21 Time-Tested Employee Engagement Ideas You Can Use to Keep Your Team Invested

Apr 23, 2024 | Retaining Employees

Ben McIntyre

Client Success Manager at Abenity. With more than seven years of experience in the industry, Ben has a unique understanding of how companies can offer the strongest benefits to their employees.

Keeping your workers interested has become a big task these days.

There are more changes happening in workplaces today than ever.

Quiet quitting.

Rage applying.

Bare Minimum Monday.

The list keeps growing. Younger workers, like Millennials and Gen Zers, are starting to change how we think about work to get away from always needing to hustle.

Even though they mean well, it’s hard to ignore the stress building up as bosses try to keep up with these changes and how the workplace is always changing.

This special situation and the chance for problems is why it’s really important right now to keep worker interest a top priority and always look for different ways to keep your team wanting to be part of YOUR team.

Interest is key — but finding ideas to get staff interested that can really work for your company is just as important.

What Separates Team Engagement Ideas That Work From Those That Completely Flop? This…

As a successful remote company with little turnover and dedicated staff, we have crafted a list of engagement ideas that have worked for us for over a decade. But before we dive into that list, it’s important to understand why some ideas work and others don’t.

Many well-intentioned executives and HR managers implement employee engagement strategies that only address surface-level behaviors.

For example, their employees aren’t productive—so they add monetary incentives for them to give their full effort. That in and of itself isn’t bad.

But it doesn’t address the root cause of why your employees aren’t productive.

We know from Daniel Pink’s research in his book Drive that employees have core motivations that go far beyond the “carrot and stick” (i.e. money for performance) approach that most companies take.

The three main motivators are:

  1. Autonomy – the ability to direct their own work and make decisions (giving them a sense of ownership).
  2. Mastery – the sense that they are growing personally and professionally–becoming experts at their craft.
  3. Purpose – the sense that they are part of something bigger than themselves–something that has a far-reaching impact on the world.

Any employee engagement initiative you pursue will likely fall flat on its face if it isn’t based on these principles.

Trying to motivate your team just with money or picking a few ideas from the list below and calling them an “employee engagement strategy” won’t work.

You need to think of employee engagement from a big-picture, cultural perspective.

Your employees will only be as engaged as your company culture enables them to be. And grounding your leadership in the three principles described above is what separates a great culture from a toxic one. 

These ideas shouldn’t be considered “strategies” for improving engagement. First, take an honest look at your company culture and ask yourself what may be lacking from that culture and your existing compensation and benefits packages. 

Then, use these ideas to build a bigger employee engagement strategy and action plan to enhance and transform your culture.

21 Powerful Employee Engagement Ideas To Use in Your Broader Cultural Strategy

employee engagement ideas

1. Provide unique employee perks.

Offering unique employee perks takes your total benefits package to the next level and shows your employees you care about them as individuals.

These perks can range from anything to discounts on subscriptions to technology stipends or even childcare reimbursements.

The specific perks that will work best for you completely depend on what YOUR employees want.

Kick things off by getting a pulse on what perks really resonate with your team. Think about running some surveys or having a casual chat over coffee to get those ideas flowing. 

It’s all about making sure these perks hit the right note with everyone. Once you’ve got your list, make sure you spread the word loud and clear on how everyone can dive in and enjoy.

Rolling out perks that vibe with what your team truly values shows you’re not just about the work grind—you care about their passions and downtime too. Take Adobe’s “Wellness Reimbursement Program,” for instance. 

It’s not just a perk; it’s a statement that Adobe’s all in on supporting their crew’s health and happiness, which in turn, amps up job satisfaction and keeps talent sticking around.

At Abenity, we can help you figure this out and implement a powerful perks program that gives your team access to exclusive discounts on everything from insurance to subscriptions and even ski resorts.

We also have a detailed (and free!) perks report that gives you the ins and outs of what employees like best that you can download for FREE here.

2. Offer flexible work.

Did you know that benefits like remote work and flexible hours can improve employee productivity and engagement?

Employees who are given the freedom to work on their own terms can better balance their personal and professional lives. 

This reduces stress and burnout and improves mental health and job satisfaction, which leads to higher levels of engagement.

Flexible work benefits also give employees a greater sense of autonomy and control over their work. This leads to greater creativity and innovation because employees can work during the times when they are most productive. 

Start with laying down some ground rules for flex work to keep everyone on the same page. Then, gear up with tech that makes working from anywhere a breeze. Keep an eye out for the trap of all work, no play, and champion a balance that keeps everyone fresh and fired up.

Letting your team choose their ideal work setting can be a total game-changer for their focus and output. There’s a study from Stanford University that found remote workers upped their game by 13% thanks to fewer distractions and the perks of home comforts.

