Employee engagement is far more than a buzzword. A robust body of research has demonstrated time and again that engagement correlates to better team relationships, more invested and productive employees, better customer loyalty, and ultimately, a significant profit boost.

From identifying the key tenets of engagement to troubleshooting and meeting your diverse workforce where they are, our guide goes A to Z (and then some) in order to give you the best and most proven tools to create your own irresistible business environment.

What is employee engagement?

In the words of business owners, HR professionals, and engagement experts:

“The simplest way to put it: they’re excited about coming to work--getting up every day and looking forward to coming in, doing the work, and helping their company move forward.”

-- Neal McNamara, Senior Communications Manager of TINYpulse

“Research shows that employees who are actively engaged in the work they do are happier, healthier and feel a greater sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. As a result, they exhibit higher levels of business performance, are more productive(...). Not only that, but they will act as advocates for your organization.”

-- Saurav Chopra, Co-founder & CEO, Perkbox

“When an employee works with passion connected deeply to their company values or objectives, goes that extra mile , [acts as] an evangelist for the company’s cause objectives, resulting in an improved bottom line.”

-- Baskaran Ambalvanan, Senior HRIS Manager at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, member of Society for Human Resource Management

“Someone who is switched on enough to care about my company and my mission, and also each other. Plus, the ultimate piece, which is the guest. We are in the service industry. We serve people--that’s what we do.”

-- Leith Hill, Owner of Ellary’s Greens in New York, New York

“You can really feel when an employee is leaning into the company versus leaning out.”

-- Shane Metcalf, Vice President of Customer Success at 15Five

“Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. When employees care—when they are engaged—they use discretionary effort.”

-- Kevin Kruse writing for Forbes, author of Employee Engagement 2.0

Global employee engagement by the numbers:


“The words ‘happy’ and ‘engaged’ are often used interchangeably, but it’s a false equivalency,” Saurav Chopra says. Happy is not the same thing as “I like my salary” or “this is a cushy job.” Real engagement blooms when an employee consistently goes the extra mile, manifests care for your business to others, and is a pleasure to be around. Although a gap currently exists between those switched-on, leaning-in, passionate employees and those who are just skating by, more and more leaders now understand that focusing on engagement allows for fantastic customer service experiences leading directly to profit increases.


So, why is employee engagement important?

To truly delve into this question, it’s important to examine the traits of workers at the other end of the spectrum.

Meet Lauren

She’s checked out and unless a customer is standing right in front of the register, she’s scrolling idly through her phone. She glances at the clock frequently and sighs; unless you ask her a direct question, she’s zoning out. Sure, she punches in (mostly) on time and completes the basic task checklist, but if a customer asks Lauren a question or you mention that you need volunteers to unload a shipment, she’s likely to look to another employee first.

Lauren is what is referred to as disengaged. It doesn’t create the most inviting atmosphere, so there is definitely good reason to try and engage Lauren more and help her become more motivated.

Then there’s Zane

He’s really not happy at work. He’s started giving mean nicknames to some of the other servers and yells at the new hostess when she accidentally assigns him the wrong table. He has been a no-show for his shift before and customers complain that he’s flubbing their orders. Other employees dread sharing his shift.

Yikes, right? Whether an employee is simply not giving 100% or is acting out his/her unhappiness and undermining the business, it should be clear that disengaged employees correspond to flagging productivity, less positive team member relationships, lackluster customer service interactions, and the potential loss of customers.

The research bears this out. A Harvard Business Review study found that best-in-class companies highly prioritize employee engagement and connect it directly to overall success. Of these high prioritizers, 77% recognize that employee engagement has a “considerable impact” on customer satisfaction.


Business recognizing that employee engagement has a”considerable impact” on customer satisfaction

From there, draw a line directly from customer satisfaction to profit margins. Gallup deduced that when 93% of the employees at an organization were engaged, the company raked in a whopping 147% in higher earnings vs. less engaged workplace cultures. This is good news all around: scoring in the top half for employee engagement also nearly doubled the margins for new business success and led to 22% more profits, 21% higher employee productivity, and a 37% drop in absenteeism. Engaged workplaces also record 48% fewer safety incidents.

“The benefits are huge. First, you dramatically reduce your turnover. The cost of replacing an employee is astronomical compared to keeping an employee. You start to create a culture of trust and creativity with employees experiencing more ownership of the company.”

