Employee engagement is not just a buzzword but a critical component of organizational success. Employees are integral to your business, making choices every day that impact the workforce and your organization.

Engaged employees typically produce better business outcomes in this regard, yet according to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace 2023 Report, only 23% of employees worldwide are engaged at work.

In today's competitive business landscape, prioritizing employee engagement is essential for driving growth and maintaining a competitive edge. But how can businesses improve employee engagement?

We’ll explore ten effective strategies to boost employee engagement, ranging from fostering a culture of recognition to leveraging technology and encouraging employee autonomy.

Increase employee engagement: understanding the basics

Employee engagement refers to the emotional commitment employees have towards their organization and its goals. Engaged employees are:

  • Enthusiastic about their work
  • Willing to go the extra mile
  • Deeply connected to other team members
  • Motivated to overcome obstacles
  • Share company values and strive to uphold them
  • Aligned with the company's mission

In contrast, disengaged employees complete the minimum that is required of them but are unlikely to go above and beyond. They may not outwardly express their dissatisfaction about their role but are:

  • Unenthusiastic about their work
  • Less inclined to get involved in additional projects
  • Unattached to the organization or their colleagues
  • Indifferent to contributing towards the company's success

Analyses have consistently shown a strong correlation between high levels of employee engagement and improved business performance. One study found that highly engaged employees resulted in a:

  • 23% increase in profitability
  • 18% increase in productivity
  • 10% improvement in customer loyalty/engagement
  • 81% reduction in absenteeism
  • 58% decrease in patient safety incidents
  • 43% reduction in employee turnover for low-turnover organizations
  • 64% fewer safety incidents

Many factors can influence and improve employee engagement, including job satisfaction, company culture, communication, inclusivity and leadership. Employers must evaluate these facets of their business and implement proactive strategies to address shortcomings if they want to improve employee engagement in the workplace.

Strategy 1: Foster a culture of recognition and appreciation

Recognizing and appreciating employees' contributions is key to enhancing employee engagement. Research has found that affirmation, feedback, and reward are the most important drivers of great work, with 37% of employees stating they need their employers to recognize them.

In organizations where employees feel recognized, there is generally a correlation to a great company culture as well. Compared to employees who don't feel consistently appreciated, employees who do are:

  • 2.6 times more likely to think that promotions are fair
  • 2.2 times more likely to drive innovation and bring new ideas forward
  • Twice as likely to say people in their workplace are willing to go above and beyond

Employee recognition programs and initiatives for boosting employee engagement

There are many ways that employers can recognize and reward employees. But to best improve employee engagement and foster a culture of appreciation, employers should consider the demographics and individual needs of their employees, and implement multiple avenues of recognition such as:

  • Employee of the month: Recognize outstanding performance by selecting one employee each month based on criteria such as productivity, teamwork, or innovation.
  • Peer-to-peer recognition: Encourage employees to acknowledge and appreciate their colleagues' contributions through a formalized peer recognition system.
  • Spot awards: Provide on-the-spot recognition and rewards for exceptional performance, or going above and beyond expectations.
  • Appreciation emails or notes: Send personalized emails or handwritten notes expressing gratitude and appreciation for employees' hard work and dedication.
  • Public acknowledgement: Recognize employees during team meetings, company-wide gatherings, or on social media platforms to celebrate their achievements and contributions.

Practical tips for implementing a culture of appreciation and improving employee engagement

Consistently recognizing your employees takes conscious effort and must be woven into company culture from the top down.

Adopting the following practices can ensure that it is an intrinsic component of the workplace:

  • Lead by example: Demonstrate appreciation for employees' efforts and accomplishments as a leader, setting a positive tone for the entire organization.
  • Make it personal: Tailor recognition efforts to the interests of each individual employee, showing genuine appreciation for each employee's unique contributions.
  • Provide timely recognition: Recognize achievements and milestones promptly to ensure that employees feel valued in the moment.
  • Encourage peer recognition: Foster a culture of appreciation among colleagues by empowering them to recognize and celebrate each other's accomplishments.
  • Offer meaningful rewards: Provide rewards and financial incentives that align with employees' preferences, such as gift cards, extra time off, or professional development opportunities.
  • Solicit employee feedback: Regularly seek input from employees on recognition practices and preferences to ensure that initiatives resonate with them.
  • Celebrate milestones: Acknowledge significant milestones, such as work anniversaries or project completions, with special events, gifts, or recognition ceremonies.
  • Communicate appreciation frequently: Express gratitude and appreciation regularly through verbal praise, written communication, or small gestures of kindness.
  • Integrate recognition into performance management: This can help reinforce desired behaviors and outcomes.