3. Celebrate your team.

Take time to recognize and celebrate your employees’ accomplishments and hard work. This can include celebrating work anniversaries, birthdays, or other milestones, as well as acknowledging achievements such as meeting outbound sales goals or completing a major project.

Authentic praise shows your employees you appreciate them and their contributions. 

It might seem “cheesy”, but it works wonders for your team’s morale when done right.

Some companies accomplish this, in part, through a weekly “crush it” session, where they publicly praise a single employee for their great work that week. This could be done in a team meeting or company-wide email. 

Build a recognition vibe that’s all about genuine props, from the high-fives between peers to the shoutouts from the top. Get creative with how you celebrate wins across the board, making sure it’s a fit for everyone’s unique taste.

Nothing beats the feeling of getting a pat on the back for a job well done. It’s like fuel for the soul that boosts morale and weaves a stronger sense of team spirit. Gallup‘s got the numbers to back it up—regular recognition is key to keeping everyone engaged and on their A-game.

At Abenity, we have an entire Slack channel dedicated to celebrating fellow employees when they do something that aligns with our company’s core values. We’ve found that encouraging employees to thank and congratulate each other is an amazing way to build positive work relationships, as well as building morale for individuals.

4. Strengthen your onboarding experience.

Invest in a robust and engaging onboarding process that sets new employees up for success. 

This is one of the most crucial stages in the employee life cycle, as it sets the tone for the rest of their employment with your company. 

Make those first days count with an onboarding that’s more “welcome party” than “paperwork marathon.” Pair up newbies with seasoned pros and keep the feedback loop open and honest from day one.

Nail the welcome wagon, and you’ve got a team member who’s ready to roll up their sleeves and stay for the long haul. SHRM points out that a solid start can make new hires 69% more likely to stick around for three years or more.

If you do it right, you’ll have a better chance at keeping your people engaged and productive over the long term. Studies have shown a strong onboarding process helps new employees feel more engaged and committed to their work, and can lead to higher retention rates over the long term.

5. Set up an employee recognition program.

Establish a formal employee recognition program to acknowledge and reward employees for their hard work, achievements, and contributions to the company. 

This program can include both formal and informal recognition, such as employee of the month awards, team shoutouts, or small gifts or perks.

Make sure your shoutouts hit home by mixing up how you celebrate the wins, big and small. Keep it timely, tied to your values, and personal, because nothing beats feeling seen for the unique contributions you bring to the table.

A well-oiled recognition program is a powerhouse for keeping the team motivated and in sync. Research by Bersin by Deloitte shows companies that get recognition right are 12 times more likely to score big on business success.

6. Offer mentorship programs.

Create formal mentorship programs that pair employees with experienced colleagues or external mentors who can provide guidance, support, and professional development opportunities

Matchmaking in mentorship is key—think shared goals and vibes that click. Arm your mentors with the know-how to guide and inspire, and keep tabs on these partnerships to ensure they’re a win-win.

A solid mentor can light the way in your career like nothing else. With only 37% of folks having a mentor, according to a survey by Olivet Nazarene University, there’s a huge opportunity to boost engagement and fulfillment through meaningful mentorship.

These can be valuable tools for promoting career growth, skill development, positive work relationships. Giving employees an opportunity to learn from someone either higher up in the company or further along in their career shows them that you care about their success and that there is growth potential at your company.

7. Host engaging team-building events.

Plan team-building events that are engaging and fun, and that cater to the interests and preferences of your employees. This can include activities like game nights, outdoor adventures, escape rooms, volunteer opportunities, cooking classes, or creative workshops.

Just make sure you figure out what types of events or activities your employees would actually be excited about. The last thing you want is to guess, see minimal engagement, and feel like you wasted your money.

How do you accomplish this? Survey your employees (formally or informally) to figure out what they’d like to do together, then be the catalyst that makes it happen.

Spot-on team-building can transform the way we work together, sparking better communication and a killer team vibe. Studies, like one from the Journal of Experiential Education, show these moments can seriously level up team performance.

When done right, these events can drastically increase collaboration, improve communication, and build stronger relationships within your team.

8. Heavily invest in professional development.

Invest in professional development opportunities such as courses (e.g., to earn certification in Agile project management), training programs, learning stipends, and even guest speakers. These opportunities can help improve employees’ skills and knowledge, promote career growth, and increase engagement and productivity.

Investing in your team’s growth is a surefire way to show you’re all in on their future. LinkedIn’s scoop is that 94% of employees would stick around longer if their company is invested in their learning journey.

But as with everything on your list, ask your employees what they really want.

