Discover the secrets to unlocking team happiness and motivation through expert-validated employee engagement best practices.

To compile these tips, I interviewed several experts to gather real-world examples and insights. In this post, you’ll learn about their strategies and insights to help you create a more engaged and motivated workforce.

Whether you’re a manager, an HR professional, or a business leader, these proven techniques are here to assist you in cultivating a more positive and productive work environment that enriches the lives of your employees and drives overall organizational success.

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Provide feedback and recognition regularly

Kate Walker, SPHR and SHRM-SCP, is an Executive Leadership and Human Resources Expert and Author who emphasizes the importance of feedback, recognition, and coaching in the workplace.

Kate Walker, Executive Leadership and Human Resources Expert and Author

“Providing feedback and recognition allows managers to understand their employees’ strengths, weaknesses, and career goals. By recognizing and leveraging these, managers can help employees unlock their full potential and achieve their professional objectives.” Walker explains.

Walker also highlights how coaching promotes ongoing learning through clear expectations, guidance, and skill development resources.

“Coaching encourages continuous learning and improvement. Feedback conversations involve setting clear expectations, providing guidance, and offering resources for skill development. By investing in your employees’ growth, managers can enhance their skills, knowledge, and performance, ultimately driving the overall success of the team and organization. Providing recognition creates a positive work environment where employees feel supported, motivated, and empowered to reach their goals.”

Kevin Miller, digital marketing expert, former Google employee, entrepreneur, and angel investor, also created a positive workplace environment by implementing employee feedback systems, enabling open communication, empowerment, and continuous improvement.

“One step I have taken to create a positive workplace environment is developing and implementing employee feedback systems. We encourage open, transparent communication between employees and management by establishing regular feedback channels, such as anonymous surveys, suggestion boxes, or one-on-one feedback sessions with managers.We want to empower employees to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas, fostering a sense of empowerment and ownership in the decision-making process. Listening to their feedback, addressing their concerns, and implementing relevant suggestions demonstrate that their opinions are valued and contribute to their overall job satisfaction. This feedback loop also helps identify areas for improvement, refine processes, and create a more productive and fulfilling work environment,” says Miller.

Kevin Miller, digital marketing expert, former Google employee, entrepreneur, and angel investor.

Building trust and respect in manager-employee relationships

Employee happiness is a priority for Tony Mariotti, CEO of RubyHome, a luxury real estate site. In their organization, transparency and trust hold great significance. At RubyHome, managers actively engage with team members and serve as mentors. They believe in going beyond their day-to-day supervisor roles to help employees reach new heights. They have also fostered a safe environment where employees can express their questions, concerns, ideas, and goals with their managers.

“At RubyHome, we believe in transparency and trust. Managers actively engage with team members, not only as supervisors but as mentors and supporters. We’ve implemented an open-door policy where employees can discuss their concerns, ideas, and career aspirations with their managers.” says Mariotti.

Tony Mariotti, CEO of RubyHome

Mariotti also emphasized the positive effects of this strategy:

“The impact has been profound. Before emphasizing trust and respect, there were instances of miscommunication and misunderstandings. However, now, there’s a strong sense of collaboration and unity. Employees feel valued, which has boosted their confidence and motivation. Trust has resulted in increased loyalty and productivity.”

Encourage open communication within the team

Amy Spurling, Founder and CEO of Compt, cites open communication within the team as one of their foundational values of balance and belonging.

Amy Spurling, Founder and CEO of Compt

“Now more than ever, you need to focus on how you’re communicating with your team, especially if they’re dispersed. As a manager, you are responsible for communicating with your team members, peers, and superiors regularly. To be effective, you need to be clear and concise, transparent when you can be (not everything needs to be divulged, but let them know you can’t talk about it), and you need to make sure you are actively listening to others,” Spurling says.

