Creating Employee Engagement: Concrete Examples in Action
But what does employee engagement look like in practice? Beyond fun team-building activities, what practical ways can organizations help employees feel motivated, inspired, and connected to their work?
From the experts at 15Five, here are a few concrete steps and employee engagement examples that can help in your efforts towards creating a highly engaged workforce.
Clarify responsibilities and goals
‘Role clarity’ sounds super basic. Doesn’t everyone know what their job is?
And yet, many people don’t have clear goals to work towards — or even certainty on what’s expected of them, day-to-day. Without clarity, too many talented people are simply doing tasks they assume are most important.
This can lead to employees feeling unappreciated, or even being reprimanded, because their work wasn’t aligned with organizational priorities, or managers’ expectations. That’s a demoralizing situation for anyone, and it makes building psychological safety impossible. It also tends to lead to lower job satisfaction.
Role clarity means an accurate, constantly updated job description. But it also means ensuring people always have goals/OKRs to work towards, and a clear vision of how those goals are helping drive overall impact for the business.
Hold regular 1-1 meetings
The best way to provide clarity and improve employee engagement is through regular, ongoing communication. 1-1 meetings make that an integral part of your organization’s workflow.
1-1 meetings are the perfect time to clarify expectations, share goals, and discuss progress. But there’s room for so much more, too.
Employees can share their long term career goals and aspirations, so they can work with their manager on envisioning a future at the organization. Employers can also share which concrete actions are being taken to keep people engaged and create a better employee experience for everyone.
Lead with shared values
Shared values are a major driver of employee engagement. Not only do shared values help people connect to their employer, they help them connect to each other. This creates friendship and camaraderie, which, in turn, drives employee engagement.
But nurturing company values that your people authentically care about is no easy task, and it’s not something that can be forced. One strategy is to leverage a strong company vision, centered around lofty, ambitious values. For example, the outdoor clothing company Patagonia’s vision is “we’re in business to save our home planet.”
Strong statements like this have the effect of attracting employees who are already aligned with what you stand for. At these values-led organizations, mentorship, team-building, and even job-shadowing programs can help employees connect with one another over these shared values.
Get leadership on board
If leadership sees engagement as “just an HR project,” you’ll never see meaningful change.
It is a good idea to have an ‘engagement owner,’ typically within the human resources department, overseeing the initiative. But for true impact, engagement needs involvement and action from those at the most senior levels of your organization. Executives at the company level need to truly believe that employee engagement is important for driving business results.
When planning your engagement strategy, make sure you have at least one ally among senior leadership, and that the C-suite signs off on, and commits, your strategy. It’s not enough to simply collect engagement data — those findings need to be treated as a key business metric, just like customer acquisition or gross sales.
Build an survey strategy that actually works
Employee surveys are the most common way to collect that engagement data. But unfortunately, poorly conceived, ineffective surveys are rampant, across industries and at all sizes of organizations.
Too many surveys either bother employees with too-frequent questions, or check in as little as once a year, meaning they never have a current picture of what’s going on with their people. It’s also common to lean on subjective, vague employee engagement survey questions created by the surveying manager themselves, or on simplistic metrics like Net Promoter Score.
Instead, effective surveys should use statistically valid questions with clear benchmarks, surveying employees at a regular cadence that aligns with their own performance cycles.
Realistically, working with an experienced third party (like 15Five) is the best way to set up a survey strategy that works — not only with creating a useful survey, but in interpreting findings that can be surprising and challenging, and turning those insights into action.
Translate findings into action
Listening is nothing unless you act on what employees share. In fact, if employees give genuine, thoughtful survey responses — and feel like they’re shouting into the void — that could actively harm engagement.
When you get buy-in from leadership, make sure executives understand that you aren’t just collecting data, but translating it into concrete action. Based on your findings surfaced from employee feedback, come up with potential new policies, topics for team discussion, and clear, time-bound actions for leaders and managers.
For example, if your people are burnt out, set up paid, company-wide “relax and recharge” days. If employees are worried about the future, emphasize mentorship and career coaching. Check in regularly to hold leaders accountable, make sure plans are being implemented, and assess how they’re affecting your people.
Engagement in action: Woodard Cleaning & Restoration
Woodard’s Cleaning & Restoration is a Missouri firm that’s been run by the same family for 75 years. Creating positive experiences has always been a priority — within their community, they’re a beloved legend among both customers and employees.
But with 250 employees, Woodard’s was ready to scale even further. They wanted to make sure their survey and engagement strategy could keep up.
Before working with 15Five, Woodward worked with another engagement company on standard, once-a-year employee surveys. But leadership didn’t feel that strategy was helping them reach their goals.
“We’d get the results back, do an hour with the management team, and then it’d just go away,” explained John Gagnepain, Director of Training and Leadership Development.
Instead, Woodard decided to partner with 15Five for a more integrated, ongoing performance management strategy. The new surveys are on a more regular cadence, and findings are always translated into key organizational priorities.
“[15Five’s] quarterly surveys enable us to focus on something specific for three or four months, and then get timely feedback on the next survey to see if what we are doing is making a difference,” said Gagnepain.
Coaching services from 15Five also help Woodard’s managers improve based on feedback, while maintaining strong team bonds and psychological safety. “It’s nice to talk to somebody who you know has no ulterior motives,” says Gagnepain. “You can say what you need to say to someone whose whole responsibility is to help you succeed.”
Woodard’s results speak for themselves.
Today, 95% of employees are participating in the new surveys, a 27% increase from their old model. Since partnering with 15Five, Woodard’s engagement score has increased by about 2% each year — and employee churn has decreased an incredible 75%.
Bring your engagement strategy into the 21st century
In our competitive business landscape, HR leaders can’t afford to guess how their employees are doing. They need concrete data to know for sure — that’s why it is so critical to measure employee engagement.
With 15Five, you keep your finger on the pulse of your organization, staying aware of how you can better meet your employees’ needs and continue to provide a positive employee experience. It’s a comprehensive, all-in-one platform to collect feedback, facilitate conversations, and level-up performance across your organization.