Without employee engagement you may feel like this person

As a leader in your organization, you have some big decisions to make for the coming year. Should you invest some of your available budget and precious time into events and activities that boost employee engagement? Or should you just throw in the towel and buy those new standing desks everyone is talking about? 

It seems like buying some desks might be easier than really tackling your workforce challenges. And maybe you’re not 100% sure if engagement is all that important. 

Does employee engagement matter? I have three answers for you; yes, yes, yes.

To help you better understand, I’d like you hit the rewind button on your life. Let’s go all the way back to high school. I know it’s scary back there at “Way Back When High”, but bear with me. Maybe you played a sport or played in the band. For the purposes of this analogy, let’s go with a soccer team.

A soccer team is comprised of eleven players. This team works together toward a common goal, beating the other set of eleven players on the opposing team. However, this shared goal is not enough to create a truly engaged team. The players must be positively engaged with the sport and with their fellow teammates in order to succeed to their fullest potential. 

Imagine running out on the field with your team on a bright, crisp fall day. You’re in love with the sport and tight with your teammates. Your coach encourages you to interact and bond both on and off the field. You can’t wait to get out there and kick that ball around with your soccer collaborators. Your success and the success of those around you have become inextricably intertwined. You’re truly connected with both the sport and the team. This scenario exemplifies optimal employee engagement. 

Now imagine being out on that field with this same group of players in an alternate, dark universe. You are being forced to play a sport that you dislike by a mean, screaming coach. You may be individually very good at the sport, but you don’t like or really know your teammates that well.  And you’re reluctant to interact with them beyond what’s necessary. You might hog the ball to show your coach that you are the best. Or maybe you belittle your teammates to retain the spotlight. Conversely, you might react by riding the bench and keeping your mouth shut to avoid drawing unwanted attention. 

Both of these teams have exactly the same players with exactly the same skill and talent. The only variable that has shifted is that of positive team engagement. 

When you ask yourself the question, does employee engagement matter, think of these two teams. Which of these teams do you think would have the better track record? Or, which of these teams would you consistently show up to play on?

Why Does Employee Engagement Matter?

Now hit the fast forward button out of high school and return to the current adult version of you. Phew, what a relief! That second soccer team was a bit traumatizing, ha ha. 

Let’s get a bit technical to better prove that engagement matters. 

Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are “involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace”. Improved levels of engagement can create measurable effects on the success of your company. 

Employee engagement measurably increases productivity, improves morale, reduces absenteeism and improves customer service ratings. In a recent study, Gallup’s Business Journal found that the presence of highly engaged employees in a workforce reduces workday no-shows by up to 41%, while boosting the rate of workplace productivity 17%. Companies with this type of commitment by workers showed 21% more overall profitability. 

Gallup statistics also found that a whopping 85% of workers do not feel engaged in their workplace. This seems like a pretty crazy disconnect.

Purely from a financial standpoint, you are missing out on some big ROI if you don’t bother to invest in engagement levels. If you could even get half of your employees to feel engaged, statistics show that your company would benefit immensely.

So, does engagement matter? Yes, yes, yes!

Great Ways to Boost Employee Engagement

Let’s assume you’re buying into all of this. Now you have to figure out where to start to improve matters. Below are some of my favorite engaging ways you can get your workforce genuinely connected with each other and positively plugged in to company culture. 

Included are DIY ideas and professionally facilitated activities.

Engage Over A Meal

The famed chef Julia Child said, “A party without a cake is just a meeting”, and boy was she right. If a party without a cake is just a meeting, then a meeting without food is just well…a missed opportunity for a more positive and engaging atmosphere. It’s well proven that sharing a meal increases trust and cooperation.

There are many ways to incorporate cooking, eating, and sharing food into an employee gathering without just throwing a bunch of stale donuts in the corner of of the room. Below are some ideas that take advantage of the way we all naturally bond and relate over a meal, especially a dinner event.

1. Hire An Entertainer Who Is An Experienced Facilitator – A great entertainer does not just perform the set, drop the microphone, and walk out (though Lady Gaga sure made it look pretty cool at the Super Bowl). A great entertainer engages with the audience, facilitates the flow of your dinner event, and encourages the audience to engage with each other. 

Many companies make the mistake of hiring a singer or comedian to sing a bit or tell some jokes at the beginning or end of a meeting. But it’s a much better practice to utilize the facilitator as an integral part of your event. 

When I facilitate a dinner event, I make sure that the goal of the event is a central pillar of the night and is smoothly incorporated into the both the formal and informal activities. The employees are not just entertained, but are prompted to engage with each other as they enjoy their meal.

2. Try “Peak and Valley Questions” – At your next group dinner, ask your employees to put their phones away and introduce Peaks and Valleys as a conversation starter. This social activity gives each employee the opportunity to share something meaningful and personal.

The exercise is simple. Ask everyone to share a high point and low point with their colleagues. This allows space for honoring of proud moments and sharing vulnerability towards the lows that we all inevitably have at some point. This will humanize your employees to each other, while helping them to cheer on their accomplishments. Your team will leave feeling more connected and supported. 