Shane Metcalf, 5Five

He also mentions that this more “entrepreneurial” staff mindset leads to more word-of-mouth marketing, innovation, and easier recruitment of other high caliber employees.

Ambalvanan echoes that when quantifying the “benefits of an engaged team, some of the metrics are increased productivity, employees taking increased discretionary efforts, reduced absenteeism,” enhanced customer service, and more.

Leith Hill

Restaurateur Leith Hill also calls out employee camaraderie in a customer-focused setting. Employees that work well together and help each other out are “essential.” “It’s so interesting because our team actually likes each other and they like what they’re doing. They’re laughing and dancing and they’re having a nice, engaged time. I think that really translates to the guests.”

Leith sometimes reminds her team that it’s not actually her that pays them…despite signing their paychecks. The customers’ positive dining experiences in her two restaurants ultimately underwrite every check.


The engaged employee framework

So, now that we’ve established its importance, what creates a culture of engagement for employees? We’ve broken it down for you based on our own workplace research:

According to Metcalf, “Someone who is engaged is thinking, ‘Am I going to tie my future to this shift, long-term or short-term, and trust that what I’m doing here is going to get me where I want to go, personally and professionally?’” This employee asks questions of himself about whether or not his values truly align with his job, and if he is learning the skills he wants to master for his future. Overall, he’s looking for opportunities that will help him become the person he wants to be.


TINYpulse’s 2015 Employee Engagement & Organizational Report found after collecting data from 400,000 anonymous employee survey respondents on a variety of engagement-focused questions that “some of the strongest factors correlated to employee happiness include work environment and organizational culture.” What else came through loud and clear? Happy employees consistently raved about their peers and colleagues as the main thing that sparked their excitement about work.


The company’s companion 2014 Employee Engagement survey reinforces the framework breakdown. When asked about the top things they loved at their jobs, 51% of employees cited great colleagues, 35% called out the nature of the work they do, and continuous challenges and growth opportunities came in at 14%.

Top things employees said they love at their job:


Great colleagues

Continuous challenges and growth opportunities

The nature of the work

As you can see, a set of community values guides much of this feedback. From leadership to peer relationships, employees crave a meaningful workplace built on collectivity, intellectual challenge, and increasing levels of investment. We like to call this winning over hearts and minds. Remember, some of your employees are spending 80 hours of their week or more planted in your shop–they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.


There is hope even for employees who are currently “not feelin’ it” on the job, too. Given the high costs of attrition and training, CIO delves further into Gallup’s 2015 engagement numbers to point out an important fact: 50% of the disengaged employees were passively disengaged rather than actively so. While overtly hostile employees are hard to win back, there is ample opportunity to change course with both new and long-term employees.

The message is clear: don’t give up just yet!


The story of an engaged employee

Meet Zhara

She began as a greeter at the front desk of the gym, and you told her to “keep up the good work” after noticing that she was easily drawing new customers into conversation. Over time, you increased her responsibility: now she is the shift manager for her peers. You frequently ask her to train others and seek her advice on the best ways to train new hires. Together, she and a colleague are collaborating on an updated employee handbook--they indicated that they’d like to take the reins, so you stepped back.

Zhara said she loves the gym’s mission and hopes to be a personal trainer herself someday; you offered to subsidize the costs of her training program and encouraged her to switch up her schedule to accommodate her classes. That means she gets to stay where she wants to stay: working with customers and the other trainers. Recently, a customer came to her, upset over a billing discrepancy. Although the discrepancy wasn’t her fault, Zhara responded with compassion and took the time to track down a solution, resulting in a glowing Yelp review. Word-of-mouth referrals and applications are also on the uptick.

This is a case study for employee engagement success, but the ramifications go to the structure of the business itself. As Josh Bersin writes for the Deloitte Review, “In short, the balance of power has shifted from employer to employee, forcing business leaders to learn how to build an organization that engages employees as sensitive, passionate, creative contributors. We call this a shift from improving employee engagement to a focus on building an irresistible organization.”

In these next section we walk you through some of best approaches to changing and improving your company culture and employee engagement level.

How to identify engagement pitfalls and fix them so you, too, can have an irresistible organization

While transforming your company culture from the inside out won’t be an overnight process, there are pain points you can address now to inspire a turnaround. Here are some reasons that engagement might be at a standstill:


Problem: Confusion, faulty equipment, inefficient processes, or interruptions are getting in the way of meaningful work.


