How to Engage Employees: What Works and What Doesn’t

by | May 5, 2021

engage employees

The workplace is changing more rapidly than many employers can keep up. It can be hard to know how to engage employees in this evolution, so we’ve compiled a list of what we’ve seen is working and what’s not for companies today. 

Company Culture

What works:  Casual hangouts, flexible schedules, and small celebrations.

To engage employees in today’s remote and hybrid work culture, scheduling times to casually connect is high priority. People are missing community, so connecting with one another, even over Zoom, without an agenda, fills this gap. Support a flexible schedule that allows employees to manage their work and life in a way that individually works for them. Shift your employee recognition programs toward the celebration of small wins and events, like project completions, birthdays, and work anniversaries. Employees are more likely to engage when they connect and celebrate together.

What doesn’t: Ping-pong tables, arcade games, and alcohol on tap. 

While these in-office perks formerly drew employees to an organization, they are not impactful ways to engage employees. With many teams working apart from one another, these benefits are no longer meaningful to those at home. Reallocating funds from these in-office perks toward a home office stipend is a better way to engage employees today. 


What works:  Transparency and honesty, manager one-on-one’s, and clearly revised work expectations. 

Open communication is paramount to engage employees in the changing workplace. This skill includes good listening and an open-door policy that allows employee voices to be heard. Managers play a key role in keeping employees engaged by regularly meeting individually with their team members. Employees need clearly defined expectations that address the current state of their workplace, and those guidelines likely look different than they did pre pandemic. 

What doesn’t:  Too many Zoom meetings, one-size-fits all communication, and business as usual work guidelines. 

Zoom fatigue can quickly overcome employees after a year of remote work. Identify key stakeholders and decision makers when scheduling meetings and keep them brief and to-the-point. Consider other ways to distribute critical information to your teams. Email, Slack, videos, and manager one-on-ones can be effective ways to individualize important communication. Don’t assume your employees know what’s expected of them. Make any new expectations clear to better engage employees instead of frustrating them.

Wellness Support

What works:  Emphasis on wellbeing and holistic health, mental health support, and financial support. 

In addition to good health benefits, employees were requesting wellness support beyond their physical health. Financial support, stress reduction, and finding purpose were all reported as ways to engage employees more completely. With employee burnout on the rise, holistic health support for your employees is paramount, and includes support for mental health and financial health.   

What doesn’t:  Traditional wellness programs, weight-loss challenges, and gym memberships.

Many traditional wellness programs focus on physical health above all else. While minimizing healthcare expenses is important, the ROI on these offerings is often negligible. Weight-loss challenges and gym memberships are generally only used by those already motivated to tend to their physical health and neglect those who most need this help. Holistic wellbeing programs that support mental and financial health will engage your employees more effectively.

The pathway to engage employees will continue to evolve with the workplace. Knowing what works and what doesn’t will continue to ask time and attention of employers seeking to support the wellbeing of their most important asset – their employees.

Interested in learning more about how we can help your employee population improve their steps and sleep while reducing burnout?

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