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Companies that have a highly engaged workforce are 21% more profitable than those who don’t. Employees are your lifeblood. When they’re engaged, they help your company thrive by being:

  • Highly productive
  • Willing to go above and beyond to solve problems
  • Acutely focused on their goals

Despite these benefits, only about a third of employees are engaged since most managers don’t take the time to help their team succeed. To solve this, here are seven employee engagement activities that will transform your dissatisfied workforce into one that’s passionate about their work.

4 engaged employees sitting at desk and chatting.

1) Provide Flexible Professional Development Opportunities

A survey of 2,000+ employees found that employees are 15% more engaged when they have access to professional development opportunities. With the rapid pace of change in most roles, employees need on-going training to feel confident in their positions.

Since it’s nearly impossible to create a one-size-fits-all training program that fits the schedules and needs of everyone on your team, offer flexible options including:

  • Online course libraries such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy.
  • A robust, internal resource library that includes how-to’s, FAQs, and other information.
  • A learning stipend for employees to purchase books, seminars and other educational items they’re interested in.

These kinds of professional development programs boost engagement by giving employees on-demand access to the training they need.

Related: How to Boost Productivity with Knowledge Management Systems

 

2) Give Employees the Autonomy to Expand Their Roles

A study from the University of Birmingham found that employees with high levels of work autonomy are more engaged and have a greater sense of overall well being. Autonomy is such a powerful driver of employee engagement since it affects two aspects of employee morale:

  1. It shows you have trust and confidence in them.
  2. It empowers them to expand their roles to fit new interests and company needs.

If you have creative, hardworking employees (which hopefully you do), they see areas of improvement outside of their role and want to tackle them. To keep them engaged, let them pitch project ideas to you and, as long as the projects are valuable and don’t affect their performance, empower them to move forward.

Allowing employees to expand their roles prevents their work from getting boring and allows you to fully leverage their talent.

 

3) Create a Mentorship Program

Research shows that people are 70% more likely to achieve their goals if they share them with a mentor. Mentors not only provide advice that pushes difficult projects forward, but they also give both mentors and mentees a greater sense of belonging and purpose in your organization.

To maximize the impact of this employee engagement activity, you need to implement it in all levels of your organization. The easiest way to roll out a mentoring program is to assign every employee one to three people below them to mentor, give them guidelines for meeting frequency, and some questions to spark productive conversations.

Don’t know where to start? This guide contains plenty of tips and conversation topics to make your program successful:

Here’s How to Have a Mutually Successful Mentoring Relationship

 

4) Celebrate Small Achievements

A Ciero study found that being recognized is the biggest factor that motivates employees to worker harder. Despite this, many managers only recognize employees for major accomplishments, leaving employees feeling unengaged and underappreciated.

Several months can go by between when employees set a record, makes a breakthrough, completes a project that has a significant impact or achieves another major goal. Thus, waiting for big wins to celebrate employee success can cause people to go long periods when they feel underappreciated.

Instead, casually recognize your team for small wins including:

  • Hitting a milestone on a long-term project.
  • Having a great meeting performance.
  • Making consistent progress.

Frequent recognition shows employees that you see their hard work and consider them a valuable part of your team.

 

5) Give Frequent, Valuable Feedback

A study from Zenger Folkman found that employees who work with managers who score in the top 10% for giving feedback are three times more engaged than those who have bosses who score in the bottom 10 for giving feedback.

For feedback to be valuable, it needs to be:

  • Specific enough that your employees know exactly what they did well or how they need to improve.
  • Delivered shortly after the event occurred. The faster you address issues and deliver praise, the more impactful the feedback is.
  • A conversation where employees have the opportunity to ask clarifying questions and share their perspectives. This limits defensiveness and prevents you from overlooking valid issues your employees faced.

If you and your direct reports aren’t used to giving/receiving feedback, developing this habit may inspire some defensiveness on both sides. To have productive conversations, you need to establish psychological safety. Here’s how:

Want Employees to Embrace Feedback? Improve Psychological Safety

 

6) Encourage Candid, Vulnerable Conversations

If you have a culture where employees fear bringing up their challenges will be met with harsh judgment or useless responses like “just figure it out,” your employees will not be engaged. Instead, they’ll seclude themselves when they’re struggling and feel like no one at the company supports them.

To help your team stay focused and complete projects efficiently, you need to encourage them to have candid, vulnerable conversations.

In your meetings, ask them about the challenges they’re facing and encourage everyone to offer constructive advice that guides them to a solution either by pointing out something they missed or suggesting resources they can use to overcome their roadblock. Your team’s collective knowledge will solve problems quickly and make them feel supported.

Related: 4 Strategies to Ignite a Culture of Continuous Improvement

 

7) Host Learning Lunches

Learning lunches are an easy way to foster a continuous learning culture and keep all of your employees engaged with all of the new things happening in your company.

Hosting them is easy. All you have to do is:

  • Block off at least two hours per month during lunchtime for a video conference that anyone can join.
  • Invite internal experts to create a brief presentation on a topic they think everyone else should know about.
  • Have your experts spend thirty to forty-five minutes sharing their topic followed by a Q & A session.

If you have an innovative product or service that’s constantly evolving, these lunches allow your experts to educate the rest of the company about what’s happening in the industry. That knowledge will inspire employees to be more engaged and passionate about the role they play in bringing those innovative ideas to life.

 

About the Author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

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