Ever had a day where somehow the front desk got abandoned, the phone was ringing off the hook, and all three sales associates thought it was their job to check the inventory? Chances are, your employees were confused about your expectations or were hesitant to ask for clarification.

Whether it’s sticking with an old-fashioned register when your employees used Square at their old jobs or not having enough people in the shift pool to cover when someone has to miss work, employees feel frustrated and checked out when there are barriers to them actually doing their jobs. 24% of TINYpulse’s respondents mentioned “not having the tools necessary to do the job” when describing their productivity-lessening work headaches. They were also not fans of frequently being pulled out of their workflow to deal with crises.


feel the reason for their lack of productivity is not having the necessary tools.


How to make changes: Be a hands-on manager who is not MIA when questions pop up. Most importantly, discuss every employee’s role from the beginning, being transparent on your expectations and how their position functions within the larger team. When TINYpulse compiled their retail and hospitality data for the engagement question, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how well do you feel you’re fulfilling your job role?,” the average response was 8.13. If you can, aim for a perfect 10. An employee feels good when she knows what success in her position means to you, and the steps she can take to get there.


In addition, invest in systems that work effectively and streamline your processes from shipping to cleaning. Make sure you have instructions on the books for who does what if your team is shorthanded. Upgrade your tracking system or chat with peers in your industry about the technologies they’re using to make things easier for their staffs. Resist the urge to assign a new task right when an employee is in the middle of finishing something important.

Key framework questions to ask:

  • "Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?"
  • "Do you feel like your team or location can take the course of action that makes the most sense for you?"
  • "Do you know what is expected of you at work?"

Problem: Poor communication and follow-through is hampering a positive work environment.


Sometimes our peers at work let us down, but when it begins to feel like frustration is a constant state, team camaraderie takes a hit. TINYpulse found that this was the top complaint for employees who felt they couldn’t be productive at work. One superstar employee can’t pull the team on her own, and she’s going to start looking for the exit if it appears there’s no end in sight.

How to make changes: Your team is only as good as its weakest member. Focus on making new hires that are a true cultural fit with your business. According to Gallup, “Though many organizations focus on strengthening their current employees’ engagement, few have realized the potential effect the selection of managers and employees can have on engagement and organizational performance. Ultimately, people engage people.” Among your existing staff, what can you do to build team camaraderie? Focus on creating smaller and more targeted teams among those who frequently work together.

Remember: the single most important communicator on the job is you. James Harter and Amy Adkins writing for the Harvard Business Review encapsulate Gallup’s findings on employee/manager relationships, which make a clear case for hands-on managers. This includes in person, phone, and electronic availability. Regular meetings on the books boost engagement, too.

“[W]hen employees attempt to contact their manager, engaged employees report their manager returns their calls or messages within 24 hours. These ongoing transactions explain why engaged workers are also more likely to report their manager knows what projects or tasks they are working on….Great managers have the talent to motivate employees and build genuine relationships with them.

At Ellary’s Greens, Hill makes a point of saving every server’s, host’s, and chef’s number into her cellphone, right in front of them. This communicates many things: I’m available. I’m here for you. I care about you, even when you’re not at work. From this standpoint, her new hires feel comfortable asking questions or being honest when outside factors are affecting their work performance.

Key framework questions to ask:

  • "Do you feel like your manager and coworkers care about you as a person?"
  • "Do you have a best friend at work? How available is your manager for meetings and catch-ups?"

Problem: Employees are bored and doing the bare minimum.


It might seem like laziness, but it could also be that your employees lack opportunities for growth. TINYpulse reported that 70% of the workers it surveyed did not feel they were meeting their full potential and 75% lacked opportunities for training and growth. It’s no coincidence that these numbers match up almost exactly with Gallup’s findings on disengagement. In McNamara’s words, one major consequence is that employees are more likely to quit their jobs, which means significant expense for you. Veteran employees’ “institutional knowledge is really valuable and hard to replace.” The other consequence is lost profits as well as less productivity, more errors, and lower team morale.

