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Employee Engagement Strategy

Everything you need to know about the planning and strategies behind employee engagement programs


Employee Engagement Program Goals

Asset 46A crucial first step to any strategy or higher-level plan is to articulate your engagement goals.

Clear, achievable, and measurable goals are a necessity because they give direction to your plan.

Also, having tangible goals in place will allow you to measure the success of your efforts later. 

Common Employee Engagement Goals

When building an employee engagement strategy, it’s essential to accurately define what the organization wants to accomplish with its program and why. Here are six (6) of the most common goals when it comes to employee engagement.

  1. Lower absenteeism rate 
  2. Increase retention/lower turnover 
  3. Increase productivity 
  4. Increase employee happiness 
  5. Increase customer satisfaction 
  6. Improve organizational culture

We suggest you pick two-three high-level corporate objectives that your company wants to reach this year. Break them down by a quarter to make it easier to gauge and manage results. 

All these goals are quantifiable; in short, they can be measured against a goal or desired outcome, albeit some with more difficulty than others.

For example, measuring something more abstract like “employee happiness” will occupy more time and resources, with the administering of surveys. However, tracking employee turnover, for example, is much easier and requires no involvement from your employees.

Choose the Goals that are Right for For Business

Let's say you kicked-off the year with a personal well-being and lifestyle goal to build your overall muscle strength. The objective you selected will have a direct influence on which actions you take to achieve that goal. In this case, you will invest in strength training instead of a calorie-restrictive diet if your goal is to build muscle strength as opposed to weight loss, for example.  

Asset 28-1The same logic applies when selecting the goals for your engagement strategy. Remember, the goals you choose dictate the direction of your engagement plan. 

That said, all of the engagement goals mentioned above are important to building a fully engaged workforce; however, some may need to be addressed more urgently than others.

For example, is your organization's turnover rate higher than usual for your industry? If yes, reducing turnover should take priority over other goals.

To pick the right goals for your business, you will need to answer these questions and also conduct a thorough audit and measure engagement in your organization. Measuring engagement is an important step that will help get a deeper understanding of which goals should have priority over others.

bigstock-Money-Savings-InvestmentEmployee Engagement Program Budget

Launching a strategic employee engagement program requires a certain level of investment of time and resources.

As a result, when tinkering with the idea of employee engagement, many managers and executives wonder just how much budget they should dedicate to developing an engagement program.

Many executives don’t make it past this point, as it’s (wrongly) believed that the ROI of such a “touchy-feely” initiative cannot be measured. 

ROI-Calculator_finalFirst off, know that you should not expect to instantly commit a significant part of your budget to an engagement program, especially if your business is brand new to employee engagement.  

Think about it like this: if you were to join a fitness studio to improve your health, you probably wouldn't lock yourself into a year-long membership right away. Fitness studios and gyms assume this. That's why they provide flexible options such as day or month passes; for those commitment-shy people who prefer testing services before investing a large sum of money. They know people want to gauge the "worth" of the service before making a maximum investment. 

Similarly—when it comes to investing in the health and well-being of your organization—it's reasonable to establish and determine the ROI or merit of an investment before committing the maximum amount of time and money.

How Much Should you Spend on Employee Engagement: 1% or more of payroll

The first step to drawing up a budget is to do some research and look at what other businesses are dedicating to engagement programs. In short, let’s determine a benchmark.

An important industry benchmark is found in the 2016 Society for Human Resource Management and Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey.

The results of this survey show that a “sweet spot” for values-based rewards and recognition investment is 1% or more of payroll

When companies make this level of investment (1% of payroll) they are nearly three times as likely to rate their program as excellent, compared to companies that invest less.

Ease Into a Full-Scale Employee Engagement Program

Asset 32In the early stages of the program, you may choose to dedicate a smaller budget to employee engagement, to eventually, reach the ideal benchmark of 1%, or maybe even more, as 1% should be considered the minimum investment if you’re seeking significant results.

When testing out your employee engagement budget keep these three goals in mind:

  1. Respect a budget
  2. Determine the ROI 
  3. Demonstrate the program’s value to your organization

Once you’ve reached these three goals, a foundation will be in place; as a result, implementing a full-scale Employee Engagement Program will no longer be an overwhelming undertaking but rather a realistic and achievable goal.

7 research-based strategies to improve employee engagement - Download PDF Guide

bigstock-Concentrated-postitsBuilding An Employee Engagement Strategy

Asset 74iNow, you should be aware of the high-level goals you're aiming towards, and you should have a budget in mind.

It's time to  move forward to the next step: how you will reach your engagement goals. In short, the meat of your strategy.