She goes on to say “With five generations of workforce, it’s also important to adapt your communication style to fit the needs of your audience. When you’re a great communicator, you can build strong relationships with your team members, establish clear expectations, provide constructive feedback, and motivate and inspire your team to achieve their goals. In a remote company like ours at Compt, our concerted effort for clear communication also helps avoid misunderstandings, conflicts, and other challenges arising when there is a lack of clarity.”

Maintain your culture

Spurlng also has a quarterly culture check-in and adapts based on the feedback, ensuring full transparency and accountability.

“To reinforce an open feedback and communicative culture, we have a quarterly culture check-in with the team. This is a short survey that allows for both qualitative and quantitative responses from the team about things like how we are living our values, whether we are transparent, how we are doing with accountability, etc. By measuring this quarterly, we can see where we are trending up or down and make plans to adjust in the coming quarter.”

Here’s an example of an instance where her team used a culture check-in to express concerns centered around rapid growth:

“For instance, it became clear last quarter that the team was feeling stretched pretty thin for the growth we’re experiencing, so we worked to revise hiring plans and expanded the team in key areas. This also helped us see the team was craving more in-person interactions, so we planned a team offsite meeting. We share the results of these surveys as well as action plans that result from them. The team has expressed they can see their voices are heard because we’re making appropriate changes as a direct result of their feedback. When people feel heard, we create a better workplace.”

Facilitate team-building activities to build relationships between colleagues

Tasia Duske, CEO of Museum Hack, organizes unique team-building experiences and invests in internal team bonding initiatives, like remote socials and fun Slack team-building channels.

Tasia Duske, CEO of Museum Hack

“Our company runs super fun experiences that redefine and reimagine what team building can be. To properly run these kinds of events, it benefits our team to have firsthand experience! To make our employees better facilitators of company culture, we are committed to investing time in internal team bonding. For example, we run optional remote team socials that connect our distributed work-from-home workforce for social time and competition, like monthly trivia competitions where a company-sponsored prize goes to a charity of choice. We also have Slack channels dedicated to fun, connection, and non-work banter, such as our #you-are-awesome channel, where team members can share peer-to-peer praise, and our #furry-friends channel, where teammates swap mood-boosting pictures of pets. The effects of these initiatives have been highly valuable,” says Duske.

These initiatives have increased collaboration, productivity, and employee morale — indicators of a significant boost in employee satisfaction scores in remote workplaces.

Duske goes on to say, “When we regularly run these programs, we see a decrease in employees messaging leadership with basic questions and an increase in communicating with peers — collaboration as a whole improves, as does productivity and employee morale. In some cases, we’ve seen these outputs double or triple! Employee satisfaction scores also ticked up by as much as 25%. In remote workplaces especially, it is important to make time for intentional, meaningful team interaction regularly to ensure employees feel a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves and their home offices!”

Out-of-work social events

Jarir Mallah, Human Resources Manager at Ling, a gamified language app, also believes in arranging out-of-work social events.

Jarir Mallah, Human Resources Manager at Ling

“With a return to the office and as a growing company, many team members had never met in person. We arrange out-of-work social events once a month. Attendance is optional, and each outing is different to encourage more participation. Some examples are going to an escape room, hiking, attending a Halloween event, and hosting a company BBQ. Feedback from team members has been that new friendships have been made, people understand each other more personally and professionally, and it has made approaching or communicating much easier. Our strategy has helped to remove barriers to communication and developed stronger relationships between teams.”

Set clear goals and expectations for employees

Kevin Miller recommends establishing clear expectations during the interview process and emphasizing that recognition, constructive feedback, and ongoing communication are essential for effective team management and employee engagement.

“Setting clear expectations and goals with teams starts during the interview process. What motivated you to apply for this job? Express interest in applicants’ backgrounds, career goals, and life stories to understand their motivations for joining your organization. Can you tell me about your communication style? How do you communicate and collaborate? Building effective relationships and promoting an inclusive environment are centered on a clear understanding and efficient communication. We hold a multi-step interview process, complete with one-on-one interviews, interviews with managers, personality and skill assessments, written samples, and, eventually, an interview with myself,” says Miller.

