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Improve Employee Engagement in 2024: Advice, Ideas, and Trends from Expert People Leaders

Employee engagement is a key to a successful long-term company strategy, especially in quickly evolving times like these. This year, employees will need more from their companies to stay engaged. Candidates have plenty of choices for employers, and modern workplace culture is shifting to truly prioritize engagement.

So let’s start with what employee engagement means: the commitment an employee has to their work contributions. Companies with high employee engagement see less turnover, higher satisfaction, and better performance.

Companies that engage their employees will be able to create more value, not only for customers and stakeholders, but with a mission-driven workforce. This is the power of the employee.

So how can you guide your organization to engage employees this year? We’ve gathered some of the best strategies from people leaders to improve your employee engagement efforts and create a positive company culture.

Get Creative With Engagement Initiatives

While many are focused on The Great Resignation, we really should be thinking more in terms of The Great Re-Engagement. Now is the perfect time to shift strategies in attracting and retaining employees. In fact, now is the perfect time to infuse HR with a little more creativity in how we manage our workforce. – Stacey Wanninger, Senior HR Consultant at BlueFire HR

Burnout is taking a toll on the modern workforce. Teams are stretched thin, with more work on their plates and stress increasing outside of work. It’s time to get creative.

Traditional approaches to employee engagement aren't going to cut it this year. We need to be innovative in how we solve our current problems, push the envelope, and take risks.

Bring your team into the conversation and ask what they need to be engaged. Analyze the results and make some big bets to re-engage them. That might mean trying things that were taboo just a couple of years ago. Whether it's a wholesale shift to remote work, moving to a four day workweek, banning work communication after hours, or something equally groundbreaking– now is the time to try it.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and employers who fail to adapt will be left behind.

Personalize the Employee Experience

Each employee is unique.

To personalize the employee experience, look at what that employee needs to be successful. Eschew a one-size-fits-all approach, even if it takes more time. Celebrate the diversity within your workplace through personalization. Let your team know they’re valued as people, not just cogs in the wheel. It also supports organizational success by emphasizing and celebrating the strengths of individuals.

Take a look at the different touchpoints of your team's employee experience, and explore ways to thoughtfully personalize them. Gather feedback and examine your team's perception of culture, processes, workspaces, and technologies. How can you tailor the employee experience to the needs of new and existing employees? Revisit your strategies on a regular basis to keep them fresh.

Coach Leaders

Coaching others has become my number one development method. Being present, listening deeply, being curious, and asking questions creates connection and grows leaders. My legacy is in planting seeds and cultivating a rich environment for growth. – Linda Rad, Principal at Envision Leadership Consulting

To build a successful team this year, you’ll need to create a productive, high-functioning, and committed one. That’s where coaching comes in. Coaching leaders means purposefully developing, communicating, and creating such an environment.

Engaged leaders model positive behavior to their teams. Coaching takes those leaders one step further. With training, they can create the right environment for engagement to flourish. Coach leaders to identify the strengths of their team. Show them how to put those strengths into the context of business goals and group relationships. That includes getting feedback from individuals and developing a plan to get the right results.

It’s often helpful to look externally for team coaches. Consider a service like Bravely, or consult a book like Peter Hawkins’ Leadership Team Coaching.

Foster Workplace Pride

The feeling of pride is one of the most overlooked when it comes to employee engagement.  Pride is a feeling or an emotion that drives job satisfaction, discretionary effort, and attendance.  The pride employees feel in their companies is a critical determinant to attracting/retaining talent and turning your employees into brand champions. – Rick Garlick, Chief Research Advisor at the Incentive Research Foundation

Great companies are filled with employees who love what they do and who are proud of where they work. They're also filled with leaders who foster that workplace pride.

This year, look for opportunities to connect purpose to your employees' work to your organization's mission. Encourage and recognize behavior that lines up with that mission. Then show the impact of your organization in tangible ways.

For example, when's the last time your team learned about a positive impact on a customer? That could become a recurring segment in your all-hands meetings.

How are you improving the industry? Share ways that your team is making a difference in the space you work in. 

Increasingly, candidates are looking for organizations who share their values, places they want to be associated with. Places they want to be proud to work at.

For more information about workplace pride, tune in for “How Workplace Pride Drives Business Value For Your Company,” co-hosted by Rick Garlick on January 25th.

Create Opportunities for Growth

If you're not preparing your employees to grow, you're preparing for them to go.

Opportunities for growth are crucial for employee engagement. Employees want to feel valued and have access to advancement. Whether it's offering training on a subject, mentoring peers, or heading a project, leaders need to create thoughtful growth opportunities for employees. It's not just about giving employees a new task or responsibility every year. It's about connecting employees' strengths to your company's mission and their own career goals.

It’s also important to communicate how each growth opportunity relates to advancement and overall career trajectory. Leaders should factor on-the-job development into performance management. This includes being transparent about expectations and checking in on a regular basis--not just at an annual review.

It’s also important to communicate how those growth opportunities can affect advancement and career trajectory. This means being transparent about expectations and checking in on a regular basis. Ideally, that means no big surprises in an annual review, where at least one party's left wondering how things went in such a different direction.

Be Ready to Pivot

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the last couple of years, it’s that we need to be able to adapt to change and pivot quickly. In other words, stay agile.

Plan for a great year, but also be ready for your plans to be interrupted. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities that come along in fast-changing times, so flexibility will help teams stay engaged, even when plans get derailed. Some of the best innovations have been forged in times of adversity.

As a leader, it's your job to both support your team and help them overcome challenges. By anticipating obstacles, you'll be able to refocus more quickly.

Start by having a rough plan for long-term projects, and build in some contingency plans. Empower your leaders with the confidence to roll with changes. And err on the side of overcommunication to be transparent, especially with hybrid and remote teams.

Improve Engagement this year

The world is changing, and so are people's expectations of the workplace. 

It’s not enough to hire good people and expect them to motivate themselves. Business leaders will need to empower their teams to be innovative. They will also need to create a strong employee engagement program, one that aligns with the company’s mission and focuses on employee growth. If leaders want to engage their employeesthis year and beyond, they’re going to have to actively listen and commit themselves to their teams, all while being ready to evolve quickly.

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Ben Travis

Ben is the founder of HR Chief. He enjoys working with passionate teams to solve impactful problems with technology.

He has a heart for HR/People Ops teams and uses his experience from the startup, agency, and nonprofit spaces to drive results.