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AGAR - Culture

The Evolution of Employee Engagement

A continually shifting workplace environment has created new expectations for both talent acquisition as well as employee retention. A saturated job market and a newer generation seeking our authenticity, are setting the stage for employers of choice to stand out. Now, more than ever before, companies need to provide talent with localized strategies that engage, educate, and inspire employees for future success. Consider these 3 strategies when creating your next employee activation.

Focus on a lifestyle, not a workplace

When recruiting new talent, brands need to think beyond the 9-5. You’re selling a community, a region, and a lifestyle – not just a job. Consider ways to showcase the area: the local coffee shop on the way to work, the wine bar down the street, or the park they’ll take their kids to on the weekend. It’s not work-life balance anymore, it’s how easily you can integrate work into your life, so help make the case for them. Introduce them to potential community and affinity groups, housing options, and recommendations on local destinations that fit their unique life stage and interests.

If you’re hosting a formal recruitment event, make sure to offer recommendations, but don’t force it. Providing plenty of opportunities for self-guided discovery will allow individuals to choose what interests them most. By offering a balance of structured time and free time, you can inform and educate while also allowing for exploration.

How to Activate:

  • Leverage local. Visiting local restaurants or bringing in regional favorites is a memorable and localized way to showcase the area.
  • Showcase year-round activation. Make sure you represent how the city is activated throughout the seasons. If potential candidates are visiting in the spring, consider pre-recording content that features the energy of the community during a football Sunday or a holiday event.
  • Engage & excite. When creating opportunities for self-guided discovery and socializing, consider how to make it fun, providing participants with moments of surprise and delight. Get creative … consider a city-wide scavenger hunt, a progressive dinner downtown, or a bike route of unique attractions.
Create consistent, brand-centric events

Whether you’re looking to host quarterly, bi-annual, or annually, every brand should create a consistent calendar of employee engagement events. This provides a consistent cadence that employees can plan around and rely on. This predetermined schedule allows for anticipation and excitement while giving leadership a reliable timeline to plan and execute the vision.

In addition to a consistent candace, the events should feel unique to your brand. Consider the theme, messaging, content, and design, and how every element ladders up to your brand and culture. Make sure to capture content during the event and consider how elements or themes could live on in your business well beyond the event itself. The event shouldn’t feel like a one-off experience, it should feel like a natural extension of your brand that provides employees with a more experiential interaction.

How to Activate:

  • Consider seasonality. When planning your annual event(s), make sure to consider your typical company cadence: when is your busy season; when does your fiscal year or quarter come to a close; etc. By recognizing these natural ebbs and flows in your business, you can be more strategic in your planning. Allow employees a few weeks for PTO or downtime after a busy season so they can decompress before hosting a company-wide event. This allows teammates to come in refreshed and refocused to adopt a more creative mindset for the future.
  • Build anticipation. While the date should be established well in advance, so teammates and organizations have ample time to plan, that doesn’t mean every detail needs to be shared. Consider how to implement an element of surprise that might help build anticipation for teammates. Maybe the venue is a surprise, or a mysterious installation pop-ups up the week before, or even hints at a special guest that may be joining – there are plenty of ways on both a small and large scale to build in surprise and delight.
Content is king

The most important feature of successful employee engagement is content. Providing authentic, on-brand content that engages, informs, or inspires, current or potential, employees to feel connected to your brand and vision. The right content takes planning, practice, and careful consideration so your message doesn’t fall flat. Today’s workforce can see through the fluff, they are looking for companies that stand for something, practice what they preach, and have a larger purpose that they can get behind and believe in.

How to Activate:

  • Look external. Make sure to provide a mix of both internal and external partners for content. For current employees, external speakers provide an opportunity to gain fresh insight, education, or inspiration. For potential candidates, this allows them to hear an external perspective and helps minimize the use of internal jargon that might confuse or alienate future talent.
  • Name recognition goes a long way. Especially for virtual events, consider a more well-known name. Name recognition can go a long way in getting people to log on and participate, whereas with in-person events, you already have an active audience.
  • Quality over quantity. If you can’t provide participants with a high-value item, consider other ways to show gratitude. Consider opportunities for employees, or talent, to donate to the non-profit of their choice, or provide a unique experience, whether it’s an elevated coffee bar or bringing in a DJ at the end of the day, there are creative ways to engage with employees beyond offering another stress ball, branded pencil, or keychain. Today’s workforce is much more conscious of waste, so be thoughtful in your approach.
  • Control the message. The best way to stay on-brand is to have a script. Consider the run of show and the balance between active and passive activities, make sure your speakers feel prepared and practiced, and consider your backup plans. While successful events take a lot of planning, the potential benefit of recruiting strong talent and retaining valued employees is well worth the work.