Engagement Is the North Star of a Great Employee Experience

Lisa Ardill

Content Editor at Workvivo

9 Nov 2023

There are hundreds of ways of making employees happy. But if you want to weave together the aspirations of your employees and the success of your organization, engagement is the number one thing to prioritize. This is the key ingredient for a truly great employee experience. 

Engagement paves the path to a workplace culture characterized by vitality, collaboration, and achievement. So we’re embarking on a quick written journey to understand why engagement holds the pivotal position in shaping a remarkable employee experience, unveiling its transformative influence on individuals, teams, and the broader organizational landscape.

Why investing in a great employee experience is important for any business

You don’t need to obsess over how engagement is going to revolutionize the way your employees feel and perform, but it’s a good idea to be aware of the core areas it’ll improve.

Employees who can get a sense of how valued and appreciated they are will be more productive, can stay with the company longer, and tend to have higher morale. 

A positive employee experience also helps to attract and retain talented individuals. Investing in it can strengthen employee loyalty and commitment, which can lead to increased customer satisfaction and higher profits. 

Generally speaking, more investments in a positive employee experience are crucial for the success and sustainability of any business. A positive employee experience leads to higher levels of job satisfaction. In turn, this increases employee retention rates and reduces turnover costs associated with recruitment, onboarding, and training.

When employees feel valued, supported, and engaged, they’re more likely to be motivated and productive in their roles. This heightened productivity translates into higher quality work, improved customer satisfaction, and ultimately, increased revenue.

A positive employee experience also cultivates a culture of collaboration and teamwork. When employees feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie, they are more likely to work cohesively towards common goals. This leads to better problem-solving, creativity, and innovation within the organization – as well as 23% greater profitability.

Tip: Aim to create a positive work environment that improves the company’s reputation both internally and externally. Satisfied employees are more likely to speak positively about their workplace, which can attract top talent and positively influence customer perceptions. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, employees who are actively engaged are 2.5 times more inclined to serve as advocates for their company.

8 ideas for engaging staff effectively

Time to start making small incremental changes!

For this, we’ve talked to a couple of People Ops experts and team managers to get the best tips you can apply to keep your own employees engaged.

The classic solution: Offer benefits your team will love

Jo Taylor, Founder & MD at Let’s Talk Talent, says you first have to keep and grow brilliant people. To do this, she recommends looking at what motivates and energizes your workforce. 

Here are some common best practices companies should stick to when offering employee benefits:

  • Tailoring them to individual employee requirements 
  • Taking employee feedback into account and leveraging sufficient data before procurement 
  • Acquiring benefits that align with the existing culture while not overlooking non-traditional alternatives
  • Actually communicating and promoting the benefit packages to the team
  • Monitoring the performance of these benefits

Communicate at all stages

Jo further notes that employee engagement is more than gimmicks such as random perks you give them every now and then without sticking to the best practices of offering employee benefits. She suggests maintaining full communication as you’re keeping employees engaged to really understand what motivates your employees and what they’ll positively respond to:

“Pushing a lot of unjustified perks towards employees is like watering a garden. You have to continue to do it all year round or things wilt. If you don’t communicate, aren’t transparent, and expect people to just follow they will go somewhere that does.”

Regular communication ensures that employees understand their roles, responsibilities, and objectives. This clarity prevents misunderstandings and helps in aligning individual efforts with organizational goals.

When employees feel heard and valued, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging within the organization. This inclusivity fosters a positive work environment and strengthens the team’s cohesion.

Rodolphe Dutel, Founder at Remotive, also supports this as he shared his own best tips for engaging employees via diverse channels. In particular, they use Loom videos on big or small changes within their organization: 

“Whether it’s a new product feature or a company financial update, we record a video to share the update. We aim to share motivations and ask for feedback in the process. We’ve been doing so for three years and have seen great conversations and feedback spark from sharing videos. 

“Our employees can watch these when they have the time and get the chance to reflect on what they’ve seen, instead of having to react in the heat of the moment. That means adding thoughts, comments, emojis, and more. Then, we also encourage them to record their own video to share updates and opinions or simply interact with clients.”

Foster open and honest communication

Jo isn’t the only one who’s a big promoter of perfecting your internal communication strategy. In fact, all of the experts we’ve talked to about employee engagement mentioned communication in one form or another.

Felicia Shakiba, Founder of CPO Playbook Consultancy, says that open communication is the foundation of employee engagement:

“When employees feel heard, valued, and well-informed, they are more likely to be engaged and satisfied with their work. 

“Be transparent about the organization’s goals, values, and strategies. When employees understand the bigger picture and their role in achieving it, they are more likely to feel connected to the company’s mission.”

On this note, Felicia says it’s also important to provide various channels for employees to express themselves. Some of her own recommendations include suggestion boxes, team meetings, and digital platforms. Additionally, you must ensure these channels are easily accessible and actively monitored to actually make sure they align with your goal of maintaining transparent communication.

