Employee Engagement is Declining. Here are 9 Ways to Fix It

A recent Gallup survey has troubling news on employee engagement: The level of engagement has fallen for the second year in a row after almost a decade of growth. The Gallup survey said in 2022, 32% of full- and part-time employees working for organizations are now engaged, down from 34% in 2021 and 36% at the beginning of 2020. In addition, 17% of employees are actively disengaged, an increase of one percentage point from last year.

While the first instinct may be to point to the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the decline, that might not be the case at every organization. Other base causes cited in the survey were employees' understanding of expectations, opportunities for development, and their opinions counting at work. Regardless of the cause, though, the issue needs to be addressed.

Lisa Shuster, Chief People Office at iHire, gives her thoughts on why engagement is important, and some employee engagement strategies you can use if your workers are disengaged.


Why is Employee Engagement Important?

“Employee engagement is the enthusiasm and drive that makes employees want to go to work and do a good job,” Shuster said. "If an organization has low employee engagement, or engagement continues its downward trend, the business runs the risk of higher turnover and waning productivity.”

Low enthusiasm for their work can also bleed into customer interactions, which will hurt a company’s employer brand and profitability.

But what can you do if you’re not sure how to improve employee engagement? Thankfully, there are several employee engagement strategies that you can use to help your workers. Some may not be feasible for every business, but even small steps can make a positive difference.


employees working together


9 Employee Engagement Ideas

1. Conduct “Stay Interviews” or One-on-One Meetings

Before you rush out to make changes to your operations, make sure you understand how your employees feel first. Holding stay interviews or one-on-one chats between managers and employees is a good way to get the pulse of the workplace. Keep in mind these should be safe places for employees to share their honest opinions and not something that will result in punitive action.


2. Offer Hybrid or Remote Work

A key takeaway from the Gallup survey was that remote or hybrid employees tend to have higher levels of engagement (37% engaged in both groups) than those who work exclusively on site (29% engaged). Flexibility is highly desired these days, so consider offering remote work to those who are able to work from home. If a fully remote workforce isn’t possible, hybrid options are good alternatives.


3. Allow Flexible Hours

If your employees must remain on site, giving them flexibility in the hours they work is another option. Being able to pick up their kids from school, attend a doctor’s visit, or even set their hours based on their personal preferences can go a long way in keeping employee morale high.


4. Enhance Mental Health Benefits

Mental health is just as important as physical health, but many companies don’t make a distinction. Increasing the benefits you provide for mental health assistance can greatly impact employee engagement. Ensuring mental health options are included in your health plan is a good first step, and you can also offer subscriptions to wellness and mindfulness services like Headspace. Offering designated “Mental Health” days as extra PTO is another great option.

“If you’re unable to provide more days off you can make it known that using a regular sick day as a mental health day is allowed,” Shuster recommended. “This will help those struggling with burnout or other mental health issues.”


5. Implement Transparency

Another takeaway from the Gallup survey was that companies with a culture of open and transparent communications tend to have higher employee engagement. Gallup recommended businesses rely on managers to keep people informed and openly discuss organizational changes with their teams. If employees are kept in the dark about how their role affects the larger company, they won’t feel as important or engaged.


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6. Enable Managers to Manage

Relying on managers for open communication and letting your managers guide each worker to suit their individual needs is another employee engagement strategy that will pay off in the long run. Additionally, if you upskill your managers with new training to help them effectively do their jobs, it will positively affect everyone they supervise.


7. Offer Growth and Advancement Opportunities

Don’t limit new training to managers, though. If an employee shows an interest in learning new skills or furthering their education, enabling them to take those next steps is a great way to boost engagement. This can be through tuition reimbursement or just setting aside hours during the day to allow them to attend webinars or other training sessions. As a result, they’ll be more likely to use their new knowledge to help your organization grow.


8. Give Meaningful Employee Recognition

Motivating your employees with special recognition is easy to implement, but it must be meaningful for it to work.

“Don’t confuse this for a simple ‘Employee of the Month’ plaque on the wall," Shuster cautioned. “Recognition needs to be specific and consistent, and you should recognize employees based on their individual preferences.”

Remember, some employees may like the spotlight, while others may not. You can provide a reward like a gift card as an extra incentive as well.


9. Hold Happy Hours or Coffee Chats

Hosting chats (in-person or virtually) with the team at a predetermined time can help everyone build relationships and strengthen engagement. Avoid mentioning work and instead, use fun games and challenges such as trivia or Pictionary. Ask them to share weekend plans, photos of their pets or children, or upcoming vacations. If happy hours aren’t your company’s style, another employee engagement idea is to have a shorter session, like a 15-minute coffee chat.


If you implement these employee engagement ideas, you’ll find your employees will be more motivated to work, and your company culture will be more resilient than ever. For more engagement and retention strategies, head to our Employer Resource Center.

by: Doug Atkinson
May 13, 2022