managing employees. For your workers to be engaged at work, they should be able to trust that they are being treated with fairness and respect.
So how do you convey this in your processes and policies? You pay competitive wages, allow enough breaks, listen to their ideas, and formally recognize excellent performance and value-abiding behaviors.
If your employees aren’t aware of anything about your organization that’s beyond their scope of work or immediate team, you can’t blame them for feeling like an outsider. Sooner or later, they’ll feel isolated and disengaged.
Being in the loop doesn’t just help them do their jobs in a better way, but also makes them feel like they belong. So it’s essential to communicate openly and regularly with all your employees.
The more transparent your communication, the higher level of trust you’ll build with your workers. And the more comfortable they’ll feel sharing their thoughts and concerns, which brings us to the next pillar of employee engagement.
Most organizations follow a top-down approach to employee communication in which frontline employees hardly ever have a say. But these workers often have the best insights because they work directly with customers day in and day out.
So one of the best values to nurture and cultivate for high employee engagement is two-way communication. Give your workers ample opportunities to raise their voice and share what they think. Then act on this feedback to take your employee engagement to the next level.
12 actionable employee engagement strategies
Here are 12 employee engagement strategies & tactics you can implement today:
1. Foster co-worker relationships
When employees have friendly relationships with immediate team members and other people in the organization, they are more likely to enjoy the day-to-day.
Workplace relationships don’t just help with networking, they also provide the guidance and motivation a worker needs to succeed in their role. And creating opportunities to build and nurture these connections is one of the best employee engagement strategies.
Co-workers don’t always cross paths throughout the working day — especially in frontline organizations. It might be up to you to encourage better intra-department connections through organized events. You could create a program to encourage workers to collaborate, socialize, or train each other on the parts of the job that they know best.
Workers from different departments can connect, share notes, and exchange best practices. This way, they can also try out a recently learned skill or explore different options they might want to pursue in the future.
In fact, there are many cases in which employees consider leaving their organization to pursue a different career path. This program will help you facilitate the lateral moving of an employee to a different department, so they aren’t forced to look elsewhere. This way you hit two goals with one stone: high employee engagement and better employee retention.
2. Have a thorough onboarding process
Onboarding is essential for setting the right tone and expectations when a new employee joins your team.
As the statistics in the video above highlight, around 20% of new hires leave in the first seven weeks of employment, but organizations with a strong onboarding process have improved retention rates by 82%.
A strong onboarding experience is achieved by:
- Making sure your onboarding process covers not only organizational policies, but also the company’s core values, mission, and vision
- Giving your new employees mobile access to relevant materials and resources to learn from, and encouraging all employees to provide their feedback
- Acknowledging the importance of connection during onboarding. Introduce new hires to their team members, leadership, and coworkers. For a dispersed workforce, this can be done by ensuring your employees have the right digital tools and channels to connect from wherever they are
A sense of belonging from day one is integral in order to improve employee engagement — particularly for the frontline, where 80% of workers feel they have few connection opportunities at work.
See how Go North West is using Blink to make new team members feel part of the organization right from day one.
3. Rethink physical spaces
Frontline employees power the global workforce. With no central break room or day-to-day opportunities for office chat, dispersed workers can become increasingly disconnected from the rest of the organization.
While team building and other social events may be organized with the best of intentions, they often miss the mark for frontline workers, putting more pressure on employees instead of providing a channel for enthusiastic engagement.
If you’re a frontline leader, you need to rethink your social spaces and channels to meet the engagement expectations of all your employees. This might mean creating dedicated digital channels, Feeds, or groups for frontline workers who would otherwise never have a chance to interact.
Deliberately creating space for accessible social interaction can help build relationships, increase engagement, and create an environment of inclusion and positivity throughout your organization.
4. Clarify career pathways
Results of a recent Frontiers report show that:
- Career growth has a positive impact on knowledge workers’ organizational engagement
- Career goal progress and professional ability development promote job engagement
- Career growth has a positive effect on affective commitment, which in turn influences employee engagement.
