14 ways to increase Employee Engagement

colourful polaroids of people graphic

In a previous life, I was meeting with my then boss, chatting through options for improving the benefits and perks for the team. We had done a lot of work surrounding Employee Experience and this prompted us to consider changes to our perks section. The thing I loved about working with this guy was that he would give me free rein with everything at the idea stage. The M.O. was always the same; be it work perks, an induction or what we have for lunch: “Let’s do something different”. Initially the mind was full with ideas of cash raffles, fully paid sabbaticals and football season ticket loans (what, just me?) after reigning myself back in, I began to explore the possibilities in more detail.

“But what will that achieve?” One of the Management Team asked. It was 2 weeks later and here I was, stood up presenting with one of my tamest ideas, ‘Career Coaching’ with an NLP trained external coach and it was being questioned as ‘odd’. I’m all for audience participation, but I dreaded how some of the other ideas were going to go down! I quickly scrapped my ‘Take your Bed to work’ idea and announced how we were going to win awards for adding dental to our healthcare offering.

Hearing the responses to the coaching opportunity, I was shocked that something that I thought of as quite a standard practice in other businesses would be classed as peculiar in what I thought was quite a forward-thinking culture. It made me ask myself the question; What is expected from our teams, and what is the cultural norm? Regardless if you are Not-for-profit or commercial, you will undoubtedly be motivated by productivity and value for money. What gets you those key ingredients for success is people. And what gets your people engaged and motivated is your culture and how you treat those people.

In an ever-changing world, we need to be on top of what we’re offering our teams. It’s not about waiting for the government to bring in legislation, or to hear in an exit interview that a competitor has a great perk. In a 2016 Glassdoor survey, 57% of the surveyed workers said that they reviewed the benefits of a potential company and this played a factor in their decision to apply for a role. Healthcare, leave, performance bonuses, and a strong pension plan claimed the most valued benefits vote, and that four out of five workers would even prefer those benefits to a pay rise.

Two years on, I think we can all agree, that the above perks all seem pretty standard. And now it’s not unusual to hear of start-ups offering ‘Blue Sky’ yearlong paid sabbaticals for employees to ‘find themselves’, but what can the rest of us realistically do to make sure we lead the market, versus follow it?

Below are some achievable, different Perks & Benefits that are worth thinking about:

1. Free Lunch? Everybody Does It!

Don’t confuse Perks with employee experience. They won’t change the world, but they’ll form an important part of solving bugbears and pressure points that need a quick fix. If you do a lunch, use it to get people socialising, and do some updates whilst you’re at it.

2. A Pay Review Scheme That’s Actually Relevant

The traditional appraisal process is dying out. We generally offer salary increases at either a flat rate or based on performance. Why not try a 3-pronged review to justify an increase?
* Is this person’s salary at market rate?
* Does the work deserve a pay increase?
* Is this person dispensable to the business?

3. Home Working 

If your industry can allow it, make it work. Create a culture where people spend 2 days a week working from home. Have 1 or 2 main focus days – perhaps a Monday or a Wednesday where everybody has to be into work under the same roof. It can save on travel costs, travel time and increases time with loved ones which improves overall wellbeing.

4. Don’t See Flexible Working As A Tick Box, Use It As The Culture

Same as with the home working structure. In a recent conversation with some female HR friends, 2 out of 3 stated they left their previous employer due to not being allowed to work flexibly after childbirth.

5. Increased leave Payments 

Look at what people in your business want. Do they want enhanced pay vs SSP, which is becoming a lot more common nowadays? Want to do something outside the box, but not increase from SSP? Why not have an infant bonus? A cash payment for any new parent? Why not add the two together?

6. Wellbeing 

En vogue topic at the moment. This shouldn’t just mean an EAP service or health care plans. Think day to day activities. Fitbits, nutrition; have you ever seen or heard of the Zappos coach? Think that, but without the backward Cap.

7. Shares and Stocks 

These are normally reserved for management members, but there’s no reason they can’t be introduced all around. What better way to empower the teams who make the machine hit its long-term incentives?

8. CSR Days 

Used as a great way to give back to society, and to increase team bonding as well as to increase business development. But mix it up. Allow individuals to do their own days, too. They may have a specific cause or charity to which they are a supporter which may be much more appreciated than the company-specific cause.

9. Graduate Debt Relief 

One of the biggest factors with any new graduate is the huge debt they’ve amassed over the previous 3 years. Why not set up a performance-based, debt relief plan? Could it be certain amounts paid off for achieving targets? Use it for increasing retention by paying off x amount for each year’s service?

10. New Recruit Budgets 

Set a budget for all new recruits. Not just for team lunches or dinners, but get on a trip, visit the markets together. This is what one tech start-up has done, to great results.  Make their first impression of the business the best it can be, whilst also getting to know more about them.

11. Dream Idea Lottery 

This is a great idea to get results. Ask everyone in the business what is their dream (but be realistic!). It could be to cycle across a continent, travel to a certain part of the world? Learn a new skill? State that if you hit a target or goal set by the business, you will do a draw to see who gets their dream!

12. Innovation Reward and Work 

Empower the people who work with product, processes, and people every day to create ideas to drive the business forward. Reward good Ideas; be it financial, or seconded time to work on a project to improve the business and the role the team member has within it.

13. Summer Hours 

Why not reward your staff with an early finish on a Friday during the summer months? Let them make the most of the good weather with an added few hours to their weekend. The team will most probably spend the additional hours bonding anyway.

14. Personal Time

Any oldie, but a goodie. Also referred to as Duvet Days. A few days a year where people can do things they need, without using holidays. These can go along the way with building trust and confidence with the team member and the business.

Not every business will be the same as the one I worked in, cultures, budgets and bosses are different. Weigh it up; what’s the cost of a benefit vs the cost of recruiting a new team member? Are the benefits you have in place outdated, and would a new structure be a better offering? It’s worth a review before the ‘out there’ becomes the ‘norm’ and you’re two steps behind your competitors.

Jonathan Mercer