17 employee engagement strategies that have a long-lasting impact

Keeping your people engaged will help you attract and retain top talent while also delivering better social and business outcomes. Disengaged employees are costly — a Gallup report estimates a disengaged global workforce results in $7.8 trillion in lost productivity per year. 

In this article, you’ll learn about employee engagement strategies that will get your people excited to work for your organization.

These strategies will help you build a more passionate, engaged workforce that’s ultimately capable of greater social impact.  

Check out this episode of The Social Impact Show by Benevity for more strategies to improve your employee engagement.

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How to develop an employee engagement strategy

Your organizational goals, along with results from employee satisfaction surveys, can help guide which employee engagement strategies you adopt. Understanding the drivers of employee engagement can also help you narrow down your scope.    

The drivers of employee engagement include:

  • Meaning and a sense of purpose.
  • Job satisfaction.
  • Psychological safety.
  • Goal support and employee feedback.
  • Company culture.
  • Autonomy.
  • Shared values among team members and senior leaders.
  • Relationships with supervisors.
  • Trust and integrity with your leadership team.
  • Relationships with coworkers.
  • Pride in the company.
  • Career growth opportunities.
  • A compensation and benefits package.

After deciding which drivers to address, your next step is to design an action plan. Consider your budget, the work involved and how you’ll manage and measure engagement success.

Go beyond perks and employee recognition, given that employees today seek an emotional connection with their work.  

What to include in your employee engagement strategy

There’s no one right way to design an employee engagement strategy. They will vary depending on a company’s values and culture, as well as the current state of employee engagement. If you’re starting from total disengagement, it will take time to build up morale.

17 employee engagement strategies

Below are some of our favorite employee engagement strategies. 

1. Start with onboarding

Engaging employees starts with onboarding. This is your first opportunity to encourage new employees to engage with your company’s initiatives, so make it count.

2. Promote and uphold your company’s core values

When everyone in an organization knows the company’s values, it’s easier to align actions with those values. Having a compelling brand story can help.   

Ben & Jerry’s is an example of a company that leads and operates by its values. They use ice cream to change the world, addressing issues like voting rights and climate justice.

Their values are at the core of how they do business, guiding everything from supplier diversity to regenerative agriculture and animal welfare.  

3. Set goals and stay accountable

Improve employee engagement by setting and upholding goals. You can involve your people in determining these goals and then create a space to share goals and keep each other accountable.

How you handle workplace accountability determines how you reach workplace success, says Jenn Lofgren, Founder at Incito Executive and Leadership Development.

Hold conversations around accountability from a place of curiosity and learning, not naming and blaming, she says.  

4. Personalize your program

People are five times more likely to give their time, money and talents if they can choose the cause they’re able to support, data from Benevity clients shows. Successful programs and companies put power into the hands of their people, making giving back highly personal.  

5. Make it easy

Reduce any points of friction in your program. Payroll giving, for example, makes giving easier. Data from Benevity clients shows 69% more participation and employees giving about four times as much when payroll giving is enabled. 

Another way to make it easier for your employees to participate is to give them more options for volunteering, such as virtual volunteering and credit for small acts of kindness. 

Check out this episode of The Social Impact Show for virtual volunteering ideas.


6. Offer matching and incentives

Matching can involve your company matching employee donations or even employees matching their coworkers’ donations through Peer Matching. Special matching campaigns, such as two-for-one matches, also increase participation.

Another proven incentive is dollars for doers programs, where you give your employees rewards currency based on the number of hours they’ve volunteered. Employees can then donate the rewards to a nonprofit of their choice.

7. Offer paid volunteer time off

Volunteering is a great way to engage employees, and you can take your efforts a step further with paid volunteer time off (VTO). Your people get flexibility to volunteer during the workday and still get paid, while building connections with colleagues and helping a cause they care about.  

Check out this episode of The Social Impact Show to see how volunteering can enhance your employee engagement program. 


8. Be transparent

When transparency exists at all levels, from employee salaries to business strategies, it helps build trust in the company.

Employees understand the why of what they’re doing. They know the company’s vision and how it plans to get there.

Workplace transparency increases employee engagement and improves employees’ opinions about their bosses, which in turn reduces turnover. It also lowers stress, as demonstrated by the company Qualtrics’ practice of radical transparency.

