Why is employee engagement important?

When you've gone through a recruitment process and found some great new employees to join your team, the last thing you want is for them to leave because the reality didn't match their expectations. The 2022 CIPD Good Work Index found that 20% of employees planned to leave their job for various reasons, including greater job satisfaction, a better work-life balance or improved pay and benefits.

Engaged employees are more likely to stay in their current roles or with the same company. In the current climate, businesses can't rely on company loyalty, which means you need to work to improve employee engagement and retention.

Of course, there are other business reasons for increasing employee engagement and retention beyond avoiding another lengthy (potentially expensive) recruitment process. Engaged employees build relationships with your customers. They also develop new skills and greater product knowledge over time. When you improve employee engagement and reduce employee turnover, you keep those valuable skills within your business rather than losing them to your competitors.

How to improve employee engagement and retention

If you want to increase employee engagement, you'll need to develop a range of employee engagement strategies. Employees increasingly seek employment that matches their values and a company that values them. To make your employees feel valued and part of something worthwhile, you must implement employee engagement strategies in every business area.

Here are a few of the main methods you can use to increase employee engagement and retention in your business.

1. Communicate your company values

While employees may once have been happy to stay in a stable job for most of their working life, that's no longer the case. Job satisfaction and feeling part of an organisation that shares your values is becoming increasingly important, particularly as more Gen Z employees join the workforce. Ensuring employees feel your company values chime with their own is a great way to increase employee retention and engagement.

A positive company culture is vital. There are various ways to communicate your company culture and values. Ensure your team have adequate information about company policies, benefits and your goals and values.

Often, the best way to communicate your company culture is to ensure your leadership team demonstrates it. If you say that your company prioritises a good work-life balance, encourage middle management to go home on time so that employees feel able to do the same. Employee engagement and retention will likely plummet if leaders say one thing and do the opposite.

2. Measure employee engagement

When you measure employee engagement, you get solid, actionable data that tells you whether you have engaged employees or a team ready to head for the door. It's wise to start with some parameters to allow you to assess current levels of employee engagement and measure your progress over time. You could ask whether employees feel valued and can see a future with your business or whether you're helping them to achieve their career development goals.

You can survey employees and ask specific questions or start a focus group to allow staff from different business areas to share their views. Meeting in person will enable you to share information relating to the company culture and assess areas where you may need to offer additional information or new training programs.

It's also worth assessing other metrics, such as employee turnover, productivity rates and sickness absence. Stressed and demotivated employees are more likely to phone in sick, while engaged employees are more likely to be productive.

Group of employees on a lesson on team building.

3. Offer positive feedback

Offering employee feedback is essential to their development. While constructive criticism has a role to play, employees crave feedback in a more general sense. Positive comments show your team you value them and give you a more engaged workforce. There are various ways to show your appreciation.

The simplest method is to thank employees when they do a good job. You can encourage employees to offer praise to their colleagues as part of a positive company culture so it becomes a regular part of their working week.

You can also consider a reward program that allows staff or clients to nominate people they think are worthy of official recognition. Rewards could include a certificate, financial bonus or a treat such as chocolates or a bottle of wine that you present in front of their colleagues.

If your team has successfully delivered good results on a challenging or long-running project, consider inviting them to an end-of-project celebration. This could be a meal out or drinks after work. It's a great employee engagement strategy as it helps your team feel valued and lets employees build good workplace relationships.

4. Give employees opportunities for growth

Offering your team clear career development opportunities increase employee retention as it helps them to imagine a future with your company. CIPD research found that many low-paid employees felt trapped in their current roles as they lacked the training or opportunities to pursue other career paths.

Providing information about the career development opportunities available within a specific part of the business or the company as a whole allows employees to visualise the path their career could take.

Offering training programs in-house is an excellent employee engagement strategy as it allows employees to upskill, and your business also benefits. You could also consider external training if appropriate. Mentoring programs can be a valuable employee engagement tool, allowing more experienced employees to pass on their skills and knowledge.

5. Promote a healthy work-life balance

A healthy work-life balance is a key priority for many workers, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognising that a good work-life balance looks different for each employee lets you improve employee engagement by implementing various strategies depending on an employee's needs.