You can waste tons of time and money bringing in guest speakers or buying courses your people don’t care about. The trick is finding the balance between the skill gaps they have and what they want to learn.

That way, you can develop your people and invest in their personal goals at the same time.

9. Provide & communicate clear career paths.

A central motivator to an employee remaining engaged and invested in a particular company is trusting that they have a future at that company. But you can’t expect them to just take your word for it. Prove it! 

Create clear career paths for employees that show them what their future with the company can look like. This can include outlining the skills and experiences needed to advance to the next level, as well as providing opportunities for growth and development.

The key is giving your employees a clear vision of where they can go within your organization.

Your top talent will quickly become bored in their existing role if they don’t have a vision for the future within your company. They want to know how you plan on developing them and what they can achieve.

When employees see a clear route to their next milestone, it’s a massive boost to their drive and dedication. CareerBuilder tells us that clear advancement paths are key to keeping your best and brightest around.

10. Provide access to leadership.

Create opportunities for employees to connect with leadership for questions, feedback, and coaching. This can include regular one-on-one meetings, open-door policies, and town hall meetings.

Giving everyone a backstage pass to the leadership’s thought process builds trust and breaks down walls. TINYpulse found that transparency from the top is what makes or breaks employee happiness.

This creates a culture of transparency and openness where employees feel heard and valued. It can also improve communication and collaboration among employees, and promote a sense of community and purpose.

11. Maintain high-performance standards and quickly deal with non-performers.

Set and maintain high-performance standards for your employees, and quickly address non-performers by coaching them and, if necessary, letting them go. This can help to maintain a high level of productivity and quality and promote a culture of excellence.

Let everyone know how they’re part of hitting that target. Make feedback a two-way street and don’t skimp on the high-fives for those who go above and beyond.

Aiming high and acknowledging the hard yards not only drives a culture of excellence but keeps everyone locked in and loving what they do.

Few things can make your team lose trust and respect for you faster than you holding on to someone who doesn’t meet the standards the rest of the company abides by. Besides being a bad culture fit, this compromise can appear as favoritism or a lack of appreciation for those who work hard to maintain high-quality output.

12. Share your company’s bigger mission and show employees the role they play.

Share your vision for the change your company will make in the world and communicate it to employees in a way that inspires and motivates them. Help employees see how their work is part of a bigger mission and how their work is making a positive impact on the world.

Use stories to highlight the real-world impact of what you’re doing and make it a point to connect the dots between everyday tasks and those big-picture goals.

This gives your employees the sense of purpose that Daniel Pink showed was so important in Drive.

13. Support delegation of repetitive tasks.

When possible, help employees delegate repetitive tasks that take up a lot of their time, so they can focus on more valuable and fulfilling work. 

This is critical because it demonstrates that you value your employees’ time, energy, and enjoyment of their job. It’s a way to not just talk about how much you value them — but to demonstrate your appreciation in a way that positively affects their daily lives.

Dive into tools and systems that take the grunt work off your team’s plate. Promote a culture where it’s cool to pass tasks along and make sure everyone’s got the lowdown on how to delegate effectively. It’s all about knowing what can be offloaded and to whom.

When people aren’t bogged down by the monotonous tasks, they’re free to dive into the work that really lights a fire in them. It’s about showing respect for their skills and making the workplace more dynamic and innovative.

You want your employees to spend as much time as possible on meaningful and valuable work. When you provide the necessary support for them to do this, it not only helps them feel empowered and valued, but it will increase their productivity, too.

14. Challenge employees to reach new heights.

Constantly challenge your employees to reach new heights. Provide them with the coaching and resources they need to achieve progressively harder goals.

Lay out some ambitious goals but keep them within reach. Back up your team with the resources and support they need to tackle these challenges head-on. Celebrate the small wins along the way and tailor these challenges to fit each person’s skills and career dreams.

This helps keep your employees engaged in their work and leans into the mastery motivation described by Daniel Pink.

If employees feel challenged and frequently achieve their goals, they’re more likely to stick around because they want to see what else they can accomplish. It almost becomes a game, and that’s when people start loving their work.

15. Offer unlimited PTO.

Offer unlimited paid time off (PTO) to employees, so they have the freedom and flexibility to take time off when they need it. This can help to improve employee work-life balance, reduce burnout, and promote a culture of trust and empowerment.

Be clear about your unlimited PTO policy and what it means in practice. Make sure everyone knows it’s not just okay to take time off—it’s encouraged. It’s all about preventing burnout and keeping everyone’s batteries charged.

Offering unlimited PTO sends a big message about trust and valuing employee well-being. This kind of flexibility can lead to happier, less stressed employees and a vibe at work that’s all-around more positive.

