Today I’m going to share twelve tried-and-true strategies to help you boost employee engagement and retention in your workplace.
You might be thinking: “What makes ZayZoon an expert on scoring high employee engagement and retention rates?”
Totally valid question. And here’s my answer:
Last quarter, our employee net promoter score (eNPS) was 77. And that’s with a 93% completion rate. Just to clarify, in the world of eNPS scores, a 77 is excellent—in fact, it’s just shy of the top percentile.
I don’t say this to brag. I say it because, to some, an eNPS score of 77 might seem totally unattainable. I’m here to tell you it’s not. Anyone can do it by implementing some (or all) of the strategies I’ve outlined below.
So, let’s get started.
What is employee engagement?
Simply put, employee engagement refers to how involved and enthusiastic your employees are.
As you no doubt already know, employee engagement is one of the most effective ways of measuring and managing your company’s culture.
At ZayZoon, we think of employee engagement as involving three important elements:
If employees feel like they don't understand how their day-to-day job connects to the big picture, they probably lack clarity of purpose. Nobody wants to feel like what they do every day is pointless. That's why employees need to understand your company's mission and how their role fits into it.
If they don't, employee engagement and job satisfaction is likely to stay low.
Next up, and just as important as clarity, is belonging.
Employees need to feel like they're part of a community and that they have a place on your team. Employee engagement depends on it. They need to be recognized. More than that, they need to feel supported and empowered to be their best.
This is where feedback comes in. I can't stress it enough: developing and maintaining a company culture founded on feedback doesn't just boost employee engagement—it boosts professional growth across your team as well. Employee feedback should be continuous. And while positive feedback is critical, it should also be constructive.
Remember, an engaging workplace experience challenges its employees to grow, improve and recognizes them for their efforts.
Last but certainly not least: development.
There are two sides to professional development in the context of employee engagement. The first, that an individual is growing with the organization in a way that aligns to their professional goals. But then there's also the role your organization should play in that professional growth. Ideally, it is playing an active role, often by ensuring individuals get the right opportunities and feedback.
Organizations that have these three components in spades probably enjoy high employee engagement. They have a positive working environment where employees feel valued. Staff retention probably isn't issue. If this sounds like you, congrats. You have an exceptional employee experience (and you can probably skip reading the rest of this article).
If this doesn't sound like you, don't sweat it. You're not alone. And thankfully, there's plenty you can do to flip the script and improve employee engagement.
The relationship between employee engagement and retention
It should come as no surprise to learn that companies with high employee engagement also enjoy high retention.
In other words, one begets the other—massively.
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s see what Gallup has to say in a recent study comparing the difference between top- and bottom-quartile engagement business units:
- 18% in turnover for high-turnover companies (more than 40% annualized turnover)
- 43% in turnover for low-turnover companies (40% or lower annualized turnover)
So there you have it. High employee engagement directly impacts retention. For low-turnover companies, you can reduce employee turnover by nearly half simply by keeping employees engaged. While high-turnover companies see less of a benefit, it’s still quite sizeable at one-fifth less turnover.
How to measure employee engagement and retention
We’ve talked a bunch about what employee engagement is and why it’s important. But how do you actually measure it?
There are tons of methods for measuring engagement levels, but for the purpose of this article, I’m going to highlight two in particular: eNPS and surveys.
Employee net promoter score (eNPS)
eNPS is a scoring system consisting of a two-question survey that is used by employers to evaluate employee satisfaction and loyalty.
The first question asks employees how likely they are to recommend their company as a place to work, from zero to ten. The second question asks them why they rated the company the way they did.
Before generating a score, the system categorizes ratings into three buckets: promoters (score of nine or ten), neutrals (score of seven or eight) and detractors (score of six and below). The percentage of detractors is subtracted from the percentage of promoters and the result is the eNPS.
eNPS provides a quick and convenient pulse on your workforce. While it is by no means perfect, it can provide helpful, high-level data on employee engagement levels. Here, you’ll want to also keep your participation rate in mind. If most of your employees are rating your workplace, it’s because they understand that their feedback will be used, which is also an indication of engagement.
Curious to learn more about how we conduct eNPS? Check out our article that gets into the nitty-gritty right here.
Surveys… we love them. We hate them. We love to hate them.
As an HR and people pro, you’re no stranger to conducting employee surveys. At ZayZoon, we run them quarterly. If you aren’t already running surveys, here are some things to consider:
- Be very intentional about what questions you choose to ask
- Do not ask questions you have no intention of addressing
- Prepare for constructive (and negative) feedback
Surveys give you a more granular look at your workforce than eNPS. They can also surface trends and patterns you might have missed. But remember, the insights you get only cover a moment in time.
I can’t stress this enough: if you’re using surveys to evaluate employee engagement, be sure to take action on feedback. Otherwise, teammates will stop contributing feedback or worse, you’ll erode workforce trust.
