8 Employee Engagement Activities That Actually Work in 2024

You’ve likely heard the term employee engagement—and you probably know it’s important. But traditional employee engagement activities and strategies are often geared toward larger organizations with hundreds, if not thousands, of employees. 

So what can small businesses do to boost employee engagement and improve employee morale?

Keep reading as we share our top employee engagement tips and some simple, yet effective, employee engagement activities for small businesses.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a measure of how excited and committed an employee is to their work. Put simply, it helps you understand if your employees actually care about their work—and by extension, your business—or are just doing the bare minimum to get by.

Employee engagement can be influenced in many ways, but employees who are engaged often feel:

  • Valued by their peers and employer
  • A sense of purpose in their work
  • That they’re learning or growing in their role

Just because your employees aren’t engaged, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing bad work. It just means there’s an opportunity for improvement. When employees are engaged in their work, they tend to be happier, more motivated, and have higher morale. The result? Better business outcomes for your small business.

Why is employee engagement important for small businesses?

Engaged employees are typically happier, but engagement goes far beyond just employee morale. In fact, having engaged employees has been proven to be better for business. 

But with only 32% of full- and part-time employees in the US engaged in the workplace, it’s clear businesses of all shapes and sizes should be making employee engagement a priority.

Don’t just take our word for it. We’ve rounded up some stats from a Gallup study that prove that employee engagement matters—even for small businesses

  • Teams that are engaged are 18% more productive than those that aren’t.
  • Businesses with highly engaged employees experience 28% less theft.
  • Teams with low employee engagement have turnover rates 18-43% higher than those that are highly engaged.
  • Businesses with highly engaged teams have 10% better customer loyalty.
  • Less engaged teams experience up to 81% more employee absenteeism.

How to craft an employee engagement strategy 

The case for better employee engagement is crystal clear.  But actually improving engagement takes a little extra thought.

Here are a few steps to help you approach your small business employee engagement strategy:

1. Take a closer look at your current employee engagement

Typically any time you implement a new business strategy, you’ll want to get the lay of the land first. This gives you a sense of where you’re at now. The same goes for employee engagement. 

By understanding your current employee engagement levels, you’ll be able to set a benchmark. Over time, you’ll be able to measure against the benchmark to see if the activities you’ve implemented are making a positive impact.

2. Gather employee feedback

No one knows your employees better than they do. So before taking the time to invest in employee engagement strategies, it’s worth asking your team what matters most to them. 

There are many ways to collect employee feedback, whether it’s through surveys or even one-on-one meetings. It can feel like an extra step, but the last thing you want to do is spend time planning activities that won’t move the needle.

Consider collecting feedback anonymously to give employees an opportunity to share honest and open feedback that they might hesitate to share otherwise.

3. Implement employee engagement activities

Now that you know what’s important to your team, it’s time to take action. Here’s where you’ll narrow down your employee engagement activities to ones that will address any existing concerns.

But here’s the thing: there are so many great employee engagement activities that it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to implement everything at once.

Instead, pick one or two areas to focus on where you can really make an impact. For example, let’s say you’ve discovered that employees are concerned about a lack of development and learning opportunities. While a team bonding session might sound more fun, you’ll likely see more success by implementing an employee development program.

Feeling stuck on potential employee engagement activities? We can help! Keep reading for a list of eight of our top employee engagement activities for small businesses.

4. Measure employee engagement progress

When it comes to small business employee engagement, it’s easy to just set it and forget it. 

But whether it’s cash or your time, it takes resources to carry out employee engagement activities. So how can you make sure you’re getting a return on your investment? By measuring your progress.

And we get it—you have a lot going on. But taking the time to check in on your progress will go a long way in making sure your employee engagement strategy is on the right track.

How to measure the success of employee engagement activities 

They say what gets measured gets done, and this certainly holds for employee engagement. 

But here’s the challenge: there’s no one metric to measure employee engagement. In order to understand the success of your employee engagement activities, you need to look at several different metrics.

Some common metrics that can help you track employee engagement include:

  • Employee productivity: This is a measure of employee output. Depending on your business, this can look like anything from increased sales to more customers served. An increase in employee productivity can often correlate with higher employee engagement.
  • Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS): This is a measure of how likely an employee is to recommend their employer to someone else. Typically, the higher your eNPS score, the more engaged your team is.
  • Employee retention rates: This is a measure of how often employees leave your company. Companies with engaged employees tend to have higher rates of retention.
  • Employee feedback: This is a more subjective measure. While there’s no number attached, a positive shift in employee feedback can be a sign of better employee engagement.

8 activities to boost employee engagement 

Boosting employee engagement can sound like a big to-do—especially for small businesses. But the truth is that you can improve employee engagement by taking on a few simple activities and strategies.

To get you started, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite effective and fun employee engagement activities for hourly and shift workers. Hint: None of them require you to hire an HR team.