Strategy 2: Encourage effective communication and feedback

Open and transparent communication channels are vital for building trust and improving employee engagement. Almost 95% of CEOs state that effective internal communication is very important to the success of their organization, yet only 22% think they achieve this. Further research revealed that well-connected teams can increase their productivity by up to 25%.

However, effective two-way communication relies on more than just being able to reach all employees via email. It's about the quality of the communication, the methods used to engage employees, and the changes that are made as a result. Employers should:

  • Foster an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of judgment or reprisal. Diversity of thought should be embraced, with leaders encouraging and respecting differing opinions and points of view.
  • Equip managers and other employees with active listening skills so that they can engage attentively, show empathy, and seek understanding during conversations.
  • Employ conflict resolution strategies to address disagreements and resolve issues constructively.
  • Keep employees informed about company goals, decisions, and changes through regular updates, meetings, and communication channels helps maintain employee engagement.
  • Encourage regular feedback sessions, both formal and informal, creating space for employees to voice their concerns and suggestions.

By providing continuous feedback and acknowledging employee input, employers can not only improve employee engagement but also:

  • Demonstrate that employee voices are valued
  • Contribute to a culture of continuous improvement
  • Promote learning and growth
  • Increase motivation
  • Improve relationships
  • Align expectations
  • Facilitate course correction

Strategy 3: Prioritize employee well-being and work-life balance

Supporting employee well-being and promoting work-life balance is essential for sustaining high levels of engagement. Research indicates that well-being and engagement are closely intertwined, with each influencing the other in what is known as the 'wellbeing engagement paradox'.

A study by the CIPD found that 46% of those who strongly agree or agree that their organization has a standalone wellbeing strategy believe it has improved employee engagement and morale, and 27% state productivity has also increased.

Other insights from Gartner reveal that employers who support their employees with their life experience more holistically see a 21% increase in high performers.

How employers can prioritize employee well-being and promote a good work-life balance will vary between organizations, but methods include:

Work breaks

Taking regular work breaks is crucial for maintaining employee well-being and productivity. One survey found that workers who take a lunch break every day score higher on a wide range of employee engagement metrics, including job satisfaction, likelihood to continue working at the same company, and likelihood to recommend their employer to others. Additionally, breaks provide opportunities for socialization for in-office employees, which fosters camaraderie and a positive work environment.


84% of male full-time employees either work flexibly or want to; 91% for female full-time workers. Flexible work arrangements, such as compressed hours or remote work options, empower employees to better manage their work and personal responsibilities.

When employees have control over when and where they work, it leads to higher levels of engagement. According to research by Gallup, the optimal employee engagement boost occurs when employees spend 60% to 80% of their time working off-site.

Health benefits

Providing comprehensive health benefits, including medical, dental, and mental health coverage, demonstrates an organization's commitment to supporting employees' overall health and well-being.

Access to healthcare services and wellness programs promotes good physical and mental health, which reduces absenteeism and improves productivity. Moreover, healthy employees are 59% more likely to be engaged employees at work.

Health benefits encompass a broad array of resources and services with online offerings increasing in popularity in recent years. For example, data shows that toward the end of 2022, the demand for private virtual PCP appointments increased by more than 40%.

Maven is the most comprehensive platform of its kind for women’s and family health, offering critical support that delivers better outcomes for employees. Our members benefit from personal, inclusive care and on-demand support that prioritizes their physical and emotional well-being. From fertility and family-building guidance to expert care throughout menopause, Maven helps employers support employee engagement through digital health care.

Support for parents

89% of families in the US have at least one working parent, and although 69% of employees feel flexibility at work allows them to be more involved in their children's lives, 65% believe there is a disconnect between employers and childcare support. Insights such as these demonstrate why supporting working parents is so important in contributing to employee engagement. Benefits such as parental leave, childcare assistance, pediatric support, and flexible scheduling acknowledge the challenges they face in balancing work and family responsibilities.

