Everything You Need to Know About Employee Engagement

Cultivating a positive employee experience in a rapidly changing workplace is challenging, but necessary. Here are 7 actionable ways you can recognize, celebrate, and engage your workforce through the month of September and beyond.
Gauraa at SmartGift
September 13th 2021Sep 13, 2021

Employee engagement has been a trending catchphrase in business for a few years now. In 2015, popular business fable writer Patrick M. Lencioni published a book entitled The Truth About Employee Engagement, which highlighted the proliferation of job misery in contemporary work culture. Lencioni identified the three factors of job misery as anonymity (employees feeling unrecognized by management); irrelevance (employees feeling disconnected and unfulfilled by their jobs), and immeasurement (employees feeling unable to gauge the progress and contributions at work).

Lencioni further suggested that the signs of a miserable job (or, "root causes of job misery") can be cured by management through one simple lens: employee engagement.

Now, a year and a half into the pandemic, quit rates are climbing like never before. As HR and business leaders pivot to hybrid operations and remote teams, employee engagement is transcending from buzzword to an immediate and prevalent, day-to-day reality.

Why is employee engagement important?

High employee engagement scores are directly tied to a company’s work environment, culture, and leadership. It can boost more than just employee productivity. Highly engaged workplaces see double the success rates of companies with disengaged employees; significantly lower absences, and fewer safety and quality incidents.

Yet, while several studies indicate that a positive workplace culture leads to motivated, loyal, and connected employees, only one in two global employees is currently engaged at work — a statistic that forebodes high turnover, not to mention added costs in recruiting, onboarding, and training new employees.

As part of our Team Engagement Series, we’ve covered the importance of improving employee engagement; the need to go beyond birthdays, first-day parties, and once-a-year reviews. We’ve discussed how a touch of humanity can go a long way in recognizing your employee’s constraints and goals, leading to a more dedicated and loyal workforce. We’ve highlighted how celebrating success and diverse, equitable, and inclusive practices aren’t optional anymore — they’re downright necessary.

Now, it’s time to implement those employee engagement tools in everyday practice.

Employee Engagement Goals for National Self-Care Awareness Month

September marks National Self-Care Awareness Month, a time to regroup and check in with one’s physical, mental, and emotional sense of well-being. While it might be easy to shrug off self-care as the employee’s responsibility, it is vital for management to provide staff with the time and resources for personal upkeep.

According to Ginger’s Third Annual Workforce Attitudes Toward Mental Health Report, 96% of company CEOs believe they are doing enough for the mental health of their employees, but only 69% of employees feel the same. Ginger’s report also shows that the average American employee does not feel their company is fully accepting of their mental health issues.

As managers and employers, it is salient to recognize employees as human beings first, and remember that employees will be unlikely to meet expectations at work if they don’t feel healthy and cared-for.

To help support your employees, here are employee engagement best practices you can implement during National Self-Care Awareness Month, and beyond.

Mental Wellness Education, Awareness, and Campaigns

Whether dealing with burnout or a chronic invisible disability like depression or anxiety, studies show that over half of the American workforce doesn’t feel seen and supported by their workplace. 24% of American employees agree that mental health awareness campaigns reduce stigma.

The pandemic has only amplified pre-outbreak mental health concerns, and people especially need extra support at this time. Now more than ever, it is important to create awareness and educate employees on mental health resources, and medical benefits.

One of the best employee engagement examples is AT&T’s Stamp Out Stigma campaign. Launched in 2018, Stamp Out Stigma encouraged employees “to take a pledge to reduce stigma around mental health and substance misuse.”

The company used their social media presence to amplify their message, collecting over 11,000 employee pledges. This shone a spotlight on invisible disabilities such as anxiety and depression, and recognized the existing struggles of employees. The company additionally elevated their campaign to promote and expand proactive depression screenings as well as counseling services for their employees.

You can follow in AT&T’s footsteps, tailoring the campaign to your company’s size or budget. To engage remote workers, you can offer video guides that direct staff to the right resources for them. For better remote employee engagement, it’s important to ensure that your company has health programs that meet the employee where they are — via text, app, website, or through a call.

Encourage Employees to Take Their Paid Time Off (PTO)

Data show that only 57% of workers use their allotted vacation time each year. The remaining 43% let their leave roll over to the next year, a statistic that continues to enlarge throughout the pandemic. As burnout and exhaustion continue to proliferate, National Self-Care Awareness Month is a great time to remind employees to recharge.

The managers at HealthJoy prefer to lead by example. They regularly talk with their employees about taking their own PTO, adding details about their off time, and aspects they’re looking forward to, in conversations. This establishes a level of comfort with employees, and encourages them to take time off for themselves.