How to make changes: Get going on your learning culture. The Deloitte Review breaks this down into key touch points, beginning with new hires and extending to growth opportunities for seasoned staff:

  1. Re-evaluate your training program. From day one, focus on creating a program that helps newbies understand their roles and feel supported while doing so. Give them enough time and model that asking questions and getting feedback are constants in your business environment.
  2. Allow talented employees to try something new. You might not be able to promote your head server above his current position (server captain, anyone?) but you can allow him to move laterally within your company, becoming a novice again and mastering a new skill. Let him shadow the bartender or help out on your social media metrics; it’s a win-win as he adds to his resume and contributes even more to the restaurant.
  3. Keep it up. Make sure you and your senior staff are on the same page about valuing learning and development rather than simply looking at receipts.

Bersin highlights the benefits of cross training, in retail especially. “As soon as something is missing or perhaps hard to find, the employee figures out where it is, finds the right size, and helps customers complete a purchase. Unempowered employees who are not cross-trained, however, may just tell customers to ask someone else. A major home improvement retailer studied store-by-store performance and found that teams that cross-train their sales leaders regularly are generating 10–15 percent higher revenue and as much as 20 percent higher engagement scores.”

Key framework questions to ask:

  • "Do you feel like you have the opportunity to keep developing your professional skills at work?"
  • "n the last six months, has someone talked to you about your progress?"
  • "Do you feel like your manager cares about your personal and professional development?"

Problem: Your staff seems distracted, stretched too thin, and unhappy with their shift times.


Work ain’t what it used to be. Even in the service sector, technology and our ability to be on call 24/7 has dissolved many of the firm boundaries that once existed between home life and work life. Employees have made the tradeoff to be on call via text, email, or cell…but in return, they’d prefer a little flexibility and the ability to fit other commitments easily into their weekly schedules.

“Of the workplace benefits Gallup studied, flextime yielded the strongest relationship to overall well being among employees,” the study cites, indicating 44% higher rates of wellbeing vs. those disengaged employees with little flextime. Employers who aren’t, well, flexible about flextime risk poisoning team morale. Reporting on one retail giant, Buzzfeed called out a “ controversial form of scheduling [that] locks staff into shifts that can be cancelled at the last minute, with no pay.” It doesn’t take rocket science to know that this sort of disrespect for employees’ time can lead to dissatisfaction.

How to make changes: Part of this goes back to culture at the workplace–do your employees have a bond? Do they feel comfortable asking each other or you for help covering shifts or switching things up? You may also want to consider using shift scheduling software that allows every employee to seamlessly access his/her schedule in advance and trade shifts with the press of a finger. Chopra mentions “forward-thinking organizations” that adopt a “more horizontal internal structure” are on the right track by allowing more fluidity and empowerment when it comes to scheduling and time off.

Empowering employees to have more control over their schedules means they will be more switched-on during their shifts. This work-life balance is a key element of the positive work environment. “Planday is something that helps our team feel a part of the whole scheduling process. We honor them by giving them shifts a month in advance—this helps them plan,” Hill says. That way, one employee won’t have to miss her son’s baseball game while another who’s keen to make some extra cash will have an easy way to grab extra shifts.

  • "Do you feel like you can fit your personal commitments into your work schedule?"
  • "Do you feel like your manager and coworkers care about you as a person?"

Problem: Your employees feel more like cogs in a wheel rather than appreciated for their contributions.


This one is huge. Every time an employee comes through with fantastic customer service, a time-saving new idea, or support for their co-workers, their efforts add value to your business. To keep these same stellar performers engaged in the mission of what you do, they need to know you noticed. When someone is working hard and their work goes unacknowledged, they either scale back their efforts or their eye starts wandering over to somewhere with a more encouraging environment.

How to make changes: Work on creating a culture of feedback and praise. Part of this may be re-assessing how you give feedback itself. Sincerity is key, too, so show appreciation in ways that feel authentic to you and your team.

“It’s all about building a positive company culture and mentality that nurtures employees, that recognises a job well done and that makes team members feel valued for the work they do,” Chopra says. “Often it’s the small gestures that don’t cost anything–a simple ‘thank you’ from a teammate, a ‘well done’ from a manager or a birthday card–that can make all the difference, engaging employees and encouraging them to work at their full potential.”


The tools we’ll cover in a later section offer excellent ways for employers and employees to praise one another, whether by offering “salary-stretching perks” or the opportunity to deliver a virtual high five. Hands-on management and supporting a team environment where team members genuinely like and respect each other goes a long way to creating this positive work environment.

Key framework questions to ask:

  • "How often do you receive feedback or praise at work?"
  • "Do you feel like your manager and coworkers care about you as a person?"