These services can  lead to higher levels of engagement, as employees can focus on their work knowing that their employer values their wellbeing, recognizes their responsibilities outside of the workplace, and understands their needs.

Maven's Parenting and Pediatrics program is designed to help parents raise healthy families and thrive in their careers. It provides members with 24/7/365 on-demand access to personalized guidance from pediatricians to behavioral coaches and developmental psychologists.

Paid time off

The average annual amount of paid vacation time for U.S. workers sits at just 11 days. However, paid time off enables employees to take breaks, recharge, and enjoy leisure activities outside of work. It also allows employees to prioritize self-care, spend time with loved ones, and pursue hobbies and interests, leading to improved overall well-being.

When employees have the opportunity to rest and recharge, they return to work feeling refreshed and motivated, which can lead to higher engagement. Research suggests that using annual leave also increases employee productivity by up to 40% and reduces the risk of sick leave by 28%.

If employers want to improve employee engagement, they should encourage employees to take their full quota of paid vacation days and consider increasing the amount of time off they offer their workforce.

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Strategy 4: Provide opportunities for growth and development

Employee engagement increases when they have opportunities to learn, grow, and advance in their careers, yet 80% of professionals don't feel that their current employer facilitates sufficient employee development.

Investing in professional development programs, mentorship initiatives, employee training, and skill-building activities empowers employees to expand their knowledge and capabilities. And offering clear paths for career progression demonstrates the organization's commitment to nurturing talent and employee retention.

There are multiple ways that employers can offer career growth opportunities to their employees. These can align with the company values and business objectives but should also relate to the interests and career development pathways of individual employees.

Such opportunities include:

  • Mentoring
  • Job rotation and cross-training
  • Upskilling
  • Certifications and formal education
  • Online courses and webinars
  • Seminars and workshops
  • Self-directed learning
  • Professional activity
  • Short courses

Strategy 5: Create a collaborative and inclusive work environment

Collaboration, diversity, and inclusivity are key influencers in employee engagement and business success. One survey revealed that inclusive teams are at least 35% more productive than their non-inclusive counterparts, diverse companies earn 2.5x higher cash flow per employee, and organizations in the top quartile for ethnic diversity have a 36% higher likelihood of financial outperformance.

Collaborative and inclusive workplaces cultivate a sense of belonging, help with relationship building, and encourage diverse perspectives. Organizations can promote collaboration through team-building activities, cross-functional projects, and inclusive decision-making processes.

Fostering a culture of respect and diversity ensures that all employees feel valued and included, contributing to higher levels of engagement and innovation.

Inclusive practices that can increase employee engagement

Inclusive practices within the workplace not only foster diversity but also significantly boost employee engagement.

Below are examples of initiatives that employers can implement within their business to drive diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workforce and improve employee engagement at an individual level:

  • Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Establish ERGs to provide a platform for employees with similar backgrounds, interests, or identities to connect, support each other, and advocate for inclusivity in the workplace.
  • Diversity and inclusion training: Offer training programs and workshops to raise awareness about diversity and inclusion, address unconscious biases, and promote inclusive behaviors among employees and leaders.
  • Flexible work arrangements: Implement flexible work policies that accommodate employees' diverse needs and preferences, such as remote work options, flexible hours, or compressed work weeks.
  • Inclusive leadership development: Invest in leadership development programs that encourage managers to adopt inclusive leadership practices, such as active listening, empathy, and fostering a culture of belonging among team members.
  • Diverse hiring practices: Implement an inclusive hiring process that enables the business to attract diverse and talented new employees and improve employee retention, such as using diverse candidate slates, minimizing bias in recruitment processes, and creating inclusive job descriptions.

Strategy 6: Leverage technology to enhance engagement

Technology can be a powerful tool for improving communication, collaboration, and employee engagement. A recent survey found that 66% of respondents whose organizations have high-quality digital tools in place say their organization has strong employee engagement, compared to only 41% of organizations who use little or no high-quality digital tools.

A further 57% of people believe that high-quality digital tools are a 'very or extremely important' factor in employee engagement. However, 91% feel that supportive, proactive managers are the most important, and 88% say that strong internal communications are a critical factor. This indicates that while using technology is worthwhile, it must be done so in a purposeful way.

