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9/8/14 6:44 AM Rebecca Whittenberger

happy employees and employee engagement ideas

Make sure your employee engagement ideas have a firm foundation before you try them. These five best practice tips will show you how.

I’ve been on both sides of the employment coin: I’ve had lots of managers, and I’ve also been a manager myself. I also write a lot about employee engagement ideas, employee communication, employee recognition, etc.

Suffice it to say, I’m up to my eyeballs in tips, ideas, strategies and best practices you can use to improve employee engagement and productivity in the workplace. So here is a brief run-down of five great employee engagement ideas I’ve come across.

1. Just let employees be themselves.

Last week I read this really great blog post from OfficeVibe (one of my favorite business websites) called The True Secret to Employee Engagement. The author pointed out that we tend to complicate the definition of employee engagement when it’s really very simple. It’s about letting employees be themselves in their jobs.

How does this look? Well, don’t micromanage. Let your employees have power over their workplace choices as much as possible, such as how they decorate their desks and what extra projects they are willing to take on. Put their creative skills and interests to use in company projects. For example, if your HR assistant also has a personal hobby of writing their own style blog, maybe they would enjoy crafting a few articles for the next company newsletter.

2. Provide lots of information (in the right context).

Provide context with your messages. Don’t just toss more information at employees and expect their engagement and productivity to skyrocket. They need to understand why the information matters and how it personally affects them. Otherwise, they’re just going to keep deleting the emails or throwing away the memos like they’ve always done; now they just have to do it more frequently.

For example, in an interview with a managing director of an advisory services provider, HR writer Mark McGraw reports that organizations relying on company-wide emails that include detailed financial reports are not good ways to build better staff connections. Without context, employees won’t know how to interpret this information and apply it to themselves. It will have zero impact.

Instead, says McGraw, in the case of a financial report, companies should explain “why the organization performed the way it did in the previous quarter, and how employees impacted that performance.” Employees need the “whys” and the “hows” to understand why the news you’re sharing matters to them.

3. Be a better manager.

To put it simply, bad managers are one of the main reasons for poor employee engagement at work. According to research from Gallup (and reported in an article by HR Magazine), 70% of the changes in employee engagement scores are linked with managers. This means that a lot of the blame for low employee morale falls on bad managers.

And check out this scary fact: an overwhelming majority (84%) of United States employees claim that their relationship with their boss is the number one determining factor for whether they try to move up in the company or find work elsewhere (source: Yes, sometimes you just have to admit that the problems with your employees are partly your own fault. Fortunately, you can learn to be a better manager, and one of the best ways to start is simply by becoming a better communicator.

4. Ask for feedback.

One of the most important skills a manager can have is to listen, then listen, and then listen some more to their employees. If you’re only ever sending messages to your employees and never receiving their suggestions or including them in problem-solving, you’re missing the mark.

In a nutshell, to find out what would make your employees happier and more productive, just ask them! You might be surprised to find out that more money isn’t necessarily the answer.

5. Offer recognition.

While some people might want to have their achievements shouted from the rooftops or printed on a billboard, many employees would be satisfied with a simple pat on the back or a personal “thank you” for the hard work they do. Employee recognition is crucial to retention and engagement.

Just how crucial is it? Check out this fact from “25 Great Statistics on Employee Recognition:”

Companies with strategic recognition reported a mean employee turnover rate that is 23.4% lower than retention at companies without any recognition program. (Source: SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey, 2012)

Whether it’s a personal thank-you note or a big yearly party, employees who feel appreciated and get recognized for their contributions tend to be more productive and loyal. Reduce employee turnover by improving employee engagement.

I’m sure there are a lot more employee engagement ideas than the five I have listed here. This is just a sampling of the best practices I’ve found in my professional experience. What strategies have you found helpful in boosting employee engagement? We would love to hear from you.

Want to take some employee engagement ideas with you? Take a look at our free checklist.

Employee Engagement Checklist Free Download