Marek Nebesář, Operations Director at Behavio Labs, also emphasizes how the most important thing before creating any employee engagement plan is to ensure transparent communication:

“Sharing the company’s goals, vision, and any changes happening within the organization the moment you know about them. Regular updates on both the company’s successes and challenges. Being clear about the financial situation both in terms of costs and revenues. And encouraging it goes both ways so employees feel heard and valued. That helps to build trust and a sense of belonging within Behavio.”

Run regular check-in meetings

As part of an updated internal communication planMeredith Sanders, Former Head of People & Culture at Novi, is an advocate of conducting consistent check-ins;

“Check-ins are the number-one driver of employee engagement. Employees who consistently meet with their leaders have a higher awareness of their expectations and how they’re performing to them. Leaders also have more opportunities to bring genuine care and empathy to their employees. So much of employee engagement has to do with feeling like you matter both in and out of work.”

Here are some tips to help you conduct more successful check-in meetings:

  • Clearly define the purpose of the meeting  
  • Make sure the meeting environment is conducive to open and honest conversation
  • Actively engage your employees by asking open-ended questions and listening attentively to their responses 
  • Acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small 
  • Provide a platform for employees to discuss any challenges they’re facing
  • Offer specific, actionable feedback on performance 
  • Collaboratively set goals for the upcoming period 

Establish clear performance expectations and standards

Clear expectations ensure that individual and team goals align with the broader objectives of the organization. This helps in maintaining consistency in efforts towards achieving the company’s mission and vision.

And it’s also easier to hold employees accountable for their performance. This can be beneficial both in terms of recognizing and rewarding high performance and addressing performance issues when they arise.

On a similar note, Alex Santos, MBA, MS, President and CEO at Nimble Advisors, observes:

“The most important task a manager/leader can do to engage employees effectively is setting clear performance expectations and standards. Employees need to know what’s expected of them and how their work contributes to the overall goals of their respective team as well as the organization as a whole.”

Dominika Stemplewska, Line Manager at Unity Group, is also in favor of ensuring open communication with employees when setting expectations:

“Whether expectations will be fulfilled or not largely depends on clarity on both sides. The employee must understand what’s expected of them, but also feel comfortable enough to question or discuss those expectations in detail. Establishing open communication from the beginning can empower employees to seek guidance, reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings or misinterpretations of their roles.”

Dominika Stemplewska also observes that the key to success when setting such standards lies in consistency:

“Expectations should be clearly set from the beginning and reviewed regularly. It’s also important to do this during the initial probation period and the initial stages of employment. This helps employees build up their own confidence through these times and keeps them engaged. The exact interval, however, depends on both the individual and the nature of their tasks, projects, or teams.”

Strive towards a positive work environment

A positive work environment promotes physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It reduces stress levels and contributes to overall job satisfaction. All this leads to higher morale and a more cohesive and motivated team.

Kyle Kuczynski, Co-Founder of MessageDesk, manages a small team where every person is expected to try out new responsibilities, tools, and processes. Although the team’s size facilitates better connectivity, fostering a culture of experimentation requires Kyle to endorse celebrating failures and instruct his team on extracting valuable lessons from them:

“Striving for a positive work atmosphere is our goal. We continuously explore new initiatives, understanding that success isn’t guaranteed every time. Embracing this mindset fosters a culture of learning from both triumphs and setbacks. This simple approach has been instrumental in maintaining high morale and instilling a sense of belonging and purpose among our employees.”

Build a community to make room for friendships

60% of employees attribute their job satisfaction primarily to the contributions of their colleagues. In other words, people stick with companies and enjoy their work more when they’re part of a positive work culture and community.

Janice Litvin, Workplace Wellness, Burnout Speaker and Author, says her best advice besides doing the best job you can do is to allow your team to befriend as many people as possible:

“Support employees in joining any of your employee resource groups (ERG). Most large organizations have many including, but not limited to: Latin X, STEM Women, and others. These can be created (but not limited to) based on: nationality, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or sexual orientation, religion, age or parental status, demographic characteristics, and other shared interests.”

Some other ways in which you can facilitate stronger bonds and thus better collaboration and engagement include:

  • Foster an environment where open and honest communication is valued
  • Organize team-building events or activities that encourage collaboration and bonding
  • Design communal areas in the workplace where employees can interact and socialize
  • Recognize and celebrate employee achievements, both personal and professional. Implement a program where employees are randomly paired for lunch or coffee breaks  
  • Encourage employees to participate in volunteer or community service projects as a team  
  • Organize friendly competitions or challenges within the team  
  • Assign projects that require employees from different departments to collaborate  

Set up mentorship and buddy systems

On a similar note, Janice Litvin recommends developing mentor relationships either from as early as onboarding to engage both new hires and existing ones. For starters, you could connect new team members with their managers, other colleagues, or members from your ERG groups. 

Janice notes that such a dedicated person can be invaluable in helping employees navigate through their roles and careers. Plus, it provides a support system for new employees and gives you bonus points as you’re trying to promote a culture of continuous learning and development, which benefits the entire organization nonetheless. 

Mentors can pass on their knowledge, skills, and expertise to less experienced employees. Studies also show that mentees often experience higher job satisfaction because they feel supported and have a clearer understanding of their roles. They also get the chance to expand their professional network through their mentor’s connections and guidance.