Problem: Employees don’t have enough time to connect with customers or aren’t effective in doing so.


No matter how architecturally-pleasing your space is or how compelling your product, at the root of every glowing review–Yelp or otherwise–lies a positive interaction between your employees and your customers. To re-state Hill’s point, they’re why we’re here.


Whether your employees are working in the front or back of the house, they are all an essential piece of the customer experience. Beyond just being polite, you’ll truly reap the benefits of an engaged team when they also act as brand ambassadors for what you do. “When employees make contact with your customers, or potential ones, they give meaning and dimension to your company’s brand promise,” reports Gallup. “The best employee brand ambassadors don’t stop doing this at the end of the workday. They continue to extol the virtues and values of their company’s brand even when they are not on the clock, in conversations with friends, family, neighbors, and on social media.”


How to make changes: Create significant customer relationships and brand ambassadors by returning to the mission of your brand. Whether it’s providing body positive workout plans, the best organic food in the city, or charming greeting cards, get your employees on board with your mission and they’ll be excited to communicate this to others.

Gallup recommends clearly communicating to your staff the ways in which they all contribute to the customer experience. Beyond that, your brand identity and promise should be front and center from the word “Go.” “All new employees should be able to articulate what your company stands for and what makes you different within their first 30 days of employment, and your managers should reinforce this message every day.”

Ask your employees for their thoughts on better ways to deliver on your brand promise and collaborate with them to really emphasize that combined, you are a team. Be sure your employees have time built in to interact with customers–often it’s those crucial minutes before class or while waiting for a table that make a huge difference. When they feel engaged in helping and inspiring others, employees are also more engaged with you.


“We have a lot of instructors who are good at interacting with customers after class. They take time to chit-chat with customers, which means we get more customers who ask how they can start teaching,” shares Ronnie Andersen, a site manager at Fitness World. This is engagement in action.

Key framework questions to ask:

  • "Do you feel like you make a difference in the lives of your customers?"
  • "Does your manager give plenty of time to interact with customers?"
  • "Do you feel like you and your customers are part of a community?"

Takeaway 1: Employee engagement begins with engaging leaders


“An important turning point for employee engagement experts came with Daniel H. Pink’s Drive. The 2009 book argues that while it’s important to pay employees well, most carrot-and-stick motivators don’t work in the long term, because people get so fixated on the reward that they lose interest in the activity itself. What we really want in our jobs, Pink writes, is autonomy, the chance to get better at what we do, and a purpose that connects us to something larger.” says Paul Keegan for Inc.

You are your business’s No. 1 brand ambassador, and while you might employ managers and other senior staff, at the end of the day, your ability to inspire matters a lot. “Any employee engagement program’s success is determined by the the senior leaders’ buy-in or understanding the benefits of engaging the employees,” Ambalvanan observes. If you suspect that your employees could be more engaged, or even if things are going well, ask them.

Aon’s 2014 report,The Engaging Leader, found that strong leadership was the deciding factor for companies that reached top quartile engagement and business performance markers. These leaders:

  1. Step up by proactively owning solutions where others cannot or do not
  2. Energize people by keeping them focused on purpose and vision with contagious positivity
  3. Connect and Stabilize by listening, staying calm and unifying others
  4. Serve and Grow by empowering, enabling and developing their people
  5. Stay Grounded through humble, open, candid and authentic communications and behavior (source: Aon Engaging Leaders report)


For Hill, engaging leadership means meeting with every new employee personally when they begin their job at Ellary’s Greens. In this two-way conversation, she is clear about her expectations and solicits theirs in return:

Planday Customer

“I let them know that I have this conversation with everyone on the team. It sets the parameters. I think that’s important and a big part of having a successful, engaged team. This is what is important to me about this company and this team, what we do, and about you. I try to treat people the way I want to be treated. That’s why I do it.”

Leith Hill

Ellary's Greens

Takeaway 2: Small business owners need to think about engagement, too.


In Dale Carnegie Training’s 2014 research on engagement in small- to mid-size companies, they discovered a 7% increase in how engaged employees were at small companies vs. their larger counterparts. This certainly works in favor of small business owners, and also points to some subtle differences to keep in mind when you work to inspire your own team.