Tactics Vs Initiatives

An Employee Engagement Program is constructed of two basic building blocks: tactics and initiatives. 

Tactics are the main drivers.

Think about it like this—you have an overarching goal to lose 20 lbs. You can utilize various tactics such as cardio exercise, weight training, diet, to reach your goal. However, each tactic should be broken down further into concrete initiatives. For example, "cardio exercise" can be broken down into precise actions, such as running, spinning, swimming, etc.  

Selecting a specific action (or initiative) isn't a trivial matter. Because the action you choose to invest in—whether it's swimming, running, or spinning—will strongly impact how fast and efficiently you will reach your overarching objective.

The takeaway: When you're aiming for an obvious goal, it's vital to get as specific as possible about how you will reach that goal.

The next section will break this idea down in more detail...

Drivers of Employee Engagement 

When it comes to an engagement program, there are nine core tactics (i.e. drivers of employee engagement) that are the most important contributors to employee happiness and satisfaction.

This framework helps identify the most critical areas of the employee experience so that you can start systematically building your action plan.

  • Career GrowthPulse Survey Themes
  • Leadership
  • Diversity & Belonging
  • Wellness & Balance
  • Recognition & Rewards
  • Mission & Purpose
  • Goals & Alignment
  • Autonomy & Empowerment
  • Benefits & Compensation


To build an employee engagement strategy, choose the drivers of engagement (or tactics) that you will prioritize.

For example, if you do not have an Employee Anniversary Program or an Employee Recognition Program, then “Rewards & Recognition” should be a key tactic in your strategy.

When building a long-term, strategic engagement plan, start by selecting one or two tactics and ask yourself: How are we doing in this area? What could we do better? Repeat the exercise until you have systematically tackled the entire pie.

Not sure which area of engagement needs the most attention? Go to your employees to find out!

Pro Tip: Many companies use a Pulse Survey Tool to conduct surveys and collect employee feedback. Doing this allows managers to make informed, data-driven decisions on which tactics to prioritize.

Employee Engagement Initiatives Examples

Once you’ve zeroed in on which slices of the pie need the most attention in your organization, you can now decide which initiatives (actions) you will take.

Here are a few key tactics and examples of related initiatives:

  • Goals & Alignment 

    • Institutionalize monthly 1:1 meetings between employees and direct managers
    • Implement a performance and goal tracking software
    • Institutionalize formal communications training for all new managers
  • Career Growth

    • Establish an internal job board and support promotion from within the company
    • Dedicate a budget for managers to pay for courses and knowledge development for high-performing employees 
    • Make managers accountable by establishing "coaching and employee development" as an official goal for their performance evaluations
  • Mission & Purpose

    • Launch a monthly company newsletter (for internal staff only)

    • Establish, present, and document your official company values

    • Implement a recurring yearly executive presentation and lunch

  • Rewards & Recognition

    • Offer a budget for a lunch and celebration for employee’s birthdays

After this exercise is complete, you should have a clear idea of the concrete initiatives you will take to reach your ultimate goal of higher employee engagement.

A guide to building an employee engagement strategy - Download PDF Guide

bigstock-Group-Of-Casual-Business-Worki-312521434Implementing an Employee Engagement Program

Now that you’ve created a road map to success, and had it approved (if necessary), it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start putting these on-paper ideas into action. 

Work on the list of initiatives in order of priority that you determined earlier.

Some initiatives will be more time consuming and costly than others, so it’s important to keep that in mind when deciding which to roll out first. 

Breakdown Initiatives Into Even Smaller Steps

Asset 43Although initiatives—such as "implement a recognition software"—are already precise and actionable, it's essential to breakdown each one into even smaller steps. 

When each action is broken down into smaller and achievable goals, the path to success will be direct, clear, and manageable. 

Taking the above examples, let's say you've decided to prioritize "Rewards & Recognition," and your goal for the next quarter is to implement a formal recognition software and also implement a Years of Service Program.  

Implementing two programs can't be done in a single click. It's a multi-step process. 

Here is what a typical “to-do” list would look like for implementing a Years of Service Program:  

  • Determine budget 
  • Budget approval (if needed)
  • Create a list of options that fit the budget 
  • Contact companies to ‘shop’ and compare features, etc 
  • Narrow down to three finalists 
  • Present options to decision-maker for final approval
  • Purchase and implement service chosen
  • Train management to use program
  • Program announcement and training for employees 

As you can see, implementing an on-paper idea and bringing it to life takes several steps and the collaboration of other people and departments. You could even break down some of these steps further!

