Employee engagement is the key to every effective employee experience strategy. Yet it’s especially important for new employees as HR leaders introduce them to the company’s purpose, values—and especially the company culture. But what are the best employee engagement ideas for building a company experience that will lead to happy employees, accelerate performance, and increase retention?
First consider this: Up to 20% of new employees can leave within the first 45 days on the job. So it’s vital for leaders to offer them more than trendy perks like healthy snacks or a state-of-the art health and wellness program. Following, we present several strategies on how to improve employee engagement ideas—from the employee’s first day through the weeks and months ahead.
Leaders should not only focus on the way they hire people, they should pay attention to the way they onboard those new hires. To sufficiently engage your employees, you should focus on employee engagement activities from day one. Employees shouldn’t show up to discover that they don’t yet have a desk or computer assigned to them. This sends the wrong message.
Instead, make sure new employees start their first day engaged with a functional working space, company supplies, and even some branded swag to welcome them to the team. If leaders expect high performance and productivity from new employees, they should make extra efforts to engage them from the moment they arrive on campus. Prepare an itinerary for their first day, which includes scheduled onboarding training as well as one-on-one introductions and activities with other team members.
Another step to helping new team members feel passionate about their work? Make sure they feel connected to the company vision and purpose. This starts with communicating the company mission and core values. But it’s also about explaining how individuals and the work they do contribute to the greater organization’s purpose.
To help new employees gain a deeper connection to the company purpose, it’s essential that they understand the corporate culture. Create experiences for new hires that show them how teams operate, how team members communicate with each other, and the types of messages that leadership delivers. Outlining desired behaviors and expectations can help reinforce how they can be part of something bigger than themselves.
It’s critical for leaders to get to know new employees on a personal level and help them to feel part of the team. This means getting to know them and some of their preferences on how they like to work. Leaders can also ask about what keeps them motivated and what helps them perform at their best. Keep in mind that it all doesn’t have to revolve around the work environment. What are their hobbies? What’s their favorite beverage?
Another tip is ensuring leaders connect with new employees often. Team leaders may also choose to connect new employees to a mentor or peer group so they feel connected to other new colleagues. Connecting with an employee early and often will not only result in a happy employee, but it will also increase their chances of feeling at ease and feel like they belong.
Organizational culture differs from one company to another, but when considering how to improve employee engagement ideas at your organization, identifying purpose and setting goals is key to any culture. Once an employee aligns with the workplace culture and goals of the company, it’s time to start thinking about personal goals. Employee happiness is partly tied to a sense of purpose, and setting early goals can help them contribute to that purpose. Why is this important? Only 66% of employees feel a sense of purpose at their organizations (2019 Global Culture Report).
When employees don’t understand how their performance is being measured, they can feel anxious and disengaged. Conversely, when they understand how their work will be measured, they tend to feel engaged and experience a greater sense of achievement.
In addition to connecting often with new employees, leaders should schedule regular one-to-ones. These are conversations intended to establish progress, build trust, and get a sense of things like how the employee feels about their work hours, work life balance and mental wellbeing. It’s a chance for leaders to tie both the individual’s and team’s work to the company purpose. This type of transparent communication also helps leaders to ensure new recruits are fully supported during their first 90 days and beyond. Managers can use this time to not only talk about progress with goals, but to also praise good work. For remote workers, one-to-ones can take place virtually through apps like Microsoft Teams.
The majority of large organizations operate an employee recognition program such as Victories, part of O.C. Tanner’s Culture Cloud™ suite of apps. Employee appreciation for superior performance is essential for many reasons. First, it helps new employees to feel valued, recognized, and that their work matters. In the long run, it contributes to employee retention. In fact, employees who claim their managers regularly acknowledge them for good work are five times more likely to stay (2019 Global Culture Report). Besides leader appreciation, peer-to-peer recognition can be important in helping new employees feel valued by their team.
Celebrating work anniversaries, also called years-of-service awards, can also improve employee engagement. Employees feel more inclined to stay with their companies when their milestones and year-over-year achievements are recognized. Managers can build company culture in significant ways when they focus on appreciation.
Don’t think of onboarding as having an expiration date. Instead, turn it into an ongoing experience with regular check-ins and feedback that goes beyond 30, 60, or 90 days. Leaders should remember that recognition for good work can happen at any time. Recognizing in real-time during team meetings or team lunches will continue to inspire new employees through their first year and into the next. Don’t forget to show appreciation to employees who work from home via virtual celebrations.
Never stop building connections either, both with team members and across the entire organization. Activities such as peer-to-peer mentoring or special working groups can go a long way to connecting people and building a strong culture.
The final step to continually improve employee engagement is to stick to the plan. Of course the long-term goals with every new hire include greater motivation, increased productivity, and employee retention. As highlighted above, consistent communication is crucial for every employee engagement strategy leaders choose to employ.
Whichever employee engagement activities you implement at your organization, follow through with your plan with every new hire. Tools like regular one-to-ones and employee surveys will help you gauge progress. As you implement an onboarding process and support employees by connecting them to purpose and recognizing their unique contributions, you will find long-lasting success.
More Employee Recognition Resources
There are so many different ways to recognize, appreciate, and celebrate your employees. Here are more resources for guidance:
• Company Culture Glossary
• Guide to Employee Recognition Programs
• 11 Employee Recognition Ideas
• 22 Awesome Employee Recognition Gift Ideas
• 9 Tips for How to Choose Employee Recognition Software
• Heartfelt Employee Appreciation Quotes to Say "Thank You"
• Benefits of Peer to Peer Recognition
• Best Practices for Virtual Employee Recognition
• Guide to Years of Service Awards
• Tips to Celebrate Work Anniversaries
• Employee Recognition in the Modern Workplace
• Victories: Modern Recognition Software
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