If you can make workers feel that they can advance their careers without leaving your company, you’ll see a big boost in employee engagement. Workers at every level of your company should be able to view a clear-cut career path ahead and the map to follow that path.
So when formulating employee engagement strategies for your company, see how you can help workers get in complete control of their careers. The more assured they are about achieving their future goals, the more engaged you’ll find them to be.
How to accomplish this? Take your workers’ input on where they see themselves in the future. Here’s a career development plan template that might come in useful, as you do.
When you empower employees to take charge of their goal setting in alignment with team objectives, they’ll be more invested in working hard to hit those goals. And they won’t need tight schedules to do the same, leading to an improvement in overall satisfaction.
5. Provide training and learning opportunities
Helping workers learn new skills and investing in their professional development is crucial to their engagement.
In fact, 35% of millennial employees (who also make up around 35% of the US workforce) said they were attracted to employers who offer excellent training and development programs for this reason and saw it as the top benefit they wanted from an employer.
There are many measures you can take to facilitate employee education:
- Conduct online workshops that support employees’ learning goals
- Make educational content easily accessible through a central repository
- Provide reimbursements for courses workers enroll in
When you invest in employees’ learning and development, you are sending a message that your company is committed to them for the long term. And this demonstration of commitment makes them far more likely to give their 100% on the job.
6. Clear and consistent communication
Dispersed staff need a tool that allows them to interact with each other as if they were in the same room. This is key for breaking down barriers, unifying teams, and working productively, no matter where your team is located.
At Blink, communication is part of our culture and we are strong believers in its power. This is something that you must emphasize too if you wish to engage your employees. When you build a culture of trust and open communication, you help create an environment of transparency, respect, and collaboration.
You also need to make sure your team members are able to communicate with each other. Every team member should be aware of the communication channels that the organization uses and how to use them.
As leaders, don’t forget your own role in communication, either. Simply providing employees the channels to communicate and actually engaging employees through these channels are two different things.
To ensure a clear and consistent communication strategy, consider:
- Frequent News Feed updates to keep team members in the loop
- Regularly scheduled 1-1s and ongoing two-way feedback loops
- Targeted posts in group chats and forums for sharing ideas and gaining insights
- Frequent Employee Recognition or shoutouts in the company channels
7. Improve internal branding
When someone asks where they work, your workers can feel absolute pleasure, cold apathy, or even disdain or embarrassment answering that question. It all depends on your company’s reputation inside and outside the premises.
Money is undoubtedly a strong motivator, but employees also want to feel proud of where they work. The strength of your organization’s brand and what it stands for is directly related to your workers’ level of engagement.
That makes internal branding one of the most crucial employee engagement strategies. It means you need to ensure that your workers understand, support, and feel connected to your mission, vision, and values. The more convinced they are of what your brand stands for, the more likely they are to emulate behaviors that speak to the same values.
The supermarket chain Trader Joe’s is a great example. It has designed a fun and quirky environment for both workers and customers, with the workers conveying its brand values through different aspects of their job. The way they name products, design signage, décorate the store, and interact with customers — everything aligns with the Trader Joe’s brand.
The checkout process is just as warm, friendly, and casual. Workers display enthusiasm and a genuine desire to help with their feedback and expertise on the products.
This goes on to show that when done correctly, internal branding can create a virtuous cycle. It will attract workers who love your brand, who will further communicate their passion to your customers and partners, thereby enhancing the brand and attracting more top talent.
8. Encourage diversity and inclusion
D&I initiatives are crucial to the overall employee experience, making them a great place to focus your efforts for improving engagement levels. Research by ADP states:
“Studies have shown that employees who are satisfied with their organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I) are twice as engaged as dissatisfied employees. Changeboard adds that diverse and inclusive organizations work 12% harder, are 19% more likely to stay longer with the organization, and collaborate 57% more effectively with peers.”