1. Team-building days

Gather your team for a day—or a couple hours—of activities to help your team build a better rapport. This can range anywhere from a formal team-building workshop to simple games with your team. Think scavenger hunts, brainstorming, or other fun team-building activities.

Creating team-building opportunities is especially important for hourly and shift workers. Shifts don’t always overlap, making it difficult for employees to connect while on the job. Team-building activities are a simple and effective way to create stronger relationships and improve communication among your employees.

2. Employee development programs

Employee development programs can include anything from lunch and learns to networking opportunities. These programs boost engagement by providing the chance for your team to learn new skills and take on new challenges in the workplace. 

Creating these opportunities doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as cross-training employees for different roles or teaching them a new skill. Another option is to provide education stipends or financial support for employees to take on external courses or opportunities. 

With 80% of millennials rating growth and development as an important part of their job, investing in employee development can help you retain top employees and keep them engaged.

3. Team parties and celebrations

There’s a reason companies of all sizes love to host a good party. From holiday parties to team-wide celebrations, these gatherings can boost employee engagement in more ways than one. 

Not only do they create opportunities for employees to bond outside of a work environment, but by taking time to celebrate your team, you’re showing that you value their hard work.

Plus, who doesn’t love a good party? So grab those balloons, dust off your party hats, and get ready to celebrate!

4. Employee recognition and reward programs 

Employees want to feel valued and appreciated at work. So much so, that studies have found when employees believe their work will be recognized, they’re 2.7x more likely to be highly engaged. 

Fortunately, there are many ways you can recognize your team. Common examples of employee recognition include employee of the month awards, monetary bonuses,  or other types of service rewards. But employee recognition activities can also come in the form of employee appreciation events or even peer-to-peer recognition programs.

Of course, as a small business, recognition doesn’t need to be expensive or lavish. Even a thank you note can go a long way in improving employee engagement. But by creating some form of employee recognition or appreciation program you can make sure that your team never feels underappreciated.

5. Employee resource groups

Employee resource groups—or ERGs— are interest or background-based groups within an organization that help employees connect with other employees who have similar experiences. ERGs are led by employee volunteers but are supported and recognized by the company. Common examples of ERGs include BIPOC resource groups, LGBTQ+ resource groups, or parent resource groups. But almost any group of employees could benefit from an ERG.

As a small business, you might have fewer and smaller ERGs. But by supporting resource groups within your team, you can improve diversity and inclusion while fostering a sense of belonging—all of which have a positive impact on employee engagement.

6. Health and wellness perks

Employee well-being plays a big role in employee engagement. When employees aren’t feeling their best, it’s difficult for them to stay engaged in their work. 

It’s not always easy for small businesses to provide perks that go beyond the basics, but there are still many ways you can make employee wellness a priority. Some examples of health and wellness perks include:

  • Health insurance and benefits
  • Subsidized fitness benefits
  • Team wellness and fitness activities, like yoga classes or clubs
  • Pay advances for financial wellness

7. Flexible scheduling

Work-life balance continues to be a hot topic for businesses of all sizes. It can be difficult to balance business needs and employee requests, but being flexible with employee scheduling can have a positive impact on engagement. 

By accommodating employee availability and offering flexible work arrangements wherever possible, you show your team that you value their time and work-life balance.

Flexible scheduling made simple: Give your team the scheduling flexibility they need with Homebase. Homebase’s free employee scheduling app makes it easy for teams to request time off, swap shifts, and manage availability—all in one place.

8. Team feedback sessions

Sometimes, the best way to show someone you care is by listening. The same goes for your employees. Team feedback sessions are a collaborative approach to getting a sense of how your team is feeling about their work environment.

Not only does it help you target initiatives to their concerns but it shows that you value your team’s feedback. It also allows them to contribute to your employee engagement activity planning.

Employee engagement surveys are another way to collect feedback without having to get everyone into the same room.

Ready to elevate employee engagement?

Happier teams use Homebase. Discover how Homebase’s all-in-one employee management app can help your small business boost morale and employee engagement. Try Homebase for free today.

Employee engagement activities FAQ

Why is employee engagement important for small businesses?

Employee engagement is important for small businesses because it can play a big role in your business success. When employees in a company are engaged, you’re likely to experience:

  • Better productivity and quality of work
  • Increased employee happiness and satisfaction
  • Lower rates of employee turnover
  • Higher rates of customer satisfaction

What are some employee engagement challenges that small businesses face?

Some common employee engagement challenges that small businesses face include:

  • Employee burnout and low morale
  • Lack of growth and development opportunities
  • Poor sense of purpose and direction among employees
  • Lack of belonging within the company

Over time, these challenges can not only impact employee happiness but employee turnover and productivity.

Why is it important to use employee engagement surveys?

Employee engagement surveys play an important role in understanding how your team is feeling about their work and their employer. They’re intentionally designed to collect honest employee feedback so you can improve their work experience. 

By conducting employee engagement surveys from time to time, you’ll be able to identify any areas of concern with your team and implement strategies that can boost engagement.

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