With childcare costs increasing, rising inflation, and ever-prevalent mental health issues, unlimited PTO is an olive branch you can offer to your people.

It helps them know you support them and understand that they have a life outside of work. 

16. Leverage the power of “Random Acts of Fun”.

Incorporate “random acts of fun” into the workday to help break up the monotony of work and reinforce an employee-first culture. 

What are “random acts of fun”? Intentional and unexpected activities, events, and perks you give your people. This can be anything from randomly hosting a food truck at the office, to hosting spontaneous contests with prizes or even sending thank-you notes with gift baskets for a job well done.

There aren’t hard and fast rules here. Just think of little things you can do to surprise and delight your team.

Keep everyone on their toes with fun surprises and events that bring a little extra joy to the office. Make sure these moments are something everyone can get into, and invite ideas from the team to keep things fresh.

A little bit of fun can go a long way in making the workplace feel more vibrant and connected. It’s about breaking the routine, boosting morale, and building a sense of community that keeps everyone tight-knit.

17. Utilize huddles to help remote employees feel connected.

Remote employees often report feeling isolated. But it doesn’t have to be that way. At Abenity, our team has been remote for over 10 years, and our employees report feeling connected to their team on a daily basis. 

What’s the simplest way to create connection and community? Communication! One easy way to help your remote employees feel connected to the organization is to utilize regular team “huddles” or meetings (whether your team is fully remote or hybrid). 

These come in several shapes and sizes, but the idea is to have consistent, quick meetings that provide important company updates, and insights into the upcoming workday, week, or month, and foster open communication within your team. 

Set up regular, snappy team huddles to keep the lines of communication wide open, especially for those tuning in from afar. Video calls are your best friend here, making sure everyone has a chance to be seen and heard.

Regular check-ins can help remote team members feel like they’re right there in the thick of it with everyone else. It’s crucial for keeping everyone aligned and fostering a team spirit that spans any distance.

18. Help managers develop real relationships with team members.

Provide training and support to help managers develop real relationships with their team members, based on trust, respect, and mutual understanding. The more a leader knows their people, the better your organization will be at maintaining high levels of engagement.

These relationships shouldn’t be forced, but managers and leaders should always be looking out for ways to get to know individual team members better to foster a sense of community and open communication. 

This requires intentionality. Coach your managers on how to be good leaders and check in with them to ensure that they are consistently making a relational effort with the people on their teams.

When managers and their teams click on a deeper level, it’s a win-win for everyone. Employees who feel seen and supported are more likely to stick around and give their best, making for a happier, more productive workplace.

19. Offer Team Swag

Think about decking out your team with some cool company gear. 

We’re talking about hoodies, water bottles, or anything that screams “We’re in this together.” Roll out the options in your next team meet or through an email blast and maybe even let the team vote on their favorite designs.

There’s something special about wearing or using something that represents your squad. It’s like being part of an exclusive club. It’s a way to show off your team pride and feel connected, even when you’re off the clock.

20. Team Lunches That Count

Regular team lunches can be the perfect escape from the daily grind. 

Whether it’s grabbing a bite at the local joint or ordering in for a picnic-style lunch at the office, make sure there’s something for everyone. Pop these lunch dates on the team calendar or shoot out a quick message to keep everyone in the loop.

There’s nothing quite like bonding over food. These laid-back lunches are great for swapping stories, sharing a laugh, and just enjoying each other’s company without the work talk. 

It’s all about strengthening those ties and making everyone feel right at home.

21. Game On with Gamification

Bring a little friendly competition into the mix with some gamification. 

Set up a system where tasks or goals are met with points, badges, or even a spot on the leaderboard. Kick things off with a clear explanation of how it all works and what’s up for grabs to get everyone excited to participate.

Turning work into a game can be a real mood booster. It’s about lighting that competitive spark in a fun way and getting everyone pumped to push a little harder. 

Plus, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the wins and keep the team motivated.

Employee Engagement Is an Ongoing Process

Creating a comprehensive strategy for improving employee engagement is crucial in today’s changing workforce dynamics. 

The key to any great strategy is identifying and targeting the root causes behind why employees are disengaged–not just focusing on surface-level behaviors. 

Focus on engagement initiatives that provide your people with a greater sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

If you stick with these principles and offer competitive compensation, you’ll create a culture that not only attracts top talent but retains it.

If you’re looking for a fast pass for increasing employee engagement, Abenity can help. Our employee perks and discount programs give your team access to lower-cost subscriptions, insurance, and more.

Book a call with one of our perks experts today to see how you can unlock a cheat code for improving employee engagement and retention.

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