What does this look like in action? Bentley University highlights some key actions that can help you better promote diversity in the workplace, including to:
- Address implicit bias: Make sure everyone in the company, starting with your C-suite and leadership teams, is aware of their unconscious bias and take proactive steps to address it
- Acknowledge intersectionality: D&I initiatives must not ignore or sidestep the fact that all individuals have nuanced social identities and backgrounds that can confer or deny privilege in accordance with cultural norms
- Invest in Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Investing in ERGs, or affinity groups that provide social support for employees with shared backgrounds, interests, and/or experiences is one of the most effective ways to ensure diversity initiatives remain top-of-mind
- Offer mentorship programs: Mentorships encourage both personal and professional growth, and provide a pipeline for leadership development. For groups with fewer role models in senior positions, mentorship can be crucial to cultivating diverse leadership
- Communicate with transparency: Be open and transparent about the goals of your D&I initiatives. Communicate progress towards achieving measurable objectives, ensure everyone is informed about key developments in the initiative, and most importantly, be open to feedback from all employees on how you can improve it
In addition to these diversity strategies, every segment and every department of your organization must also feel included to foster true D&I and, in turn, boost engagement.
In fact, studies show that belonging is one of the most powerful predictors of D&I efficacy in the workforce. Organizations with high levels of belonging also have higher employee net promoter scores (eNPS), which are correlated with higher engagement levels.
Frontline workers can experience the very opposite. Warehouse workers, for example, are typically secluded from other employees — and that goes double if they work the night shift as well. If a frontline worker continues to feel left out, then their engagement is likely to suffer. It’s crucial that you take the necessary steps to ensure that everyone has a sense of belonging and inclusion, starting with your frontline employees.
9. Survey, listen, and act
Your employees all have improvements they’d make to their roles, whether it’s a better work-life balance, tools that they can actually use in their roles, or more contact with management. You need to collect these insights — and act on them — to keep your employees engaged long-term.
An employee engagement survey can help you gain this valuable feedback from workers. An employee survey gives you insights into employees’ opinions, attitudes, and experiences — and you can use this data to identify areas for action.
You can also use surveys to recognize areas of improvement and understand what makes employees proud of their work.
Make sure you follow through on survey results with actions that address the employee feedback provided. Additionally, keep your workers in the loop with regular updates on progress and changes made as a result of their input. This will help build trust between your team and management, and demonstrate your commitment to employee engagement.
10. Recognize and reward
Rewards and recognition are essential for employee engagement. In fact, one 2022 Harvard Business Review study found that when an employee says their manager is great at recognizing them, then that employee is 40+% more engaged than those with managers who were not.
Recognition is an effective way to keep employees motivated. It also reinforces the behaviors you want more of in your organization.
For example, if you want to encourage team collaboration, reward teams that work together on a project or present a unified front during client meetings. If you need increased productivity, recognize employees who go above and beyond to get the job done.
Remember, rewards don’t have to be expensive or elaborate. Digital recognition tools or Kudos are both an effective and cost-effective way to show appreciation for your team’s hard work.
11. Provide incentives and perks
While closely related to your rewards and recognition schemes, incentives and perks work slightly differently. Typically, incentives are used to elicit a particular action from your employees. For instance, you might offer bonus pay for completing a project before the deadline or reaching certain on-the-job targets.
Unlike as-and-when recognition and rewards that react to a job well done, with ongoing incentives, workers will often know what they will get for completing the challenge ahead of time, and exactly what is required in order to receive that incentive.
Perks are more general benefits that make working in your organization more desirable. Some basic examples could include flexible work hours, subsidized gym memberships, and free snacks or coffee. You really need to get more creative than this, however, if you want to provide perks that your employees really want.
For example, factors such as compensation, growth through promotion, paid training, and high-value traditional benefits have the largest impact on frontline employee preferences when choosing a new role. However, employers do not value the same factors, according to the same research by McKinsey. The study states:
“When it comes to growth-oriented attributes, employers tend to emphasize a higher job title (among the bottom five attributes for frontline employees) over job growth and learning opportunities (both top-five attributes), which may help explain why frontline employees cite a lack of employer-provided development opportunities as a primary barrier to their advancement.”
To align your company perks with the needs of your frontline workers, you should consider providing opportunities for a yearly raise or promotion, advanced learning and employee development opportunities, and ongoing upskilling.
