Five Actions You Can Take to Enhance Employee Engagement

Engaged Status on Lever

If you want more engaged employees, start from day one with their onboarding, meet their needs on flexibility, and treat them with dignity – always.

Today’s post is by Cornelia Gamlem and Barbara Mitchell, authors of The Big Book of HR (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

In today’s competitive environment, leaders want to make sure they are doing all that they can to engage and retain their employees. Think of the time, effort and money the organization has put into recruiting and hiring great talent. These are five actions leaders can take to support employee engagement:

Onboarding new employees

A well-crafted onboarding process is the first step toward engaging and retaining your new hires. It should start when the candidate accepts the job offer. Use this time between acceptance and start date to communicate with new hires. Email them welcome messages and things they need to know: arrival time, where to park, whom to ask for when they arrive, and a schedule of the first day’s activities.

Have their workspace ready with all the tools and equipment they’ll need. Leave your schedule free to spend as much time as possible with them. Introduce them to other team members and the leadership team. Discuss the organization’s history, vision, values and mission.

Build in checkpoints to follow up at 30-60-90 days following their start date. Onboarding is all about making new hires feel as welcome and become as productive as possible. It takes some work, but the payoff can be huge.


A culture that encourages balance between personal and business obligations is an advantage in attracting and retaining the best employees. The prevalence of flexible work arrangements – flextime, telework – continues in order to meet the needs of today’s changing workforce.

Advances in technology, especially the introduction of mobile computing devices and cloud-based storage, make these programs possible and affordable. Leaders should approach them as a business strategy ensuring they fit the organization’s and employee’s needs. For example, is work your employees perform suitable for telecommuting – independent in nature rather than requiring constant, personal interaction with others?

If you implement these programs, everyone involved must understands them and have the tools and technologies in place to communicate and collaborate with virtual employees.

Rewards and compensation

Employers are turning to variable pay, a type of incentive compensation, to reward employees as salary budgets continue to be relatively flat and low. Start-up firms in the technology sector, which are nimble and flexible, are disrupting many established practices including pay practices.

Organizations recognize that there is a broader shift in total rewards as they compete over younger workers for whom other perks, such as parental leave, paid time off, more flexibility, and work-life balance may be as important as pay. Employees nearing retirement are also looking for flexibility. While these changes are addressing the mostly skilled workers in the higher levels of the economic ladder, workers at the bottom end have different needs. Consider your employees’ needs and what other organizations in your industry and labor market are doing. Then design and implement reward programs that will attract the talent that you need.

Critical conversations and feedback

Leaders often have critical conversations – when they, resolve conflict, provide praise for a job well done, or deliver good (“you’re getting promoted”) or bad (“we need to talk about your behavior”) news. One of the most important conversations should be about feedback – how the employee is doing.

As more organizations look at emerging practices for managing performance, more discussions need to be held. To prepare for them, have some questions ready to guide these two-way discussions: What’s working and should be continued; what can be done differently; what can I do to help?

Another approach is to ask:
– What? This helps facilitate a discussion around accomplishments or project status to explore what when right or wrong.
– So what? This brings clarity and helps identify problems or measure potential.
– Now what? This provides the opportunity to explore a path forward.

Either approach can facilitate dialogue and ensure the atmosphere is positive and communicative.

Ending the employment relationship

Whether people leave voluntarily or involuntarily, it is important that they leave with dignity and respect. If you have to terminate someone, do it in person. In today’s environment with many far-flung, virtual workers, if a personal conversation is not possible, pick up the phone. Be ready to explain why they are being terminated.

Notification of termination decisions should be planned with care. The employee’s direct manager and a human resources representative should plan in advance what to say in an involuntary termination meeting and they should attend it together – even if it has to be done over the phone – to avoid disagreements about what was communicated.

If you treat people with dignity, they will feel positive about their experience, perhaps refer others to your organization, or even return to work for you someday.

Big Book of HRCornelia Gamlem and Barbara Mitchell are influencers to the HR and business communities. Gamlem is President of GEMS Group ltd, Mitchell is Managing Partner of The Mitchell Group LLC. They’ve taken their collective years as Human Resource professionals and consultants and shared it in The Big Book of HR (CLICK HERE to get your copy) which includes templates, checklists, and sample forms that can be easily adapted by any organization. They’ve also written The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook and collaborate on a weekly blog, Making People Matter. For more information visit

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