6 Employee Engagement Best Practices for Highly Engaged Cultures

employee engagement best practicesDo you have an employee engagement program that isn’t really moving the needle on engagement? You’re not alone. Many organizations have recognized the importance of employee engagement but aren’t sure how to make meaningful progress.

We surveyed hundreds of organizations about their strategies to find out what tools, tactics, and employee engagement best practices help them maintain their highly engaged cultures.

Understand how to move the needle on engagement: Download our ebook—A New Era of Employee Engagement

In this blog, we’ll share insights from our research including best practices for:

  • Inspiring committed and aligned leaders
  • Prioritizing regular communication with employees
  • Creating a robust feedback culture
  • Sharing employee feedback and following up
  • Complementing exit interviews with exit surveys
  • Ingraining employee engagement throughout your workforce


Here are 6 employee engagement best practices for highly engaged cultures:


1. Inspire committed and aligned leaders.


90% of highly engaged companies reported that employee engagement was important to their leadership team, compared to only 20% of disengaged companies. Employee engagement is a two-way street. If leaders are not prioritizing engagement from the top, your employees won’t feel bought into your organizational vision or goals.

Manager buy-in is especially important. Managers are the ones on the ground interacting with your employees every day building relationships and impacting your company culture. They are best positioned to monitor engagement and address key areas of friction when they are uncovered.

But if managers are not engaged, your employee engagement practices will never get off the ground. Get buy-in from managers and senior leaders to increase your chances of success.


2. Prioritize regular communication with employees.


Highly engaged organizations prioritize face-time between managers and employees. Communication plays a big role in employee engagement and satisfaction. Here are some tools that highly engaged organizations use:

  • One-on-one meetings
  • All-company meetings
  • Emails from leadership
  • Team or department meetings
  • Exit interviews
  • Employee engagement surveys
  • Performance reviews or conversations
  • Social media tools
  • Leadership roundtables
  • Formal goal setting and tracking programs

But how do you incorporate face-time into your engagement strategy? One-on-one meetings, in particular, are an effective way to build rapport with employees and help managers uncover what is working well and what isn’t.

Meeting regularly with your employees ensures you are providing clarity around changes or new initiatives and support their concerns to help them influence their own path to engagement and success. Empowering employees in this way directly contributes to engagement. Highly engaged cultures are 6 times more likely to say employees have a lot of responsibility for increasing engagement in their organization.


3. Create a robust feedback culture.


To understand where or why your employees are disengaged, go straight to the source. If you aren’t asking them what they need, you won’t really be able to provide them the experience they expect. Prioritizing continuous and frequent feedback can help you respond and act on individual needs.

The top three feedback tools becoming more important to highly engaged companies are:


A continuous listening strategy

Surveying is one way to get direct feedback from employees. Disengaged companies are 15 times more likely to have never administered an employee survey, while 85% of engaged companies survey their employees annually. To really reinforce a culture of feedback, consider incorporating engagement, pulse, and lifecycle surveys throughout the year. All together they form a comprehensive employee listening strategy that allows you to collect and respond to feedback in real-time.


Performance management programs

Another excellent tool for employee feedback is ongoing performance conversations, including performance reviews, one-on-one meetings, and informal check-ins. These conversations give managers insight into employee goals, progress, and achievements. Check in with employees on their performance during informal one-on-ones as well as formal performance reviews. This will help managers identify potential obstacles and opportunities to support their employees’ goals.


Recognition programs

Be sure to recognize employee wins and milestones in both formal and informal ways. More and more highly-engaged workplaces are adding formal recognition software. Demonstrating appreciation for employee performance and achievement shows you value them and their work.


4. Share employee feedback and follow up.


Soliciting employee feedback is a great first step, but the most effective engagement programs emphasize follow up. Employees whose managers follow up with them after a survey are 12 times more likely to be engaged the following year than those who don’t experience follow-up.

Managers need to do the following:

  • Have access to their team’s survey results
  • Discuss survey results with their team
  • Help their team and/or employees develop action plans
  • Provide regular progress updates to their employees

In other words, it’s not enough simply to gather the information and share it with leadership (and even the employees). Feedback is only as useful as the action it inspires.


5. Complement exit interviews with exit surveys.


Turnover is a costly threat to your company. The key to improving retention and reducing turnover is to discover what makes employees leave in the first place. Exit surveys are an often untapped resource of employee engagement insights.

If you understand why your employees leave, you can address the issue at the source. Among highly engaged companies exit interviews and employee engagement surveys were prioritized over traditional performance reviews. HR leaders should help managers understand exit survey results and work together to create a plan of action for the future.


6. Ingrain employee engagement throughout your workforce.


78% of highly engaged companies implement employee engagement initiatives year-round. While trends continue to prioritize a continuous listening strategy over the once-a-year engagement survey or performance review—it's no surprise that this is a key factor for healthy and high-performing cultures.

Disengaged companies are more likely to approach engagement as a project focused on for a short period of time. When only addressed once a year, employees may feel disconnected, unmotivated, and unsure about their future fit within the organization. By surveying or reviewing performance once a year, you’re missing out on opportunities for course correction, coaching, and growth for employees and teams.

Disengaged companies need to prioritize creating more opportunities for feedback, but engaged companies should take it to the next level and commit to engagement year-round.



Focus on these top employee engagement best practices and strategies to create an engagement program that works all year long—and download our New Era of Engagement ebook to move the needle today.

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Published May 12, 2020 | Written By Jocelyn Stange