12 strategies to increase employee engagement and retention
Okay, now for the good stuff, AKA the strategies we used to increase employee engagement and retention at ZayZoon.
Unfortunately, when it comes to company planning, decision-making is usually held in the hands of the few.
Not at ZayZoon.
We have quarterly planning sessions for senior leadership, people managers and the broader team.
Everyone is encouraged to participate, provide feedback and volunteer their own ideas. We are very much committed to building a bottom-up versus top-down organization.
We also hosted an in-person planning session at…
2) Summer camp
This past September, we hosted a summer camp.
Since we've more than doubled our headcount, it was an opportunity for the team to get together and connect IRL. We also reflected on past successes (and failures) and help planning sessions for the year to come. While it was an in-person event, we also made accommodations for those who wanted to attend remotely.
ZayZoon summer camp
While we might not necessarily host summer camps annually, we do want to give the team an opportunity to get together in person at least once per year.
You can learn more about how we organized our summer camp right here.
Whether it’s Slack, Microsoft Teams, Discord or a custom-made solution, it doesn’t matter—you absolutely should have an internal messaging tool that everyone uses.
More than that, you should provide guidance on how said tool should be used to get the most out of it. For reference, here’s our best practices. The important thing is to empower teammates with standards so that they feel confident communicating with the rest of the team.
4) WFH channel
No matter what communications tool you use, you’ve got to have a channel where people can engage in water-cooler chat. Whether it’s sharing pet pictures, showcasing top-tier GIF game or bragging about snacks, this is the place where people get to connect on a more personal basis.
5) Drink and Think
We host weekly Drink and Thinks on Friday, typically for forty-five minutes.
They’re an opportunity for the team to get together and learn, all while sipping on their favorite beverage. While some Drink and Thinks focus on work-related topics, like unpacking the year’s marketing plan, others might cover hobbies, like LEGO.
For a look at the ins and outs of how ZayZoon runs its weekly Drink and Thinks, check out this article.
6) Question of the week
Question of the week, or QOTW for the initiated, is a component of our weekly Drink and Thinks. While people are trickling into the Drink and Think meeting room, a designated emcee will run the QOTW. They’re responsible for asking the team a thought-provoking question, like: “If there’s one movie you had to watch for the rest of the week, what would it be?” The objective is to get to know one another better until we’re ready to get started.
7) Companywide scrums
I’ve never worked at an organization that’s done companywide scrums.
Every morning, a team is responsible for running scrum. Typically, it’s fifteen minutes long. It begins with general announcements. Then, the team running scrum will present what they’re up to, big wins, losses, etc. Finally, we do shoutouts and blockers.
Now, mileage may vary with this one. If your company is large, say over 100 people, a companywide scrum might not be doable. If it isn’t, you might opt for functional or team scrums and a companywide all hands.
8) Flexible schedule
This one’s a no-brainer—especially if you have an international team.
By giving teammates the flexibility to determine their work schedule, you’re demonstrating that you trust them to get the job done. And they return that trust by showing up and being engaged.
It’s a win-win.
We use Lattice for people engagement and performance management, but there are plenty of other tools out there, like 15Five, Leapsome, Betterworks and so on. The point is to have a tool that enables continuous feedback internally and helps to standardize performance reviews.
Beyond that, Lattice plays a central role in how we conduct 1:1s. Managers use it to gain insights into how their team members are doing and where they need support. For employees, the tool provides structure and an intimate channel for them to communicate everything from blockers to professional goals.
10) Performance reviews
I don’t need to tell you how important performance reviews are.
You already get it.
When ZayZoon was still a baby startup, performance reviews were extremely informal. Each manager had their own process, which served to reinforce siloing and, let’s face it, a general state of confusion.
That’s why we quickly went the route of standardization. Now, every employee understands where they fit in the larger organization and what they need to do to take that next step in their career, which brings us to…
11) Career paths
To effectively provide career pathing, you need to have a framework in place that shows employees how they can develop their careers within your organization. Here, the objective is to demonstrate that your team members can grow with your organization—laterally, cross-functionally, upwardly, whatever.
While we are proudly a fully remote company, we do still maintain an office for those who work better in a face-to-face environment. Ultimately, we let our employees take the lead. If they tell us they want to come into an office, we make sure there’s an office to come into. And not the other way around.
Final thoughts on employee engagement and retention
Today, employee-centric businesses have a massive competitive advantage. They can attract and retain the best talent and reduce turnover costs. Their ability to do so is contingent on (you guessed it)... employee engagement.
Another tried-and-true technique for keeping your workforce happy that we didn't discuss here is offering flexible pay. Specifically, Earned Wage Access. You can read more about it here.
Hopefully, the strategies we've outlined above will help you drive engagement, retention and make your workplace the place people want to work.