The most important thing to remember is that breaking down the list into these small and actionable steps makes a large and daunting project look and feel more manageable and less anxiety-provoking overall.

workplace-1245776_1920Strategies for Engaging Millennials at Work

By 2025 Millennials will represent up to 75% of the global workforce; it’s time to discuss the reality of Millennials in the workplace. So, what do Millennials really expect from their work? How can companies properly engage and recognize them?

Asset 68iFirst, it’s important that we debunk some common myths about this generation.

Millennials aren’t exactly kids anymore. It’s been about eight years since Time Magazine ran their cover story about Millennials being the entitled “me me me” generation.

In 2020, this generation are now approximately between 24 and 39 years old. In short, this generation is all grown up. We are not so different from the generations preceding us. 

However, Millennials do differ in some ways from other generations, such as their familiarity with and comfort with technology. Millennials also differ in their approach to work, as they are more likely to seek jobs and careers that fulfill identity needs. In short, jobs that feel meaningful and fulfilling on an emotional level.

With that in mind, there are some common Employee Engagement Strategies that are used to motivate Millennials in the workplace, specifically.

Company Values & Culture Proven to Engage Millennials in the Workplace

The Millennials generation grew up in the 80s and 90s, a pivotal time for technology and commerce. During this time, jobs were plentiful; incomes soared, stocks quadrupled in value. These times were characterized by consumerism, comfort, and abundance.

Although Millennials still share the same basic psychological needs as all other workers—after all, we are all human—growing up during such a critical time in our social and cultural history has shaped millennial’s desires in specific ways.

Millennials are progressive and forward-thinkers. 

Characterized by an optimistic and open-minded attitude, Millennials want to engage in work that matters not only to them but to society at large. In short, they are socially conscious. 

Asset 73

The keyword: impact. Millennials want to find work that creates an impact on some level—whether that in the company they work for, or on an even higher cultural and societal level. As a result, keeping Millennials engaged is conditional on continuously demonstrating how their efforts make a difference. 

That said, look at some of the brands that Millennials covet, carefully observe their design, aesthetic, and deeper emotional message. This will help to understand the types of values that resonate with the millennial generation. 

For example:

  1. Innovation
  2. Minimalism
  3. Sustainability
  4. Authenticity
  5. Openness and flexibility
  6. Personal development

The ultimate takeaway: If organizations want to retain top millennial talent, they have to start thinking not necessarily bigger, but deeper, focusing on building a thoughtful and conscious community that brings a more significant meaning and purpose to the world, rather a place where workers simply labour towards profit.

How can Applauz support your employee engagement initiatives - Download PDF Guide

bigstock-Friendly-Carpenter-With-Ear-Pr-224313286-1024x684Employee Engagement Strategies for Manufacturing Workers

Your car, a television, a cold beer, a t-shirt, a toothbrush—virtually every single consumer product used in our daily lives was brought to life thanks to millions of skilled industrial workers. 

Whether they are machine operators, safety inspectors, or forklift operators, manufacturing employees work in an environment that is very different from your standard 9-5 desk job. 

A Different Type of Environment

These are highly manual, labour-intensive jobs. Long shifts are often expected. Workers are on their feet for long periods, constantly lifting, moving, and shifting around to complete their tasks. 

Asset 13

Moreover, workers are often exposed to intense heat, cold, or dangerous machinery and potentially hazardous materials that require wearing protective safety gear like gloves, goggles, and steel toe boots. 

Many of these jobs are task-driven and repetitive in nature, which creates its own set of issues for workers and concerns for managers. A recent Netflix documentary called “American Factory” does a great job of painting a picture of the real-life mental and physical challenges of manufacturing workers.

In short, the nature of the factory or warehouse work is unique. That’s why keeping industrial and warehouse workers engaged and satisfied takes a slightly different approach. Ultimately, ensuring that industry workers are happy and engaged will not only increase your bottom line in terms of productivity but will also reduce the incidence of accidents and injuries in the workplace.

Respect: the Number One Management Philosophy

Respect, as a basic philosophy, should underpin all the higher-level business decisions made when managing a team of manufacturing workers.

Manufacturing work is physically and mentally taxing and demanding. As a result, if you want workers to feel happy and engaged to work efficiently, they need to genuinely feel they are treated with respect and fairness every day.

What does this mean in action?

It means paying workers fairly, giving them enough breaks, being open about listening to their ideas, and formally praising and recognizing employees for excellent work. 

Asset 33

Inclusivity is Key

Warehouse workers are generally physically secluded from the rest of the employee population given the nature of their work

If warehouse or manufacturing workers feel left out from the rest of the business, their motivation and engagement will suffer as a result. 

These workers need to be reminded that their work is just as important as the people in accounting, marketing, and sales—because it truly is.


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