Peaks and Valleys is one of many icebreakers that you can use as simple conversations starters and engagements boosters.

3. Cook Something Up – In order to truly boost employee engagement over a meal, why not get your team cooking up a storm with a little a food competition. The key to this exercise is to keep the cooking part of it simple. For example, you could do a best grilled cheese competition. 

Each team is challenged to use three common ingredients to create their dish during the allotted time period. When the timer starts, the race to create the best meal begins. Your employees will collaborate, laugh, and get creative to make their dish a winner. When the buzzer goes off, everyone can vote on the best meal, and then enjoy the fruits of their labor. 

You’ve just created a super fun, low pressure way for your employees to engage, connect, and enjoy a great meal together.

Day To Day Engagement Boosters

Here are two examples of engagement boosters you can facilitate yourself.

1. Have you ever had a really bad day, and wished that someone would give you a word of encouragement to turn things around? A small pick me up or act of kindness can make all the difference on those trying days. 

Asking your employees to create a “You Are Special” box can embed principles of positive encouragement into your company culture. This can help your employees feel honored and appreciated in their workplace every single day. 

Begin by assigning each employee a co-worker to make a box for. You can make this fun and interactive by throwing out stickers, markers and even glitter if you’re feeling fancy. Let the inner child run wild! After the boxes are done, have everyone write several personal notes with compliments or positive attributes. Then place the notes in other people’s boxes. 

Encourage people to place their boxes in accessible areas. So whenever someone is feeling down or having a bad day, they can pull out one of the special notes.

Make sure you bring up the “You Are Special” Box during meetings. Take a little time here to ask team members to add new notes of encouragement to the boxes as time goes by.

2. There’s a classic radio show no longer on the air that was incredibly engaging and compelling, “Car Talk”. Listening to the show one Saturday morning, it occurred to me that a big part of what makes the show so compelling is the stories told by the people who call in. The hosts coax the humor, individuality and drama out of every caller.

The stories are as important, often more important, than the specific automotive problem being discussed. These personal narratives are compelling because most of us relate to them. Most of us drive cars, and thus empathize with the dilemmas facing the car talk callers. Besides, the callers and the hosts make us laugh and that’s powerful. 

When I talk with prospective clients about our team building programs, one of the first things I mention is story. Everyone has a personal take on what they experience at work. When those work stories are shared, groups identify the common ideas and company themes that appear in everyone’s personal narrative. It’s similar to car talk in that when someone starts talking about a personal experience, you can see everyone in the room riveted with that “I feel your pain” kind of attention.

Bring the concept of Car Talk to your next meeting and see what happens. Begin by asking someone in your group to share a personal story about a problem they’ve had with their car and how they got the problem resolved. Allow for informal dialogue so you don’t miss those, “I feel your pain” moments from other people.

Next ask someone in your group to share a story about a problem they’ve had or are currently having at work. Ask them how they’ve tried to resolve it. Ask others if they’ve had similar problems and how, or if, they’ve been resolved. You’ll find increased collaboration with team members offering tips and solutions.

There’s real potential to increase productivity here, as participants discover others who have encountered and solved similar problems. Most simply put, you’r sharing best practices.

Facilitation Tip: One of the keys here is to find out if common problems and solutions are shared on a regular basis. Set up a regular time to trade stories about car problems and then segue into stories about work challenges. You’ll build empathy, communication and awareness.

Make Music As A Team

Hans Christian Anderson famously said, “Where words fail, music speaks”. If your team is having trouble connecting and communicating, why not let music do the talking for you?

It’s impossible to engage with music without experiencing a genuine emotional response. Making music together with the help of a skilled facilitator sets the stage for collaboration, creativity and motivation.

After years of bringing corporate teams together with the transformative power of music through my companie’s team building events, I’m passionate about the results we’ve seen.

You can write one song in a large group setting or break your group into teams to write their own songs and add some competitive spirit. 

There’s nothing better than starting with a blank canvas, coming up with ideas bringing it all together. You’ll come away with a compelling song representing the best of who you are and what you do. You can build competition into this by vying for awards such as ‘Best Song’ or ‘Best Performance’.

Your team will leave feeling energized and engaged, with shared memories to reminisce about for years to come. I hope you’ll check out our varied programs that harness the power of music.

Engagement Is Priceless

All of the activities suggested above share some very important similarities. Each event, exercise or initiative gives individual employees a voice, helps them bond with each other and most importantly, makes everyone on the team feel like they truly belong as an integral part of your company. 

While there are obvious and measurable financial benefits to boosting employee engagement, you can’t put a price on a workplace where your employees feel honored and excited to come to work every day. This is truly priceless. 

It’s time to get out there and get your team engaged – yes, yes, yes

About Billy Kirsch

Billy is a Grammy & Emmy nominated, CMA & ACM award winning songwriter with numerous Top 10 hits to his credit. His team building programs and keynote speaking presentations help people tap into their creative abilities to become more innovative and engaged in their work. Clients include Fortune 100 companies and organizations throughout the world.