At larger companies, an employee is most impacted by her immediate supervisor. At smaller businesses, the tightness of the team means that employees especially value autonomy, being appreciated, and honesty. They may not be able to count on the same salary increases as larger corporations, but that’s okay: these employees would rather be doing a variety of interesting work and feel connected to their company instead. If you own a small business, remember that hands-on management and opportunities for growth and customer relationships mean even more in your setting.

At larger companies, an employee is most impacted by her immediate supervisor. At smaller businesses, the tightness of the team means that employees especially value autonomy, being appreciated, and honesty. They may not be able to count on the same salary increases as larger corporations, but that’s okay: these employees would rather be doing a variety of interesting work and feel connected to their company instead. If you own a small business, remember that hands-on management and opportunities for growth and customer relationships mean even more in your setting.

How to measure employee engagement: tools and troubleshooting

Tools to measure engagement in real time

15Five employee engagement software combines weekly check-ins, pulse surveys, and peer recognition all in one platform.

How it works: Each week, employees set aside 15 minutes to answer simple questions about what they are up to and how they’re feeling. Managers read and respond by doling out praise, implementing new ideas, or notifying higher-ups. All in all, this gives leadership a global view of how everyone is doing at the company so that any culture problems can be nipped in the bud. The app is quick, simple, lightweight, and works well on mobile.

“Fundamentally, the engine of 15Five is questions,” Metcalf explains. “Questions are powerful because they direct our attention to whatever the question is asking; they ask you to think and contemplate and reflect.” Through a blend of fixed and rotating questions, the queries give employees a chance to think back on their accomplishments–this “positive psychology baked into the practice” can help your staff assemble a track record of their accomplishments and get recognized for the real results they bring to your shop.


How it contributes to an engaged team: Metcalf notes that employees have used the tool to invite others out for “virtual coffee,” thus encouraging workers to meet across different teams. 15Five has also helped managers and staff feel better equipped for performance reviews and helps clear the intimidation barrier for employees who want to ask their managers for specific feedback. “The ‘high fives’ are one of our more popular features,” he shares. “Our high five module is one of the simplest and most effective things to do to show appreciation.”


TINYpulse helps managers easily obtain actionable feedback to create a happier, more productive workplace.

How it works: TINYpulse creates quick, one question surveys and sends them to your employees each week; they can then respond via email link or an app. All survey responses are 100% anonymous. Plus, the platform contains a “Cheers for Peers” feature that lets employees and managers recognize one another. A virtual suggestion box and dashboard round out the program and allow managers to collect data after five questions have been answered.

Planday Customer

“TINYpulse helps managers get feedback about what’s going on in the workplace. You can take the input and share it back with the workforce--then you can actually act on it….The feedback acts in two ways: it empowers employees to provide information, and that information can provide a lot of transparency and accountability in the workforce.”

--Neal McNamara

How it contributes to an engaged team: One unique thing about TINYpulse is its anonymity. “The feedback is unfettered, honest; even with a manager whose ‘door is always open,’” the anonymity built into the platform breaks down employees’ timidity when making suggestions or answering a question such as: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how connected do you feel to your coworkers?” The app’s Cheers for Peers function is its most popular as a way to give praise where it’s due. “This is also a great way for managers to interact with employees,” McNamara says.

Tools to address work-life balance


Perkbox provides employers with the opportunity to show their team how valuable they are to the company’s success. It does this through the provision of an employee engagement platform that drives financial, physical and emotional wellbeing.

How it works: Perkbox is a cloud-based employee engagement platform that employers and employees can set up and access anytime, anywhere through their desktop and mobile handset. When an employer signs up, the company sends through a lot of marketing material including posters and brochures to help drive awareness of Perkbox inside their workplaces.

According to Chopra, “By offering more than 200 salary-stretching perks, including a number of free perks such as free movies on demand, free phone insurance, half-price cinema tickets, discounts at 30,000 high-street and online stores, and leading restaurant chains, we help employees deliver savings of over £800/year on an average.” The program also boasts a fully integrated Rewards and Recognition platform that encourages peer-to-peer and top-down recognition–both powerful tools of employee motivation. Its wellness platform promotes physical wellbeing.


How it contributes to an engaged team: The main quantitative feedback that we receive from our happy customers from an employer perspective is around reduction in employee turnover, a decrease in absenteeism, and an increase in the number of employee referrals leading to an overall reduction in recruitment costs.” One of Perkbox’s clients, Next Stage Ltd, saw a reduction in turnover rates from 58% to 14% in just 6 months while employee referrals rocketed from 5% to 43%. The word from customers is also positive, with many noting more “buzz” in the workforce and increased motivation and collaboration.