When creating a strategy, encourage employees to provide feedback on the types of support they would value. For example, parents may appreciate the opportunity to work flexibly around the school run, while others prefer to shift their working hours to avoid commuting during rush hour.

Offering flexible working or allowing staff to work from home some of the time can increase engagement and employee retention as it makes employees feel valued.

Even if your team all work in the office 9-5, you can help them create a healthy balance by encouraging staff to take a proper lunch break instead of eating a sandwich at their desk.

6. Help employees to build workplace relationships

Good workplace relationships are a powerful indicator of how happy and successful an employee will likely be. Strong relationships can improve employee engagement by enabling employees to seek support from their colleagues when needed. When your company culture supports open communication between staff and managers, it can improve employee retention because your team can discuss any challenges and have problems addressed sooner rather than later.

We've already discussed some employee engagement strategies that enable staff to offer and receive feedback on their work. Allowing employees to get to know each other outside work in a more relaxed environment can also be beneficial. Choosing different methods of achieving this increases employee engagement as people can attend events that suit their preferences and circumstances.

Social events

Company socials are great for employee engagement as they allow staff to relax and get to know each other. Consider your staff's needs when deciding what form these should take. Drinks after work may be ideal for some but impractical for employees with children or other commitments.

A lunchtime event where your company supplies the food encourages your team to take a break and get away from their desks. If your staff work mainly from home, a daytime event at a local venue can enhance employee engagement as employees can meet face-to-face rather than over Zoom.

If your employees have families, consider a family picnic open to all staff, partners, spouses and children. This type of event is perfect if your company culture centres on family-friendly working.

Activities during the working day

Social events don't have to be about food and drink, although it's an excellent way to encourage attendance. If you want to promote the benefits of taking a proper lunch break, consider running lunchtime training sessions or a group walk. Training sessions don't have to be work-related. They can engage employees by discussing well-being topics or include activities such as yoga or mindfulness.

Sessions like these can increase employee retention as they help staff feel valued and show them that you're interested in their well-being outside of work.

7. Promote workplace well-being

If you want to increase engagement and employee retention, workplace well-being is a great place to start. Recent research suggests that workplace stress and burnout are on the rise, which means that employees are focusing more on ways to take care of their physical and mental health. Workplace wellness programs have a positive impact on employee engagement.

There are many elements you can include in your wellness programs. Taking a holistic view is a good start. Some employee engagement initiatives also have well-being benefits, for example, arranging a lunchtime walk or training sessions that allow employees to try healthy food or learn how to manage stress. NICE guidelines offer helpful recommendations for encouraging staff to become more active during their working day.

You can encourage staff to eat healthily by offering free healthy snacks or a subsidised canteen. Alternatively, encourage your team to make their lunch at home by providing a secure place to store food and somewhere clean and welcoming for them to eat and relax.

Supporting mental health

Stress and anxiety can have a significant impact on employee engagement and their ability to work effectively. Providing support that allows employees to talk about their worries or challenges in a safe and confidential environment can help them to avoid burnout and feel supported and valued at work.

An employee assistance program can provide confidential third-party counselling, among other benefits. Some services provide legal and financial advice to offer practical assistance. Many business health insurance policies offer employee assistance to their customers at no additional cost.

Their success is the product of meticulous planning. Shot of a team of creative businesspeople brainstorming around a laptop in the office.

8. Offer the right employee benefits

CIPD research found that 35% of employees considering leaving their jobs were seeking better pay and benefits elsewhere. A competitive salary will help you attract top talent, but the benefits you offer can also increase engagement and lead to higher employee retention.

We've already discussed some benefits you can offer, such as flexible working and mental health support. Including life cover and health insurance in your employee benefits package can also have positive benefits.

Life insurance

A group life insurance policy gives your employees death-in-service benefits, so they know their loved ones will be looked after when they're gone. This is good for employee engagement as it shows your employees that you value them and care about their family's needs.

You can take out a group policy that covers your entire workforce. The premiums are an allowable business expense for corporation tax purposes, so you can deduct them from your bill. Policies provide cover for employees during their employment with you; if they leave to go to another job, the coverage will end. Otherwise, a policy can provide cover up until an employee's intended retirement date.

