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March 19, 2019
Mat Vogels

Employee engagement ideas that improve workplace culture

Learn why employee engagement matters, and get some tips on how to create an engaging workplace.

Whether you’re the top dog, an admin, or you’ve just found yourself leading a project, workplace engagement is the oil for your machine. It’s the enthusiasm, the commitment, the dedication that keeps things moving and gets the job done. And yet, over the course of three years, not once did Gallup’s survey of workers' engagement reach 40 percent.

Employees are the most valuable investment in any business. The framework of a company’s culture—its collective values and its drive—is the engagement of its workers. For everyone to consistently produce their best work, they have to actually want to be there and have some level of personal investment in the company’s success.

Let’s talk about how you can increase employee engagement while also maintaining healthy and synergetic working relationships.

Build trust

A company’s staff isn’t just a collection of workers all in their own bubbles. It is a team, completing individual tasks that contribute toward a common goal, and every member of the team is just as important as the rest.

The stability of any collective coexisting and working together lies in the links between its members: bonds, and bridges connecting into a network of social capital. This currency is nothing material, but a cycle of goodwill—an ethos of “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine.” These bonds can’t be built from nothing.

It’s vital to build a foundation of trust between coworkers to prevent the structure of your team from crumbling. Don’t worry, we aren’t about to suggest trust falls.

Team building exercises walk a fine line between bonding and general discomfort. Everyone has their own boundaries and forcing them to socialize, be the center of attention, or share personal information may do more harm than good.

Rather than involving potentially embarrassing or patronizing games, team building should be subtle, casual, and always have an unspoken option to opt out.

Here are a few ideas that aren’t mandated trust exercises—they’re opportunities to get to know each other and have a good time.

  • Share a personality assessment like Myers-Briggs to give employees insight into coworkers’ styles of thinking. (Make sure you share your results first!)
  • Keep a few board and card games in the break room or lounge, presenting the opportunity to invite others for a quick game.
  • Invite coworkers to an escape room (yes, really) to experience working together in a different environment.
  • Have occasional catered lunches in the office, encouraging everyone to sit down and eat together.

More important than organizing activities is simply providing the option to socialize. Normalize meeting up for happy hour drinks after work, or hanging out in the office’s lounge to chat. This isn’t to say you have to spend all of your time with everyone in the office or constantly have something happening—just extending the occasional olive branch can make all the difference.

Reward and invest in employees

One way to make your people feel more engaged—and also valued—is incentives. We’ve talked about how growing your business means investing in your employees, and we won’t go over it all again. Suffice to say, rewarding your employees is about great and tailored perks, sure—but it’s more than that.

It’s about showing appreciation for their time and skills in myriad ways. Equipping team members with training courses is a fantastic way to retain and engage them. So is ensuring that they are being paid well. For many modern workers, a bit of flexibility and trust goes a long way—that might mean allowing them to work from home and on their own schedule, or even just a relaxed dress code. Work life balance is the best of incentives.

Communication is key

Having some level of trust amongst your employees is essential to employee happiness and engagement, but there’s another necessity for keeping a team sturdy. It’s the backbone of all cooperation and progress, arguably the most vital fundamental of engagement: communication.

It’s not just the ability to keep up a conversation—it’s talking about what matters. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to establish communication in your workplace. By taking these steps to break down the initial barrier, you make it clear that everyone else is welcome to follow suit.

Being open about decisions

Any time you make an administrative decision that affects the rest of the team in some way, share your thought process behind it. Don’t defend your choice, just plainly explain what you had in mind

Simply explaining your reasoning can make your employees more willing to be flexible and more understanding, even if it’s something they don’t entirely agree with, as well as deliver the subtle message that they deserve to know what’s going on.


Whenever someone disagrees with you, know how to respectfully negotiate with them. Don’t argue your case, or steamroll them completely—have a healthy, productive conversation.

Remember that there are different forms of negotiation. What you want is not to compete; you want to collaborate when you can, and compromise if you can’t. In some way or another, everyone should feel like they at least partially won.

Providing feedback

For many people, the concept of receiving feedback is an anxiety-inducing nightmare; it may be just as uncomfortable on the giving side. But giving and receiving feedback doesn’t have to be stressful. You can establish it as something open and comfortable.

Productive feedback should be specific and helpful, and never entirely negative. If you criticize something, praise another, and always suggest steps to be taken when bringing up something that needs improvement. Sometimes, feedback is just complimenting good work.

Turn it into part of the culture—treat feedback as a regular long term conversation, rather than a full-on performance review. Make it clear that you’re open to feedback as well, and be receptive when it comes.

Sharing progress

Make a habit of bouncing around ideas you have. If you’re struggling to come up with something, talk about it with other team members and welcome their suggestions. If you’ve completed a task, or you’re working on something interesting, chat about it.

Likewise, make sure that other employees are comfortable doing the same. Talk about your own work, but ask others about what they’re up to just as often, if not even more. Establish that the floor is always open until verbal collaboration becomes second nature.

Group problem solving

When a problem arises—and that’s not an if; that’s a when—bring it up to the rest of the team. This is assuming it’s appropriate, of course. Don’t take suggestions for a case of fraternization in the workplace, or anything similarly personal.

With the issue made public, employees have the opportunity to suggest solutions and provide different perspectives. So long as it’s done with a suitable level of organization and an openness to new ideas, group problem solving will see employees feel more engaged, as well as bring up new and interesting solutions.

Not a toolbox, but a team

Engaging employees means letting them know how valued they are and giving them the respect that entails. Put forth the effort to keep your workplace open and inclusive, and turn it into a place that your staff can actually enjoy spending time in. They should never be made to feel like they’re just useful assets, or the mechanical arms of an assembly line—they’re individual minds with infinite potential, and the muscles that keep the company’s heart beating.

Zestful can help you reward employees and make them feel like appreciated members of the family, with individualized perks that are perfect for everyone. Strengthening a team’s morale and motivation is the gift that keeps on giving! Sign up or try a demo to get started, improve employee engagement and keep that company culture strong.

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