7 Proven Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Now


Employee engagement is top of mind as employers in certain industries continue to struggle with a historic labor shortage. In fact, in March 2022, 4.5 million people quit their jobs and employers posted 11.5 million job opportunities. Both figures represent record highs, according to LinkedIn. Improving retention becomes even more vital to a company’s lifeblood. 

WATCH: Employee Engagement and Experience 

At HR Exchange Network’s recent Employee Engagement and Experience event, HR leaders from many organizations, including KraftHeinz and Microsoft, shared their proven ways for getting employees to engage and participate.

Send Thank You Cards

The simple gesture of sending a handwritten note to express gratitude for a colleague is such a winning idea that two presenters at the event suggested it. Rhonda Hall, the keynote speaker and Vice President of HR and Organizational Development at University Federal Credit Union (UFCU), shared that executives mailed handwritten thank you cards to five employees each week during the pandemic. 

WATCH: The Key to Retention Is Engagement

In addition, Mary Shelley, Chief People Officer at Tango Card, said that at a previous employer, the HR department left out blank note cards, so people could say thank you to colleagues whenever they felt prompted. 

Help People Find Their Purpose

Everyone wants to feel needed. Especially Millennials and Gen Z have expressed a desire to conduct meaningful work. HR leaders who want to better engage employees can help individuals in the organization understand their purpose and recognize how their work fits into the larger picture. Communication is one way to achieve this goal. 

Tim Olaore, also known in social media as Mr. Meaningful Work and Director of Leadership Resident and Internship Program at Adventist Health, rapped about how to have I-M-P-A-C-T and help others do the same. 

WATCH: Big Energy Conversation: How to Create an Environment for Meaningful Work

Enlist DEI Champions

At Danone, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a priority, and DEI strategy and employee engagement go hand in hand. The company invites employees to serve as “champions,” said Putri Realita, Global Head of Culture, Engagement and Diversity & Inclusion at Danone. 

These volunteers learn about the specific ways they are expected to contribute and then they are empowered to take action. For example, champions in Mexico helped devise the Pink Line, a recruiting effort to hire more women as factory workers. Others have aligned themselves with Pride groups or veteran’s groups to aid in inclusion or reach out to underrepresented groups. The point is that the champions have a stake in the success of DEI, model the behaviors, and integrate these initiatives into the culture.  

WATCH: Moving the Needle on Diversity: Focusing on Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Listen to Employees

Communication is at the heart of engagement, and listening is at the heart of communication. So, HR leaders are taking more surveys and actually responding to them. Some are even using pulse surveys daily or weekly. Finding the correct frequency of surveys is important. But Deborah Kuness, Senior Psychologist at Workday, said that checking in on employees and their needs should happen as frequently as executives assess finances.

The key part is responsiveness. Once employees have responded, they want to know their employers actually heard them.

“Listening has become more critical because things are changing so quickly,” said Kuness. 

WATCH: How to Create an Employee Focused Action Plan

Support Communities of Practice

Communities of practice are built-in learning and development programs. Often, the grow organically as employees naturally break out into smaller groups to study and train for new parts of their jobs. HR leaders can encourage the creation and growth of these groups and support them, said Jeremy Schweitzer, Senior Manager of Customer Solutions at Open LMS. Communities of practice, after all, help colleagues engage with one another, collaborate, and learn new skills. 

WATCH: Communities of Practice: An Engagement-First Learning Modality

Rethink Office Space for Collaboration

In the panel discussion that concluded the event, Badia Rebolledo, Chief People Officer at Krispy Kreme, Tope Sadiku, Global Head of Digital Employee Experience at Kraft Heinz, and Ki Thompson, Head of Leadership Development for Experiences & Devices and Technology & Research Organizations at Microsoft Corporation, recommended reconsidering the office’s purpose. 

In the age of hybrid work, they argued that office space should be used for collaboration, socialization, and the likes of annual retreats. People should have the option to come into the office or even be required to do so a few times per week, but they don’t have to do their focused work there. Sadiku explained that Kraft Heinz has modular furniture, white boards, and desks that are not assigned to anyone in particular, so the space is useful for teams collaborating and brainstorming. 

WATCH: Getting the Balance Right: Remote Work and Flexibility

Reward Hard Workers

People want to feel as though their employers appreciate their dedication. Shelley and Taylor Smith, Co-founder and CEO of Blueboard, stressed the need to reward employees, who have performed well. HR leaders have many kinds of rewards programs at their fingertips, but both speakers explained that the reward should match the values of the organization and be meaningful to the winners. 

Photo by August de Richelieu for Pexels

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