Digital tools and platforms that facilitate employee engagement

By leveraging technology effectively, organizations can overcome geographical barriers and create meaningful engagement with and amongst employees in the office and remotely.

Numerous digital tools and platforms can improve employee engagement including:

  • Company intranet
  • Digital feedback systems
  • Communication tools
  • Virtual team-building activities
  • Collaboration platforms
  • Digital workspaces
  • Analytics
  • CRM software
  • File sharing
  • Project management platforms
  • Virtual health and wellbeing services, like Maven

Strategy 7: Align individual and organizational goals

Aligning individual goals with company objectives creates a sense of purpose and direction among employees while also providing clarity and focus across the entire organization. Managers can work with their teams to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals that are aligned with the organization's mission and vision and drive employee engagement in standalone tasks. Regularly reviewing progress and providing support will ensure that employees understand how their work contributes to the company's success, driving motivation and engagement.

Strategy 8: Implement effective leadership and management practices

Leaders play a crucial role in shaping organizational culture and fostering employee engagement. The highest driver in improving employee engagement is employees feeling like their leaders genuinely care about them, yet only 28% strongly believe that this is the case.

76% of employees who have empathetic managers report being very engaged at work. However, more than half of employees say leadership empathy is disingenuous. In addition, when management makes genuine employee recognition a priority, employees are 40% more engaged, but more than 80% of employees feel they don’t get enough recognition at work.

Characteristics of effective leaders who improve employee engagement

Leaders who embody the following characteristics not only help improve employee engagement in the workplace but also drive organizational success by creating environments where employees feel motivated, supported, and empowered to perform at their best:

  • Visionary: Inspires employees with a compelling vision for the future and articulates how their work contributes to the organization's mission and goals.
  • Communicative: Openly communicates with employees, actively listens to them, and fosters a culture of transparency and trust.
  • Empathetic: Demonstrates understanding of employees' needs, challenges, and aspirations.
  • Authentic: Leads with integrity, authenticity, and humility, aligning words with actions and building credibility with their team members.
  • Supportive: Provides guidance, mentorship, and resources to help employees grow, develop, and succeed in their roles.
  • Collaborative: Encourages teamwork, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing among employees, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie within the team.
  • Resilient: Demonstrates resilience and adaptability in the face of challenges and setbacks, inspiring confidence and perseverance among team members.

Strategy 9: Encourage employee autonomy and empowerment

Empowering employees to make decisions and take ownership of their work is pivotal in improving employee engagement and motivation. Research from Effectory shows that 79% of employees with autonomy are engaged at work.

Providing autonomy allows employees to use their creativity and expertise to solve problems and innovate. Moreover, empowering employees fosters a sense of accountability and responsibility, leading to higher job satisfaction and performance.

Ways to empower employees include:

  • Delegating authority and decision-making responsibilities
  • Providing opportunities for skill development and career growth
  • Encouraging open communication and active participation in decision-making processes
  • Recognizing and celebrating employees' achievements and contributions
  • Fostering a culture of trust and accountability

Strategy 10: Regularly measure and improve engagement levels

Knowing which strategies to use to improve employee engagement isn't possible unless you have a sound understanding of how employees currently feel. Therefore, gaining employee feedback on a routine basis is a necessary step in your overall employee engagement strategy. This provides valuable insights into organizational strengths and areas for improvement.

Analyzing engagement data allows companies to proactively identify trends, address issues, and refine engagement strategies. And involving employees in the feedback process demonstrates transparency and reinforces their importance in driving organizational success.

You can measure employee engagement through:

  • An employee engagement survey
  • Pulse surveys
  • Performance reviews
  • One-on-ones
  • Reviews of employee absent rates
  • employee Net Promoter Scores (eNPS)
  • Focus groups

Boost employee engagement with virtual care from Maven

It's evident that employee engagement is a fundamental driver of organizational success. The key facets of any employment engagement strategy revolve around communication, robust support from leadership, and creating an environment where employees are empowered to thrive in all aspects of their lives. By implementing the ten strategies outlined in this article, you can ensure employees feel valued and are motivated and committed to achieving common goals.

Maven supports employers in achieving this with a new kind of healthcare experience that eliminates care gaps, improves member health, and transforms workplace culture. If you're an employer who wants to engage employees through the provision of innovative healthcare benefits, book a demo with us today.

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