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A lot of money is thrown at the issue of employee engagement, but we have to ask ourselves, “does money buy you love?”  Many different terms are used in place of “love”, such as engagement in work, loyalty, or emotional involvement.  Regardless of the term, leaders want their employees to love the company, believing that love will positively impact how customers are treated.  In return for the love your customers receive from your employees, they will give you the thing your business needs to stay successful – their loyalty. But not all employee engagement initiatives need to cost a lot of money, so let’s explore three cost effective employee engagement ideas to engage your team.

Promote Employee Wellness Programs

Employee wellness programs aim to improve the physical, emotional or mental health of your employees and their families, and as such, many companies implement comprehensive wellness programs that focus on preventive health and lifestyle changes.  This typically means encouraging employees to focus on key health behaviors such as increasing physical activity, improving eating habits, reducing stress, and ceasing tobacco use.  The aim behind wellness programs is that encouraging healthy habits now can prevent or lower the risk of serious health conditions later. Similarly, adopting these same habits can help those with an existing health condition manage it better.

Examples of no cost or low cost wellness initiatives could include:

  • Partnerships with local gyms to provide discounts to your team (employee perks).
  • Start a walking club.  Physically active employees are healthier and tend to be more productive.  Management can support this activity by their own participation and as well help in promotion by allowing flyers to be posted in common areas and email circulation within the organization promoting the club.  Walking clubs are meant to be fun and low-key, but it may be fun to hold a contest or challenge between departments or groups within your company.  Try challenging each department to see who can get the most employees to participate in the walking club every day for a week and then award the winning group prizes like a bonus vacation day, gift cards for lunch, etc.
  • Start a “biggest Loser” weight loss challenge at work.  Consider the timing. January and late spring are both good times to start a challenge. In January, people often make a New Year’s resolution to trim down; in late spring, people are preparing for swimsuit season and will feel more motivated. To persuade people to join in your contest, consider adding an announcement to your company newsletter, post flyers in common areas, send emails to all team members, post on company intranet and even on social media.  Use the fees that you collect to purchase weekly, monthly, or end-of-contest prizes. Alternatively, you can pool the cash and present a cash prize to the winner of the contest.

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Put your Employees Careers First

It is so important that your employees can see a future for themselves at your company. A focus on career is critical to employee engagement, which is why it is important to take a holistic approach to career development. Critical areas of focus are fostering a positive work environment, and building strong relationships between the company and employees. Make sure the employees have options and can see their career path with your company.

Hosting an internal job fair is another great way to get the word out to employees about advancement opportunities within your company. Done well, a career fair can prevent employees from looking elsewhere when they want to make a job change. Job fairs also educate employees about other groups within the company and germinate ideas about future opportunities they may aspire to, thereby strengthening their long-term commitment to the organization. This better understanding can also result in improved interaction and productivity among different groups.

A successful job fair would include: 

  • A clever communication campaign to generate excitement about the fairs, such as a countdown or a simple e-mail advertising campaign using teasers such as, “come find out about a department that has been recognized as most admired in the industry for 5 years running” or “talk to Jane and Alex, two directors who recently joined us from our number one competitor, about the new product-development teams they’re building”.
  • A kick-off event such as executives serving lunch, or coffee and donuts before the fair.
  • An abbreviated summary of available openings and departments.
  • A large, open location, such as an employee cafe or parking lot.
  • Booths or tables staffed by each group within the company. Some groups may not be hiring now but may want to talk with employees about future opportunities.
  • Signs and handouts that include an overview on each group, explaining top priorities and job descriptions.
  • Refreshments — donuts and coffee, or popcorn and slushies have been favorites.
  • Resume-writing and interviewing workshops held (before or during your job fair) to help employees appreciate their marketability and employability. These exercises can also help your employees understand that they need to learn new skills to compete for the best jobs.

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Help Your Employees Give Back

Finding ways to allow employees to connect with the community at large is another way to help people feel that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. In today’s world of socially conscious consumers, companies are aware that giving back to the community on a corporate level can be a big boost for business. But some companies are going one step further by incorporating civic engagement and social responsibility into their company culture. Paid time off for charity work and companywide volunteer projects are becoming more and more common as socially responsible firms encourage their employees to practice what they preach. Zimbra Inc., a cloud-based communications solution provider, is one company whose leaders have made civic engagement a part of the team’s regular routine. Zimbra’s leaders believe that getting involved isn’t just important; it’s a necessity in the modern workplace. Company leaders, should enable and empower those at their organizations to not just be better employees, but also better citizens. The benefits of encouraging volunteer work go beyond personal development. Community involvement among employees can also be hugely beneficial to the company itself. At its core, civic engagement creates bonds among employees, encourages a value-based company culture, and increases the overall morale of the organization.

Getting employees to love working for you and your organization must begin with individuals themselves. A good starting place for your employee engagement strategy is to develop and adopt an employee – centered approach. Instead of focusing on mandating engagement from the top down, consider the best ways for employees to form and promote their own decisions and choose which initiatives they would like to participate in. For example, provide forums, bulletin boards or other communication channels that allow employees to connect with one another on issues they care about.

Does your company employ any of these cost effective methods to engage employees? Do you have any other ideas to share, ‘coz we’d love to hear them!