9. Organize team-building activities

Transparency helps build trust in a company, but how can you help employees build trust among each other? Try team-building activities, from icebreaker games to volunteering together — virtually or in person. Team building fosters communication, leadership and bonding, which contributes to reduced absenteeism and a better employee experience. 

BNP Paribas engaged 40% of their team by organizing team-building volunteering initiatives.

“In 2019, 260 employees gave more than 850 hours of their working time to support the work of local nonprofit organizations. The collective enthusiasm and individual engagement shown during events show that solidarity engagement is a lever of motivation for the bank’s employees.”

Clémence Francelle, CSR & Corporate Philanthropy Program Manager, BNP Paribas Switzerland

10. Internationalize your program

Build a truly global program that makes a difference everywhere you operate. Internationalizing your program creates an inclusive way for all your people to participate, no matter where they are. Global companies should consider and plan for a worldwide program from the start, looping in stakeholders across their community and considering legal, financial and vetting requirements.  

Check out this episode of The Social Impact Show to learn how to take your corporate social responsibility program global:


11. Promote digital and physical office spaces

The changing ways in which we work affect engagement strategies. As more employees split their time between in-office and remote work, you can create an engaging and inclusive environment by providing the same benefits to your people, regardless of where they’re working. 

If your physical workplace prioritizes personal well-being, replicate this in digital spaces. After Doist noted worrying trends with its remote teams, they promoted trust, prioritized outputs over inputs and encouraged employees to disconnect, just as they do in their physical workplace.

12. Prioritize well-being

Show your people you care about their mental and physical health by making personal well-being a priority. Support your people within the workplace and through employee perks.  

Here are a few ways to prioritize well-being:

  • Have meditation rooms in the office.
  • Offer gym memberships or discounts.
  • Provide healthy food options.
  • Introduce policies to address burnout.

13. Create channels for passions 

Create channels where your people can connect over shared passions and meet new colleagues. Try physical or online movie nights or topical Slack channels open for all to jump in; just ensure you’re sharing these initiatives where everyone can see them.

14. Outline career paths and growth opportunities

Engage your employees to grow within your company by showing them what their career path can look like. 

Employees and contractors value a clear career growth plan, so make sure everyone has an easy-to-understand pathway. Regular check-ins ensure people are on their path and following an appropriate pace.

15. Conduct employee pulse surveys

Pulse surveys are similar to employee engagement surveys, but they happen more frequently — on a weekly or monthly basis. They’re a continuous check-in with your team members.

16. Build partnerships with employee resource groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs), also known as associate groups or business resource groups, overlap with corporate social responsibility initiatives. The members of these energized teams can be a great resource when it comes to engaging your people. Connect and build partnerships with ERGs and learn what they’re passionate about. 

17. Spotlight your champions

As your employee engagement plan is put into action, you’ll see champions emerge. Showing your appreciation for these people goes a long way, and other employees may be encouraged to get involved too. 

Seeding Giving Accounts is an effective way to recognize your stars. Simply put donation currency into their accounts, which they can then use to support the causes they care about.

Employee engagement best practices

Developing an employee engagement strategy may initially involve trial and error, but there are ways to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.

Here are best practices to consider when designing your employee engagement strategy:

  1. Set the example — Engagement starts from the top, with executive participation a way to show transparency and your company’s values.
  2. Recognize engaged employees — Set up a program to recognize the most engaged employees.
  3. Keep measuring engagement — Perform pulse surveys to see how your initiatives are performing.
  4. Establish a feedback loop — Create a non-judgmental space where employees feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback.
  5. Promote work-life balance — Offering incentives for volunteering, flexible schedules or paid time off shows you respect your employees and their time. 
  6. Provide opportunities for growth and career development — Give your people opportunities for growth within your company and they’ll be more engaged.


Employee engagement strategies FAQ

What does employee engagement mean? 

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to an organization. It’s their pride and enthusiasm about the company and its mission. 

Why is employee engagement important? 

Employee engagement helps you attract and retain talent and it builds company culture. Plus, more engagement means more profit, according to a Gallup study. 

How do you measure employee engagement? 

You can regularly measure employee engagement with a pulse survey, otherwise known as an employee engagement survey.