Of course, tools alone won’t bridge the engagement gap. Shane Metcalf at 15Five reminds leaders that engagement measuring tools provide a “jumping off point for deeper conversations…the human side of it is really the other coin.” Identifying a problem via survey? Take a “We” focused approach rather than one rooted in “Us vs. Them,” urges Ambalvanan. Time to act, follow up with your employees, and demonstrate your genuine care via action. Bingo! You’ve reinforced the engagement framework.

How to engage varying employee types

Every team–retail, restaurant, hospitality, or otherwise–is going to have its range of social butterflies, shy types, and age differentials. Just as your organizational mission is unique to your business, your engagement strategies should be sensitive to the different ways your employees would like to be engaged. Per Gallup, “The best managers recognize and understand the fundamental differences among their team members and think about the implications for the workplace. These managers are energized by the potential these diverse individuals bring to the table.” It’s all about, “What’s your size?” vs. “One size fits all.”

One benefit of using tools and surveys to collect feedback is that all employees participate, not just the usual suspects. Here are ways you can respond and allow your engagement culture to flourish:

1. Recognize the ways that Millennials are transforming the workforce

Chances are, Millennials are already dominating your hire pool, especially given that service sector jobs are a waystation for young people as they try new things, seek out new cities, and save money for schooling. With a population of 80 million, this group is also the most fickle group currently in the workforce. The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that 44% were considering leaving their current positions, and Gallup recorded that only 28% of Millennials are engaged at work, the least of any group.

The reasons for this have to do with Millennials’ impatience with traditional hierarchies: they expect growth, frequent feedback, and advancement correlated less to tenure than to performance. They have also grown up a connected generation and value team collaboration, working for organizations they believe in, and technological flexibility.

  • Offer frequent feedback
  • Ask your employees what the values of your organization mean to them
  • Focus on team-building
  • Invite collaboration and opinions
  • Communicate your expectations transparently and honestly
  • Offer flexibility and use technology to communicate
  • Provide opportunities to learn new skills

At Ellary’s Greens, most of the front and back-of-house staff are Millennials. Hill and her management team have learned that it’s more effective to communicate via text message for this group, and they use Planday to schedule their shifts. When Leith onboards a new employee, she asks him or her a simple question: “What do you love?” She does this to demonstrate that she cares about her workers outside of the restaurant, too. Many staff in the service industry are simultaneously pursuing careers as actors, writers, musicians, or dancers.


Instead of disregarding this, Hill puts their diverse identities to good use. Enlist your resident Instagram whiz to take over your account. Ask for help with graphic design. “When you give [your employees] credit, they feel engaged,” she says, and this engagement ultimately translates to the customer experience.

2. Be aware of the difference between behavior and perception

You may have an effervescent server on staff who always seems to be laughing with customers, but behind the scenes, she’s burned out and overwhelmed. Or, you have a clerk who says he really likes working at your store, but never volunteers to take on new tasks. What’s going on here is a gap between what you’re observing and how your employees actually feel–when the two line up, maximum engagement is possible.


Studying behavior and perception led the Harvard Business Review to group employees into different types based on a scale of negative vs. positive perceptions and destructive vs. constructive work behaviors. For example, your effective-yet-exhausted server is a “martyr” with constructive behavior but a negative perception. The store clerk is an “underachiever,” whose performance doesn’t match up with his positive perception.


Once more, what Ambalvanan refers to as “improved two-way, transparent communications between employee and management” are key to addressing the gap. For example, when asked TINYpulse’s question of “On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you at work?,” any response dipping beneath a 7 should give you pause.

Once you’ve solicited feedback, you can create a plan of action; for instance, ask your amazing server what resources she needs to feel less overwhelmed at work. Her choice of shifts? Pairing her with a better host and bussing staff? Likewise, consider this an opportunity to approach your underachiever. What’s his favorite part of the workday? If customer service represents the best alignment of his skills and the position, consider rotating him more frequently to that spot.


Matching employees to tasks by their strengths, plus making frequent adjustments per their feedback, means that your team is efficiently focused on the best roles for them. Knowing you have their backs ensures they’ll be more resilient even during an unusually stressful day.

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