Early relationship building, clear expectations, recognition, and constructive feedback are essential. Miller goes on to explain, “When we can get to know each other better earlier on in our working relationships, it’s easier to come together to accomplish mutual goals. We make a contractual offer and agreement after taking on a new hire to give them written expectations and instructions as to how we expect them to best serve their role and meet their own needs.

When our employees go above and beyond or gain impressive results, we spotlight them in front of their team and sometimes even executives. Employees clearly want to feel connected strategically to leadership and see that their work has weight and value in their organization. Recognition and acknowledgment are essential to creating this value and encouraging other employees to take more ownership of their tasks and roles.

Scheduling regular check-ins

Constructive feedback and acknowledgment are two sides of the same coin in employee engagement and retention. Keep the conversation flowing with each employee and use trajectories for their performance or career development to motivate them and give them benchmarks to strive for.”

According to Jaime Nacach, Founder and CEO of Virtual Latinos, setting clear goals and expectations has significantly enhanced employee engagement and performance at Virtual Latinos. He’s found that aligning personal goals with company objectives and reinforcing them through regular check-ins has helped teams feel connected to the company’s success.

Jaime Nacach, CEO and Founder of Virtual Latinos

“Setting clear goals and expectations within our internal team has been pivotal in fostering an empowered, motivated, and productive team. It has always been crucial to emphasize that each individual goal is thoughtfully crafted to align with our company’s goals and objectives. This alignment provides a sense of purpose, allowing team members to see how their contributions impact the success and growth of Virtual Latinos.” says Nacah.

The impact has been significant for Virtual Latinos. Clarity in goals empowers team members, motivates them, and provides a clear sense of direction, leading to improved outcomes.

Before implementation

Nacah highlights, “There was a lack of clarity regarding how individual responsibilities tied into the company’s goals. Inconsistencies would arise due to differing interpretations of expectations.”

After implementation

Nacah continues, “Team members now have a clear understanding of their roles and how they contribute to our collective success. The sense of purpose and alignment with company goals has boosted motivation and empowerment in the team. Performance has become more consistent and goals more achievable.”

Ensure that employees have access to the necessary resources they need to succeed

Brian David Crane, founder of CallerSmart, improved employee performance and engagement by identifying individual needs and work challenges. By offering resources, training, and more autonomy, CallerSmart:

  • Hit more consistent monthly targets
  • Improved work processes
  • Fostered better teamwork
Brian David Crane, founder of CallerSmart

“At CallerSmart, we ensure that employees have access to the necessary resources to succeed. By identifying their individual needs (through surveys/ one-on-one conversations/ performance reviews), analyzing any work challenges that exist, and providing the right tools ( software/hardware, specific equipment) & training (online courses, workshops, coaching, mentorship), we can help employees improve their skills, increase productivity and accomplish beyond their existing performance levels. With timely feedback and empowering them with autonomy, we have empowered their engagement and ownership at work,” says Crane.

Crane shares the positive impacts of this strategy: 

Before implementation

“Achievement of monthly targets was haphazard and not consistent. There was a lack of improvement in several areas like lead nurturing, content management & marketing, failure to stick to processes, high retention rates, lack of team cohesion, and increased employee grievances regarding raises & promotion/ career advancement. There was a High need for micromanagement.”

After implementation

“By identifying employees’ individual needs, preferences, and goals, we initiated a one-on-one employee engagement to identify expertise, weaknesses, and probable areas for improvement. With customized training, employees were encouraged to learn new technologies, adopt smarter work processes, and improve existing skills. By delegating tasks, setting clear expectations, providing the necessary tools, and avoiding micromanagement, employees gained ownership of their work. They were inspired to collaborate as a team to fulfill their work targets.”