Tracy Winn, a senior HR advisor at Houston’s G&A Partners, also advocates being vocal about PTO with employees. “When managers are intentional about making time for themselves [with] regularly scheduled personal development, being strict with their work and nonwork hours—their teams have followed suit,” says Winn.

John Linden, an interior designer and Los Angeles based MirrorCoop, adds that it’s important to start having conversations about holiday plans with staff as you approach the end of the year. “Then you know what they have planned, and you can encourage them to follow up on it and take the time off.”

Make Adjustments to Their Work Schedule

If the past year and a half have taught us anything, it’s that equitable workplace practices, such as flexible work schedules, are key to better company culture. To cultivate a happy and productive workforce, it’s crucial to ensure that your employees are not being overworked.

According to Forbes, Goldman Sachs “conducted a survey of its nearly 40,000 employees, held high-level meetings with its top executives and sought out advice from outside consultants on how to placate its staff.” Keeping in mind employee health, safety, and the stress of commuting, the company revoked its call for bankers, brokers, and traders to return to the office. CEO David Solomon additionally offered bankers the opportunity to take off on Saturdays, lowering the company’s demanding 100-hour week.

After appointing a new CEO, Citigroup took similar, if not more drastic and necessary, steps. Jane Fraser decided to ban internal video calls on Fridays. She also called for a new company-wide holiday called “Citi Reset Day”, a day for employees to reset, decompress, and take care of themselves. Google encouraged employees to take Fridays off as a “collective well-being” holiday.

Whether you allot more PTO, or reduce employee hours, now is a great time for your company to similarly address employee’s boundaries and work-life balance.

Whichever actionable steps you choose to take during National Self-Care Awareness Month, it’s important to recognize that employees are diverse human beings who bring their own set of unique experiences, traits, and personalities to work. Check-in with them regularly to see how they’re coping, and make adjustments accordingly.

Employee Engagement Action Plan for Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to honor and recognize the culture and contributions of Hispanic and Latinx Americans. It’s also a great opportunity to make Hispanic and Latinx employees feel respected, valued, and rooted in your company culture.

Host an Event to Empower Hispanic-Identifying Employees

As discussed in earlier posts, office celebrations are excellent drivers of employee engagement, and have been shown to boost motivation and morale among staff.

Your company can follow in the footsteps of Google, who has hosted summits like Latinas at Google to connect and celebrate Latinx employees. Cultivating an annual celebration also presents a chance to feature prominent speakers in the community and invite them to talk about culture. Tailor the event to your employees’ preferences, bringing in food from different Hispanic and Latin American countries.

If your company is remote, you can organize a virtual event for NHHM and have food delivered to your employee’s remote workspace. Acknowledging the identity and culture of your staff is one of the most effective tools to foster inclusion.

Educate Management and Employees

To truly foster an inclusive culture, it’s important for managers and employees to be aware and educated about their team members’ identities. Partner with a Latinx restaurant and host a Lunch and Learn to provide employees the information and resources to support Hispanic and Latinx-identifying employees. In 2021, there is no reason employees shouldn’t understand and respect one’s terms of identification. Per Forbes, “Understanding these cultural nuances will demonstrate to employees that diversity and inclusion is a priority within your organization.”

Create an Employee Resource Group for Latinx and Hispanic American Employees

According to HR Drive, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) help promote diversity and make workers feel more included in company culture. Forming an office community not only mitigates feelings of loneliness and isolation, but it can also help employees champion each other and organize different cultural events to further foster inclusion.

Companies with successful ERGs that drive engagement include Black Rock, Google, Ernst & Young, and many more.

Conduct Pay Audits to Ensure Equality for Latinx and Hispanic American Employees

There is trust in transparency, and it’s unlikely that employees will feel connected to your company without first creating a culture of trust. Tech giants such as Facebook and Microsoft conduct frequent pay audits and don’t shy away from talking about pay practices publicly. Conducting pay audits can demonstrate true equity to your diverse employees, in that they are being equally compensated for their work.

As with all employee engagement models, employee feedback is necessary. Discuss what’s best for workers by asking employee engagement questions, or conduct sample employee engagement survey questions to see how employees would like to experience diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

While September presents two unique sets of opportunities for employee engagement, it is vital to develop and sustain these strategies throughout the year. Remember: a year-round strategy of workplace appreciation can positively affect company culture and leave you with a better bottom line.

For more employee engagement action plan examples, visit our Team Engagement Series.

Small interactions can have big impacts on company culture. SmartGift’s Team Engagement Series aims to define challenges and pain points for employees while offering solutions for different work environments.