Employees who feel happy at work, who feel included and listened to, tend to be more productive and more loyal. So how can you engage employees in the workplace and help them feel more wanted and happier at work?

How to engage employees

1. Encourage employees to give input on finding solutions to problems

One of the most valuable resources you have within your business is the employees themselves.

Drawing on their knowledge, experience, and ideas is not only great for finding solutions, but simultaneously, it empowers the employees too.

Far too often I see companies failing to involve their staff and failing to draw on the incredible talent that often exists in-house.

Why would you not want to draw on such creative ideas, especially when being listened to and heard tends to make staff feel more motivated and valued?

Start listening to employees’ comments and proactively seek to include them.

You might want to include a completely open brainstorming session once a month so that employees can discuss absolutely anything, from ideas for the business to ideas for workplace wellness and anything they wish to share.

2. Learn more about your employees and who they really are

You might have already noticed that people love nothing more than talking about themselves, given half a chance, and this is no different for our employees.

Talking to and engaging employees at work

It is human nature to feel more comfortable around people who take an interest in who we are, what our interests are, and who show empathy and understanding for any issues we may have.

There are various ways to get to know colleagues and to bring out their interests and passions and some ways include:

  • As a manager you can allocate time in one-to-one meetings that you do each month, year, etc. to discuss their interests and to learn more about the people you manage.
  • Have a board such as in the staff room dedicated to sharing activities and hobbies.
  • Encourage staff to discuss and share their interests and hobbies from outside of work, such as by introducing a hobbies club at work. You could provide a small budget and even work time for this. The rewards as a company or manager are that you end up with a more engaged workforce, i.e. a workforce that becomes a closer-knit unit as a result of learning from each other.

It can be quite surprising, once you get to know your own employees, what a wide range of fascinating activities and interests they are involved with.

Don’t be surprised, for example, if one of your colleagues is:

  • a belly dancer (as I am)
  • someone involved with cat rescue (and maybe in such as scenario colleagues might want to fundraise to help out)
  • a professional standard photographer (skills you might need in the workplace too)
  • a skilled musician
  • speaks several languages
  • is a published author

Get to know your employees! Engage with your employees.

3. Set up a seminar series to provide employees with the chance to talk about and share their various work-related skills and expertise

Likewise, another way to engage employees is to bring out their expertise and allow them to be appreciated for the otherwise unknown skills they have.

The presentations ideally will be work-related but this concept can, if you wish, be extended to hobbies and interests from outside of work.

Skills sharing

Employees, in essence, are provided with the opportunity to discuss their skills and/or interests with colleagues and the format of the seminar can be chosen by the employee.

Some employees might be shy and introverted, thus you can allow them the chance to do the seminar in a flexible format, i.e. as a workshop (as opposed to the traditional seminar which is based on presenting only).

4. Ensure they have career path opportunities

One of the most powerful ways to really build employee engagement is to give each employee a clear career path that they can follow and work towards.

Without an opportunity to develop, the vast majority of staff will stagnate, begin to feel demotivated, and feel less connected with the company as a whole.

I cannot emphasize enough just how important it is to have a system in place whereby managers make sure that the career path options are laid out and worked on with employees.

I recommend including the following in the career path framework that you develop for each person you manage.

The first key step is to understand exactly what the person’s motivation and long-term goals are.

You can then look at matching these goals with opportunities such as:

  • Internal training courses they can go on or opportunities for mentoring
  • A career route they go on to rise through the company
  • Training and development that they can benefit from, that you as a company support, i.e. subsidize for external or 3rd party training.

Create a clear plan with the employee and include timeframes.

You can review how the plan is going every so often (i.e. annually) and adjust the plan accordingly.

Working with your staff to develop a career path you will find that they engage far better in the workplace and you will find that staff are more motivated and furthermore, you end up with a better qualified and knowledgeable workforce.

5. Offer workplace wellness

Rubber plant that is ideal for an office setting

There are some very simple and inexpensive things I have seen introduced in some companies that aid wellness and well-being and that bring a feel-good factor to the workplace.

In one company I worked for in Ireland, for example, they organized for a full large box of bananas and apples to be delivered to the company’s staff kitchen every morning, paid for by the company.

The expense was really very small for the company and yet the excitement that such a provision generated for their staff was quite stunning.

It was a perk that staff didn’t want to lose by leaving the company and one they loved and yet it also aided health and wellness and was incredibly easy to organize.

Offering wellness training workshops is certainly one option also and these workshops can be especially useful to teach:

You might also want to read our post on 10 ways to improve employee wellness here.

In essence, you want to be seen to value and care about the well-being of your staff and not just their work productivity.

The effect of better workplace wellness though does lend itself to improved productivity and reduced staff turnover.

6. Involve employees in your business planning strategy

Whilst major corporate decisions need to be done at a higher management level, if you can involve staff in some of the lower-level strategies and planning, your employees will feel more engaged.

Some of the very best ideas, as I mentioned earlier, come from the employees themselves, i.e. the staff who very often know the intricacies and issues with their own role better than anyone.

Involving employees very often helps you to elicit some really quite useful ideas and this time can be extremely productive.

It goes without saying that ultimately you, as a manager, can choose the final business plan and strategy, but why not make colleagues also feel a part of the process?

Likewise, why not encourage and or reward diversity of thought, innovative ideas, and problem-solving?

Utilize the skills, knowledge, and expertise of your staff, whilst simultaneously enabling them to feel empowered and valued within the company.

Hold sessions to tackle organizational issues, emphasizing innovation and creating energy among employees. Other departments are invited to join, and any employee can be a facilitator.

Furthermore, you might want to let the team participate in the hiring of new employees.

If you are hiring a new manager, for example, why not have each candidate do a 10-minute presentation in front of the team and ask each employee for feedback on the candidates?

7. Organise social activities for staff

When you organize social events for your staff to mix and have fun, it is a form of team building that lends itself to a more united workforce.

You might also find that some employees who at work are quite introverted, come out of their shells in these social activities.

Other employees might also work alone or in small teams and inviting these staff to mix with the bigger team can be great for creating a more unified and dynamic team.

Social activities and social time do not need to be expensive in terms of time and financial cost.

Even an early finish on a Friday afternoon once a month, with a 3 pm to 5 pm type cake and tea social event can suffice.

Do be careful though to vary the times and days every so often so that staff who work only part-time and on other days can sometimes also be included.

Employee engagement teaching
>> Employee Engagement Teaching Materials
Dr Valeria Lo Iacono