By following these best practices, CallerSmart has successfully transformed its workplace culture and enhanced employee performance and engagement.

Allow flexibility in terms of working hours, days off, etc.

Michael Alexis, CEO of Team Building, prioritizes flexible working hours. This means allowing employees to set their schedules while also designating “on-hours” as needed.

Michael Alexis, CEO of Team Building

“As a fully remote company, we embrace flexible working schedules and allow employees to choose their own working hours whenever possible. Rather than limiting the workday to specific hours, we designate certain “on-hours” depending on the department or position when necessary and give employees the ability to structure their workday how they see fit. The effect of these decisions on employee engagement can be dramatic. This approach gives team members a much greater work-life balance, as they can schedule appointments, run errands, or perform caretaking duties without taking time off of work, meaning they can get more done, feel more accomplished, and less stressed,” Michael says. He also stresses the importance of flexible schedules.

“The flexibility also empowers employees to work at peak alert times, thus being more productive. Plus, this freedom shows that we as leaders trust our employees to complete their work and achieve results without babysitting them, which leads to even greater worker satisfaction and reciprocal trust,” says Alexis.

Flexibility improved employee engagement, work-life balance, productivity, and trust, which led to significant positive outcomes; as Alexis explains, “Since we started implementing these practices, we’ve seen employee sentiment survey scores double, productivity increase 20-30%, and we retained twice as many team members.”

Show appreciation for hard work by offering rewards such as gift cards or time off

Amy Spurling, Founder and CEO of Compt, significantly boosted employee motivation, satisfaction, and engagement. Employees, in turn, found a greater sense of commitment and loyalty to the organization simply because they chose to recognize and reward great work.

“Recognizing and rewarding hard work directly impacts employee motivation, satisfaction, and engagement. Numerous studies have shown that when employees feel acknowledged and appreciated, they are more likely to show commitment and loyalty to their organizations. There are so many ways you can recognize your team – employee stipends, spot bonuses, gift cards, additional time off, public recognition, professional development opportunities, etc.” says Spurling.

Spurling used various reward methods like:

  • Gift cards
  • Additional time off
  • Experience-based rewards
  • Public recognition
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Team outings
  • Wellness perks

This wide array of rewards offers a personalized way to express employee appreciation. Maintaining open communication and understanding individual preferences is essential for fostering a positive culture of recognition and appreciation.

Spurling continues, “Effective appreciation is rooted in understanding and catering to the unique preferences of your employees. Maintaining regular feedback loops and open communication channels can guide you in pinpointing the most meaningful rewards for your team. To keep it simple, even a heartfelt “thank you” can make a significant difference in cultivating a positive organizational culture.”

Make sure everyone is aware of the company’s values and mission statement

Shawn Plummer, CEO of The Annuity Expert, a finance site, believes employee motivation is key in the finance industry.

“At The Annuity Expert, we regularly communicate our core values and mission to all employees. We conduct workshops and training sessions to ensure alignment with our company’s principles. This practice is integrated into our onboarding process.

Making employees aware of our values and mission has resulted in a more cohesive and motivated team. Before emphasizing this practice, there was sometimes a disconnect between individual goals and the company’s mission. Now, everyone is on the same page, working collectively towards our objectives,” says Plummer.

Shawn Plummer, CEO of The Annuity Expert

Secrets to a happier and more motivated team

Fostering team happiness and motivation is achievable through these expert-backed practices:

  • Regular feedback and recognition
  • Fostering trust and respect in manager-employee relationships
  • Open communication
  • Team-building activities
  • Setting clear goals
  • Providing resources
  • Offering flexibility
  • Showing appreciation
  • Aligning with the company’s values all play pivotal roles.

These practices empower employees, enhance teamwork, and boost morale. By implementing these strategies, you can create a positive and productive work environment that not only enriches the lives of their employees but also drives overall success.

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Category: Management