6 low-cost employee engagement ideas
Updated: Oct 19
Employee engagement is essential to a productive, innovative workplace. Studies have shown that engaged employees are happier, healthier, more focused, and more loyal. In addition to being happy at work, engaged employees are dedicated to making the company better.
Yet, worker engagement rates are dismally low: only one-third of U.S. employees are engaged according to Gallup.
Of the disengaged population, 16 percent are actively disengaged. These toxic employees may try to undermine what other employees are building and accomplishing. The remaining 51 percent show up to work, do their jobs, and go home. They’re not committed to furthering the company; they just want to earn their paycheck and get out of there.
See the chart below to get a visual look at U.S. employee engagement breakdown:
Globally, the issue is an even bigger one: just 13 percent of global workers are engaged.
You can see the problem here—if only a small fraction of employees are engaged, it will be an uphill battle to accomplish the company’s goals. As such, it’s essential for small businesses to take steps to boost engagement. Even if your budget is small, there are still many ways to increase employee engagement levels and happiness.
Six low-cost employee engagement ideas that are well worth the investment
For an easier time reaching your company’s goals, consider these six employee engagement ideas.
Encourage personal projects
One way to get employees excited about work is to give them opportunities to spearhead projects they’re passionate about. This could be a new product, service, marketing tactic—or something else entirely. You might be surprised at how many great ideas your employees have.
Personal work projects make employees feel valued. They also often result in new, innovative processes, policies, or products that will benefit your business in the long run. Win-win!
Have you heard again and again that a certain workplace process is cumbersome or redundant? Companies are often set in their ways and workflows. Yet, inefficient policies and procedures may be working against you when it comes to employee engagement.
When team members don’t have the resources needed to do their jobs, it often leads to disengagement. They feel as though the company doesn’t care about them, so why should they care about the company? The same holds true for ineffective workflows or outdated policies.
If your employees keep flagging an issue, see what you can do to remove that obstacle. This will help them be more productive and feel heard and valued in the workplace.
Volunteer as a team
Sure, it’s nice to host a happy hour once in a while, but many employees would prefer team-building activities that serve a greater purpose. As a small business, you probably have a strong connection to your local community, so why not give back by doing some charity work with your team? For instance, you could close up early once a month and volunteer at a local food pantry or animal shelter.
Habitat for Humanity explains that volunteering can help lower stress levels and boost stamina. Your employees will likely learn something new in the process. Plus, volunteering is a feel-good way to get out of the office and encourage your employees to bond.
It’s no secret our workforce values flexibility. The Gallup survey found that half of employees would switch to a job that allows them flextime. Another 37 percent would switch if they could work from home once in a while.
Depending on the nature of your business, it may not be possible to allow your employees to work remotely or during the hours of their choosing. But, being flexible when you can still improves employee engagement.
Building a more flexible working environment can be as simple as letting staff members come in and leave an hour early to attend their child’s soccer game, or allowing someone to work from home when they have a doctor’s appointment.
Celebrate your people
Recognizing your employee’s work accomplishments can go a long way toward boosting engagement. It can also improve your working relationship. You can take this a step further by celebrating their personal milestones, as well. It can be as simple as bringing in cupcakes and a card on their birthdays or getting them a small gift when they finish their night-school degree.
These little actions show that you care and they help employees feel more connected to—and invested in—the business.
Ask your employees what they need
You can make educated guesses about what your employees want and need in the workplace, but at the end of the day, you don’t know for sure until you ask. Employee surveys and one-on-one meetings will allow people to voice their needs. This lets you know exactly how to keep your people engaged.
That said, not all ideas will be feasible. When an employee voices a need you simply can’t accommodate, don’t just sweep it under the rug. Instead, work together to find an alternative and keep them informed about your progress with the issue.
Again, employees are more likely to be engaged at work when they feel valued and heard in the workplace. Even if you can’t give them exactly what they want, the fact that you’re trying to meet their needs will be appreciated.
Employee engagement activities should be a manager’s top priority
Finding ways to improve employee engagement will have a long-term effect on workplace culture. Remember, employees who are actively engaged want to make the company better. And when the majority of your staff is working in-step to achieve common goals, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.