12. Implement employee engagement tech with analytics tools
Analytics are essential for a successful employee engagement strategy. With the right engagement analytics tools, you can gain insights into how employees are engaging with company messages, what topics they’re most interested in, and how to best tailor future activities to their needs.
For example, use feedback or survey tools on mobile devices to collect real-time data from employees. This data can then be analyzed to reveal the most critical areas of focus for your engagement strategy.
You can also use dedicated analytics features to tailor specific messages or activities that best meet the needs of individual employees. This helps you create a more personalized, effective experience for workers and drive more meaningful engagement within your organization.
Using technology to monitor employee engagement is also one of the best ways to ensure that initiatives are tied directly to overall business objectives. Analytics help you understand if there are any engagement gaps that you need to fill.
Are there certain teams that consistently fail to engage with your content, for example? Tracking open rates, comments, will help you identify any disengaged teams or employees, so that you can work to address and improve their experience.
How to create an employee engagement strategy
You need goals that are specific and measurable when creating a successful employee engagement strategy. This provides the foundation for your efforts, ensures everyone is on the same page, and helps you assess progress along the way.
Identify your issues
Once you have established your goals, determine what obstacles stand between you and achieving those objectives. Communication issues, lack of motivation, or a disconnected team can all put your progress at risk. Knowing what might stand in your way will help you tailor activities to your organization’s needs and develop solutions that are relevant and effective.
Build your plan
Next, you need to create a plan of action for achieving your engagement goals. You should include activities such as tailored employee surveys, tech and communication refreshes, and analytics implementation in this plan.
Analyze and adjust
Finally, track the progress of your employee engagement efforts with analytics tools and review how well they worked. Adjust activities based on the findings, and move forward with more tailored initiatives.
Why your employee engagement strategy might fail
Not listening to feedback
If you don’t listen to what your employees are telling you, then your engagement activities will be misguided and ineffective. You need to respond quickly and effectively to feedback in order to ensure that your initiatives meet their needs.
Not having the right tools
Communication and engagement tools are essential in today’s workplace, and even more so if you want an engaged workforce. Without the right tools, you won’t be able to track progress or employee engagement scores accurately — let alone ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Plus, if your tools aren’t fit for mobile, you will be missing out on the chance to engage with your key employees when they are on the move.
Not having leadership buy-in
Employee engagement strategies rely on strong leadership support. Without it, your initiatives can easily be overlooked or deprioritized as other programs take precedence. Make sure that your leadership is involved and invested in the process to ensure success.
But who are your most engaged allies?
How would greater employee engagement help them meet their targets?
How do you bring the opportunity to life for your wider leadership team?
What are the risks they’ll ask you about, so that you can prepare in advance?
We cover this and more in our essential guide to executive buy-in for frontline employee experience.
Not communicating effectively
Employee engagement strategies only work when teams are communicating effectively. Invest time into making sure that communication channels are clear and regularly updated with relevant content so that everyone can stay in the loop.
No one wants employee disengagement. It’s costly and damaging to morale. Plus, disengaged workers make errors at a 60% higher rate.
But still, many companies turn a blind eye to the issue. They wait to take concrete action and implement employee engagement strategies until things get out of hand.
The good news is that improving employee engagement is both possible and measurable. You need the right steps, the right engagement tools, and serious execution. So take a good look at your present culture and see which of these strategies will be a good start for you.
Remember, your company is a community. And communities prosper only when every member and segment feels valued, trusted, and respected.
Blink is an internal communications tool that can help take your employee engagement to new heights.
Request a free demo to get started.
Employee engagement strategies FAQs
What are employee engagement strategies?
Employee engagement strategies are activities, initiatives, and plans designed to promote meaningful connections between team members. They can include tailored surveys, internal communication strategy refreshes, employee engagement tech overhauls, and analytics implementations.
What is the best strategy for improving employee engagement?
The best strategy for improving employee engagement is one that listens, understands, and responds to your employees’ needs. Invest in the right tools, align survey questions with your organizational goals, and regularly schedule pulse surveys to stay up-to-date with your employees’ suggestions. Remember, your engagement strategy should be made to fit your workforce — not the other way around.