If an employee dies during their employment with you, the policy gives their dependents a tax-free lump sum. Death doesn't have to occur at work or because of a workplace accident. The policy will cover them as long as they're still an employee.

Health insurance

Health insurance is a highly valued employee benefit as it gives your employees access to private medical treatment, allowing them to skip NHS waiting lists. It makes employees feel valued and can form a core part of your company's wellness programs.

Business health insurance includes services that vary depending on your company's size. These can include support in developing wellness programs, including employee health assessments that give you valuable data. They can also support employees in achieving their health goals, offering discounted gym memberships or smoking cessation advice.

Many policies include employee assistance programs which offer access to counselling and other mental health support.

Perks and discounts

If you've invested in employee health insurance, you'll likely have access to various perks and discounts, including free coffees, discounted cinema tickets and fitness trackers. Vitality's rewards program allows members to earn discounts by hitting their well-being goals and could also earn you a discount on your premiums.

You can also opt for a separate rewards program giving your employees discounts on products and services to improve employee engagement. Allowing your team to save money is valuable, particularly during a cost-of-living crisis.

9. Review your onboarding process

A positive company culture starts when a new staff member first arrives. You can begin the onboarding process before they arrive by sending them information about the company and what they can expect on their first day. Sending paperwork ahead of time avoids the need to start their employment by filling out forms. A welcome pack with a branded mug or water bottle can also help them to feel part of the team immediately.

A solid onboarding process helps new employees to build workplace relationships from their first day. Assigning a new starter with a buddy gives them a point of contact for any questions. Involving employees and managers from their team and other business areas helps new employees feel included. You can also have work shadowing to allow employees to understand how different parts of the company operate.

A new starter has a lot of information to take in, so establish regular review sessions to invite feedback and address any early teething problems. Even existing employees can forget about the employee benefits they have available, so consider ways to share information in a way that offers regular reminders.

10. Create a welcoming workplace

Your working environment can significantly impact employee engagement. Your staff will feel much more engaged and motivated to come to a pleasant and welcoming workplace. Improving the physical environment can increase engagement and reduce absenteeism.

An inviting office space with plenty of light, attractive furnishings and appropriate decoration can improve employee engagement and have a positive impact on mental health. Interacting with nature can also boost your mood; you can harness this by bringing plants into your workspace where practical.

Physical comfort is also essential, so consider including standing desks or ergonomic seating for desk-based employees. These can help to alleviate or prevent musculoskeletal issues and enable employees to move around more during the day.

In some environments, practicality and safety demand that your workspace be relatively spartan. However, you can still provide comfortable break rooms for your team to relax and recharge. As we've already mentioned, giving staff a suitable space to sit and eat can encourage healthy eating.

11. Give something back

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a frequently used buzzword recently. However, your CSR strategy can form a crucial part of your employee engagement strategy. Research has found that involvement in charitable work and volunteering has a positive impact on employee engagement as it can help employees to feel part of a community and share their values at work.

If you use surveys or focus groups to get feedback on employee engagement, consider including a question about your employees' interests outside work, the charities and causes they support and any volunteer work they already do. This approach allows you to identify the types of charity work that will likely engage your workforce.

CSR strategy

You can develop your strategy and contact local organisations, perhaps by choosing a local charity your business will support throughout the year. This can benefit your company and the charity by raising your profiles and increasing brand awareness, particularly if your staff undertake volunteer work that offers a good photo opportunity for the local press.

The type of volunteer work or fundraising you do can vary depending on staff preferences and the charity's needs. Some organisations need practical project support, for example, a team of volunteers to decorate a venue or improve its outside space. Others prefer donations of supplies or money, allowing you to arrange a fundraising event or collect and sort donations at your office.

Get in touch

At Globacare, we provide specialist advice tailored to your business. We'll help you find insurance policies that offer excellent benefits to your team and improve employee engagement and retention.

Contact us for a comparison quote.

Sam Zainal
Senior Broker

Sam Zainal

Sam has been in the industry for over 11 years and has extensive experience in customer service and protection insurance.

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